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Winter storms 2015/16 – SME Customer Focus

19th Feb 2016

Expert in this field

Many commercial customers are facing the multi-faceted challenge of putting their business back on track, following the devastating effects of the recent winter storms – and some didn’t actually suffer any flood damage at all.
Most business customers are stoic – they just want things back to normal as quickly as possible and they’re ready to do whatever it takes to speed the process along. It’s not just about repairing physical damage, it’s also about restoring the business and getting trading levels back to where they were before the floods.

Every business is different – some are sole traders and their income is vital to day-to-day survival, whereas larger companies have employees, many with their own flood damage challenges to deal with. The worries are of bills and wages that need to be paid, orders honoured or refunded and, at the same time, how best to swiftly re-build the business.

FCA’s Recommendations

We’ve reacted to recommendations in the FCA’s thematic review and we’re proactively working with each SME customer to make sure that we understand their circumstances, issues and preferences. Our job is to simplify their task and make the recovery process easier and less stressful.

What matters most?

Every flood-affected commercial customer has a different set of priorities. For some, what matters most is to have funds available so that they can continue to pay staff. For others, it’s more important that they secure temporary premises nearby so that they can fulfil their orders. Knowing what matters most to each customer is key to driving the claim forward in a positive direction, and delivering a great service.

Loss of Trade

Loss of trade continues to be a major concern for many of the business owners we’ve spoken to in the flood-affected regions. In the Lake District, it’s clear that many tourists are avoiding the flooded areas, unconvinced that the region will be fully open for business when the season starts.

We’ve also heard many examples of businesses that didn’t have any material damage to trigger a claim, but are still suffering from the general fall in trade. This raises the thorny issue of Wide Area Damage, which inevitably attracts a mixed response, based on specific policies and the types of businesses involved.

Forensic Advisory Services Surgeries

Matthew Griffin, Head of our Forensic Advisory Services (FAS), has been in the flood zones over the last week, holding surgeries for commercial customers in need of help and advice in managing their insurance claims. He said: “What we’ve learned from the recent winter floods is that it’s vital to get specialist accountants out to assist commercial customers as soon as possible.

“An early understanding of the different issues and drivers involved will assist in getting the business quickly back on it’s feet – even if only partially – with minimum disruption.

“Our team has been assisting with stock valuations and in mitigating business losses, as well as guiding customers with their business interruption claim, where there’s cover. We continue to work hard to help customers progress each area of their claim so that a swift settlement can be reached.

“We’ve also been listening and coordinating feedback with our loss adjusters in the field – such as when a customer is having trouble finding a builder, or experiencing long lead times on replacement machinery, for example. It’s all about working together to provide a fully joined up response.

“We’re also discussing the best methods for each business to promote recovery once they re-open, including the potential benefits of any advertising or other marketing initiatives.”

Local Authority Assistance

Whilst the Government is offering grant funding for business affected by the recent floods, the Local Authorities are also reducing business rates in most areas to provide relief whilst repairs are carried out. In general, this is for a three-month term, which doesn’t match everyone’s expectations. In practical terms, if a business premises has been badly affected by the floods, it’s unlikely to be open for at least six months. This might be reviewed further down the line.

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