Supporting hospitality businesses through kinder banking: The Cumberland’s people-first approach to hospitality lending. 

Since it began in 1850 in Carlisle, The Cumberland has underscored its operations with a desire to make a positive difference in the community, with a focus on putting people at the heart of what it does.

It is an ethos that remains strong to this day, with The Cumberland continually evolving both the way it does business and its product offering with a view to ensuring it delivers the best service possible for its customers.

Purpose-led and socially responsible, The Cumberland lives by an innovative philosophy it calls kinder banking which, as the name suggests, offers a banking experience that’s kinder to people, our planet and communities.

The Cumberland offers lending for residential mortgages in its core operating area of the North West England and South West Scotland, but also specialises in commercial lending to the hospitality industry, from holiday lets and B&Bs to award-winning guest houses and hotels, across the UK.

And it is the responsibility of commercial business development manager Martin Rankin to spread that message to our region, a place he himself calls home.

With the hospitality sector facing a raft of challenges, including the cost of living crisis, higher utility and running costs and staffing issues, Martin and his colleagues are on hand to support businesses during the good times and the bad to ensure they make the best decisions for their individual circumstances.

“The sector has faced a number of challenges over recent years, however many business owners remain optimistic, despite high interest rates and inflation,” he says. “Business owners have become much more resilient, innovative and determined.

“For us, our key differentiator is that we build personal relationships with our borrowers. With larger, high street banks you rarely get to know your relationship manager properly, or they only contact you when there is a problem. We work in partnership with our customers to help them to build and grow their businesses.

“It’s a traditional banking offering that has largely disappeared now, having a manager available for small and medium-sized businesses, but our mindset is one of always working with the customer to support them and their individual needs.”

One such case study is that of Amanda and Steve White, owners of Market Cross, a five-star guest house in Northumberland who have nothing but praise for the support they’ve received from The Cumberland.

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This included a six-month mortgage break during the lockdowns, then a change to an interest-only tariff for a period to help alleviate the impact of the loss of earnings during the pandemic.

“We’ve been very lucky,” says Amanda. “Two nearby B&Bs unfortunately had to close for good, which shows just how hard the area was hit, so we are incredibly grateful for the support we received during that time.”

That support came, and continues to come, from Graeme Rayson, their commercial customer support manager at The Cumberland. 

“Graeme is always checking in with us to make sure everything is okay, which is very reassuring,” says Amanda. “Knowing that we are in a safe pair of hands with The Cumberland is incredibly important to us.

“Since we began our journey at Market Cross, The Cumberland has been hugely supportive throughout, especially in the past few years as we have had to look at ways to pivot to maintain our standards and keep us front of mind for visitors. No matter what, they are there to provide guidance, advice and, in the case of the pandemic, help to navigate a difficult situation.”

Proof that the struggles they’ve faced have been worthwhile came last year when Market Cross was recognised with the AA Guest Accommodation of the Year for England award, as well as winning the Gold award in the North East England Tourism Awards 2023. The guest house also picked up the AA Dinner Award and AA Award Winning Breakfast accolades for its fine cuisine.

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Graeme adds: “A core ambition of The Cumberland is to build strong, long-lasting relationships with hospitality businesses which will serve both parties well moving forward, no matter what challenges are on the horizon. Market Cross is a shining example of this and the results are clear to see.”

While The Cumberland will consider cases that many other lenders may not, and always applies a human touch to its decisions, it is also beholden to a principle of responsible lending, with relationship managers acting as a safeguard against situations the client may not see down the line.

Martin recalls being approached by one client who was looking into a commercial mortgage. Despite having supporting financial evidence and healthy projections, Martin wasn’t sure the loan was right for his client.

“We had discussions and, because of the relationship of trust we had, he agreed to borrow less. I saw him recently and he told me that because of the cost of living crisis he had only earned two thirds of what he had expected so was really pleased he hadn’t borrowed the full amount.

“It takes an experienced bank manager to offer an approach like this to protect the interests of the client. A lot of funders are target focused and less interested in what happens down the line, but we make a long-term commitment to support our clients. We invest in long-term success.”

The Cumberland is a forward-thinking business happy to embrace new ideas to continually improve – one of its five core principles of operation. It underpins this ethos with three pillars: its commitments to people, including customers and colleagues, planet and community because it believes a sustainable future is the best foundation to build on, and treats people with warmth, respecting their dreams and ambitions.

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No one knows this better than Gordon and Dawn McGregor, who had a vision to create a truly unique and luxurious holiday home.

With development works completed on their £1m plus  project, Peel Castle, Gordon and Dawn had to compete with the challenges brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic which meant they found banks and other lenders unwilling to commit their funds to the project when it came to securing a mortgage.

That was before they approached The Cumberland, which looked beyond their finances and considered other factors as part of Gordon and Dawn’s application. Approving a mortgage for the McGregors meant they could complete their regally ambitious project – potentially the first castle built during King Charles III reign!

“While they had been refused by other banks, we delved deeper beyond the financials and looked at the experience Gordon and Dawn have, the passion they had to ensure the project was a success and the stunning property itself,” says Katherine Thomson, The Cumberland’s relationship manager for the case. 

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“Taking all of this into account we felt it was the right thing to do. We looked at the big picture, not just part of it, and we’re pleased to say it has since been a huge success and has brought with it economic and communal benefits to the area.”

If this sounds like the kind of company you’d like to build a relationship with, Martin and his team would be happy to get to know you.

“As we continue our growth across the North East we are committed to supporting hospitality business owners,” says Martin. “Together we will create opportunities that uplift businesses and develop longstanding relationships.”

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