Tim Rivett is the Mentoring Manager for the British Bankers’ Association (BBA). Working closely with SFEDI, the mentoring organisations and the High Street banks, Tim supports bank employees on their journey to gaining qualifications in mentoring, so that they in turn are able to successfully use their business experience to positively impact SMEs across the country. We chatted to Tim to find out how mentoring impacts SMEs, the BBA’s relationship with SFEDI, and his plans moving forward into his sixth year in his role.
How did your role at the BBA come about?
In 2011, as part of the Government’s commitment to increase investment in the small business economy, they challenged the banks to create a series of commitments. 17 Commitments came out of this process, the biggest was a commitment to provide a national free-of-charge mentoring scheme aimed at small businesses. Lloyds Bank was given the task of initiating this, and I joined them from Royal Mail in February of that year to get the programme off the ground. We launched in July 2011 and have been very successful; growing bigger and getting lots of positive feedback.
How does the mentoring programme work?
The banks provide us with the volunteers from their teams. These are then trained by SFEDI to get their Level 3 qualifications in Enterprise Mentoring. After this, the mentors are then able to be matched with a suitable mentee; someone whose specific area of expertise will help the small business to grow, develop and flourish.
Finding the right mentor-mentee relationship takes time, and we often find the best mentees by attending events – where there are a high number of potential mentees in a concentrated area. It also helps us to further understand the local economy of that region, which is imperative when you’re helping to develop small businesses.
What shape does the mentor training take?
The training is in two parts. The first part looks at some fundamental questions: What is mentoring? Why do it? What are the benefits? Who is it aimed at? The second part is a much softer part – looking at the way that one should work with mentees; such things as that counselling aspect, reading body language, offering guidance. What we’re really trying to do is to make sure that they’re confident in their ability as a mentor, so they have the tools to effectively pass on their expertise.
What are the key elements of mentoring sessions?
The whole experience centres around having and setting goals and objectives – mentors will guide mentees, but the mentees need to know what they want and where they are trying to get to, so that the sessions can be orientated around how they are going to achieve this. It’s also very important that the bank mentors focus on their areas of expertise.
If, say, you were mentoring a farmer who wanted to get better yield from crops, we’re not encouraging mentors to relate to their mentee’s industry, but to use their own set of skills that will help the business develop. Essentially, it’s all about staying in the comfort zone of your particular business expertise and putting your best foot forward, so that the mentees can too.
What impact do you think mentoring has on SMEs?
Mentoring boosts small businesses’ confidence levels an extraordinary amount – they become so much more confident in their abilities, and in making serious commitments and big decisions. Of course, the mentee gets the benefits of the bank mentor’s specific area of expertise, but spinning out this newfound confidence really comes down to the mentor’s management and leadership techniques.
One of the areas we see this really play out is in recruitment – there’s often just one or two people in the early stages of a start-up, and the idea of recruiting staff can be intimidating. It’s a big, big step for a small business to take on more staff, so giving mentees confidence in expansion and managing a team helps them to develop and grow their business.
How many businesses has the BBA supported?
The BBA has supported around 3,000 businesses so far. It’s a huge amount, but we’d like it to be more. We’ve currently got around 700 bank mentors out there, which is fantastic, but we were at our height in 2015, when we had about 1000.
One of the challenges we have is to ensure that mentoring is something people are excited by doing, that it continues to be stimulating. Various factors contribute to the amount of bank mentors we have at any one time, but we’re currently looking at ways to increase the number, and one of the ways we will do this is by reenergising the programme.
How does the BBA work with the IOEE?
SFEDI and the IOEE are partners who bring a whole host of things that we need for this project – and it’s not an exaggeration to say that we could not have done this and be where we are today without them. If you want mentoring training, accreditation, a full breadth of services around people management and training, then there’s only one place to go. Using the IOEE to match our mentors with the right mentees enables us to closely monitor what works and what doesn’t, and SFEDI are incredibly well-equipped in delivering – we couldn’t have done this without SFEDI Group and the expertise they brought.
What are your plans for the future?
The first two or three years of working on this project was absolutely fantastic, as at that stage you are just building and building, and watching it gain momentum and grow. However, after that it levels out, and we’re now looking at ways in which to boost volunteer mentors again, and are in the process of making decisions on moving forward. Finally I think we need to look at how we best use mentors’ skills. There is a lot of expertise and knowledge that the bank mentors can bring – imagine a Senior Banker who has been working with clients for 30 years – they have so much expertise across a variety of areas of businesses to pass on, and I don’t think we have scratched the surface with this yet. In the banking community, mentoring is so beneficial, so my ambition for the next year is simply to increase that commitment, so that we can benefit even more SMEs than ever before.
Interested in finding out more about the BBA?
Visit the website: www.bba.org.uk