Last night local business owners, entrepreneurs, professionals, residents and charities attended a networking event at Santander's Southend branch.
The evening provided a platform for the local community and business network to discuss the issues affecting them as well as creating opportunities to work together. Attendees also heard from guest speakers on the theme of local business in the digital age including Nikki Wood, senior digital manager at Santander, and Jeremy Singer, Owner of Chez Vision Marketing.
The event, which is part of the bank's new nationwide 'Community Connections' initiative, is aimed at helping communities prosper by connecting local businesses, providing an open support network and boosting local community projects. Santander is a consistent supporter of small businesses across the UK, with lending over the last four years growing by an average of 20% per annum.
Martin Bischoff, Managing Director of Retail Distribution at Santander, said: "SMEs are the backbone of not just the local but also the national economy. Today's networking event was a great opportunity to listen to the thoughts and concerns of Southend's thriving SME community and see how we can develop our resources to help champion local business.
"South Essex is home to some hugely influential and successful businesses and we hope that by bringing together these business leaders it will help improve the long-term prospects for the local economy."
Jeremy Singer, Owner of Chez Vision Marketing, spoke at the event, giving advice to local business owners. He said: "Prosperous communities and business are really important to sustain and maintain the Southend economy and it's fantastic to be able to work so closely with Santander. As well as the financial backing they provide, events like today are testament to the work the bank is doing to ensure local business communities and like-minded entrepreneurs are given the opportunity to further their prospects."
Recent research by the Centre for Cities, sponsored by Santander, showed the importance of city decision makers acting as champions of their local business community and using their local knowledge and networks to identify opportunities for collaboration. By building on successful collaboration, linking growing businesses with academic institutions and other key partners in a broad support network, communities can capitalise on an economic recovery driven by knowledge intensive sectors.
Two local charities; Homeless Action Resource Project (HARP), who provide a day centre and night shelter for local homeless people; and The Dove Project, who offer counselling and support to women and children suffering from domestic abuse, were both presented with grants for £5,000 on the night. Councillor and Deputy Mayor of Southend, Andrew Moring presented the cheques alongside Martin Bischoff from Santander. The donations were provided by the Santander Foundation which offers grants to UK registered charities for projects that help disadvantaged people in local communities and were nominated by local customers and staff.
Over the coming months Santander will be working closely with the businesses, professionals, charities and individuals who attended the event to ensure that they are introduced to more key contacts in their area. Santander also works closely with Universities around the country to provide students with both financial and career advice, as well scholarships, grants and internships to support higher education and invest in future generations.
The Community Connections initiative is being held at Santander branches across the UK, with sixteen events being held this year.