The interview: Michael Lauhoff, Bank of Ireland

As Brexit looms, the director of Business Banking at Bank of Ireland Michael Lauhoff talked with ThinkBusiness about just how prepared export-focused businesses should be; deal or no deal.

At the time of writing (22 October), it is just nine days before the deadline for Britain to leave the EU, with or without a deal or whether it  will be granted  an extension.

While the parlays between Brussels, London and Dublin rumble on, the advice that Lauhoff has at this point is to pay attention to what could happen in terms of moving goods through the UK and Ireland.

“There is a lot of activity in the bank to make sure that businesses know what we can do for them”

The devil, he warns, could be in the detail and it is important to have contingency plans in place.

In terms of its own preparations, as well as establishing a comprehensive Brexit portal, Bank of Ireland has established a €2bn Brexit fund to support small and medium-sized businesses on both sides of the border, increased its currency dealing lines, and it recently concluded an 11-stage Brexit roadshow around Ireland.

The bank is also a participant in the SBCI Brexit Loan Scheme, which is offered in partnership with the Department of Business Enterprise and Innovation, the Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine and is supported by the InnovFin SME Guarantee Facility, with the financial backing of the European Union under Horizon 2020 Financial Instruments.

An ‘export’ opinion

Asked what should be in the mind of businesses as we hurtle towards a potential no-deal situation, Lauoff said: “Up until now we would have been urging businesses to look at their supply chains and routes to market and to evaluate alternative markets. And, while there are certainly things that need to be considered, we could be a matter of days away from a no deal scenario and those types of decisions are going to take longer to plan out.

“And so, it’s more important to understand in terms of what will be different. Probably most exposed in the short term would be those businesses that are using the UK as a land bridge.

“If you’re a direct importer or direct exporter, you will have VAT and tariffs that you will have to pay, but you have an option of paying them at point of entry. So, if you have the cashflow or you can get the working capital, you have that option.

“If you’re using the UK as a land bridge, you have to have a revenue guarantee and that takes time to get approved through Revenue.

“As a bank, we can turn that around very quickly as well. But there are a couple of stages in terms of getting your revenue approval and then your bank approval. Without that you will not be able to get your product across the UK and you’d have to do an alternative supply route, so that’s one area where there could be a huge challenge on day one.

“There are other aspects in terms of if the UK becomes a third country, you will have customs declarations to make. Importing or exporting, you’re going to have to make a declaration. That’s not just about the form, there is also the software required to do it, or are you going to get a third party to do it for you?

“These are the type of practical steps that businesses need to understand in terms of what they need to do day one. And there’s any number of requirements under that in terms of product codes and details that you need to know and particularly if you’ve no experience with dealing with a third country in the past, they are the more practical steps.”

In the event of a no-deal Brexit, Lauhoff said that the bank has a number of communications structures in place. “We’ll have a dedicated phone line and dedicated email address for customers to raise any queries directly, particularly if they are Brexit specific, so that they can make contact.

“In addition to that, we have our Brexit portal, which is on our website, which we will use to provide the most up-to-date information in terms of the latest developments businesses should consider.

“In addition to that, earlier in the year launched a €2bn Brexit Support Fund for businesses because firms will require investment into their working capital or mainly to do more longer-term investments in their businesses.

“We also participated in a couple of Government schemes such like the Future Growth Loan Scheme through the SBCI and the Brexit Working Capital Fund. The Government has also confirmed that the Capital Guarantee Scheme could be used to support companies looking to get those transit guarantees that I mentioned earlier as well.

“So, there’s a lot of activity happening. Every time we’re meeting the customer and discussing their lending requirements, we’re always asking the question: do they understand how exposed they are from a Brexit perspective?

“And it is important to make sure that that they know what way we can support them too.

“So, there is a lot of activity in the bank and on our portal to make sure that businesses know what we can do for them. There are also supports being provided by the Government in terms of information for what businesses need to consider, and are other associations like Bord Bia, the Irish Road Haulage Association, to name a few, and those their supports are up there too.

“But while there’s a lot of information out there, the key question is how Brexit will specifically impact your industry, that is what you need to consider for day one.”

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Written by John Kennedy (

Published: 22 October, 2019