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Ulster Bank proud to help coronavirus Hero Shield project

Girvan Gault, Director, Commercial Banking, Ulster Bank


Employees from Denroy Group assemble quantities of the Hero Shield visor at the factory in Bangor, County Down

Employees from Denroy Group assemble quantities of the Hero Shield visor at the factory in Bangor, County Down

Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press E

Employees from Denroy Group assemble quantities of the Hero Shield visor at the factory in Bangor, County Down

The word "unprecedented" has become the accepted definition of the times we are living through.

It is also an apt description of the situation facing business owners across Northern Ireland as they navigate their way through uncertainty and, I'm sure, look back fondly on times which were much more "precedented".

Undoubtedly, things are exceptionally challenging for business owners but our message remains, as it has done from the beginning of the crisis, that we are here to help. Supporting our people and our customers has been the central focus of Ulster Bank's activity in recent weeks and will continue to be.

We are working quickly and doing everything we can to ensure appropriate support measures are implemented without delay for business customers who need this assistance.

To date this support, which is available to businesses across all sectors, has seen around 2,600 customers access the Bounce Back Loan Scheme and the number of successful CBILS applicants continues to grow week on week. Furthermore, we have introduced capitol repayment holidays for over 1,100 customers and introduced or increased overdraft facilities for 900 business owners.

SMEs are the lifeblood of Northern Ireland's business scene and we recognise how crucial it is that they are protected so that they can begin to rebuild our local economy once government measures begin to relax. Minimising long term disruption is essential which is why our teams of relationship managers continue to proactively contact our customer base while dealing with a similar number of incoming requests, so that no business owner feels that they have been left to deal with these challenges on their own.

As we seek to find the most viable solution for each individual business, as always, we are drawing inspiration from the innovation and creativity shown by many of our own customers. Those companies behind the Hero Shield project are a fitting example of this.

A group of local printing, engineering and manufacturing businesses, including Belfast-based Crossen Engineering, pooled their knowledge, resources and expertise to deliver much needed PPE to Northern Ireland's health and social care trusts.

Providing financial support packages for these customers has protected cash flow and enabled them to band together and ensure those working on the front line remain protected. I can't help but feel a sense of pride that Ulster Bank has played a role in this initiative and delivered help where it is needed most.

We're more committed now than ever before to support these customers, and all those who bank with us, and are keen to encourage this kind of collaboration where businesses lend their skills and expertise to the common good, which is perhaps more pressing now than ever before.

Not only did the Hero Shield project provide a very practical solution to an obvious need, it helped inject a little positivity into otherwise bleak circumstances. It has been said time and time again but the resilience reserves of Northern Ireland business owners genuinely seem to be infinite and this needs to be recognised and valued for the uplifting effect it has on all of us.

Perhaps the only certainty for businesses here at the minute is that there will be no quick return to 'normal' and that some degree of social distancing will be with us indefinitely.

I want to reassure all our customers that Ulster Bank staff will continue to be there for them, delivering help for what matters and playing our part in providing the assistance and support businesses need to meet these challenges head on.

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