The long-awaited easing of lockdown measures is finally here and while some of us may be shifting into holiday mode for a few days, many businesses are coming out of hibernation and welcoming customers through their doors for the first time in four months. Bars, restaurants, hair salons and retail stores are back open for business and while consumers may be rejoicing at the thought of a haircut or a meal they haven't had to prepare themselves, I'm sure many business owners are still searching for the light at the end of the tunnel.
Four months of lockdown has been especially hard on the hospitality and retail sectors here and as things get up and running again, our resounding message to these businesses is that we are very much here to support you.
Ulster Bank provides the banking needs for over 28,000 SMEs in Northern Ireland and we will continue to offer bounce-back loans and CBILS support to any business in need of financial support to keep them going.
Now is the time to fully assess the damage caused and as the end of the government furlough scheme approaches, many business owners will have a clearer understanding of their finances.
It can be a daunting prospect for any business to take on new debt but our expert teams are there to guide you through the process and find the most suitable solution for you and your company. We understand both the immediate and longer-term needs of our business customers so will take the time to consider how any support packages may impact you in the future and work with you to improve the overall efficiency of the business.
Term-borrowing may not be the answer for everyone so we continue to offer overdrafts, repayment holidays or mortgage breaks for those who feel this is a more workable solution.
The important thing to remember is that there is a support network available and that we understand there may still be those who are still feeling uneasy, even though their doors have now reopened.
Nigel Walsh is director of commercial banking, Ulster Bank