Marks and Barrass lead new banking ADR service

Barrass: Landmark moment for dispute resolution in the UK

A one-time partner at Linklaters and a former executive director of the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) have been appointed to lead the new Business Banking Resolution Service (BBRS).

The BBRS is a new independent service funded by the banking industry set up to resolve disputes between eligible small and medium sized businesses and participating banks.

Alexandra Marks, who since leaving Linklaters has held several high-profile positions, has been appointed chief adjudicator, while Samantha Barrass is its new chief executive.

Ms Marks left the Linklaters partnership in 2011, although remains a consultant, and has since been a commissioner of both the Judicial Appointments Commission and Criminal Cases Review Commission, as well as chair of the Centre of Effective Dispute Resolution and the Prisoners’ Education Trust.

She has been a recorder since 2002 and is also a deputy High Court judge, and last week was appointed statutory review at the Office for Students.

Ms Barrass led the SRA’s work on licensing alternative business structures and left in 2014 after five years to become chief executive of the Gibraltar Financial Services Commission. Before the SRA, she had a career in the UK financial services sector.

The BBRS has been established in response to the Simon Walker review into the complaints and alternative dispute resolution (ADR) landscape for SMEs, which was commissioned by UK Finance the UK’s small and medium sized enterprises market.

Mr Walker, former director-general of the Institute of Directors, identified the need for a service to resolve complaints for SMEs that have not previously had access to independent review.

There are seven banks currently signed up to it: Barclays, Clydesdale Bank (including Yorkshire Bank and Virgin Money), Danske Bank, HSBC, Lloyds Banking Group, RBS Group, and Santander.

The BBRS will accept historical complaints that were not eligible for the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) until it changed its criteria on 1 April 2019, meaning complaints from SMEs that between 1 December 2001 and 31 March 2019 had a maximum turnover up to £6.5m per annum and total assets of up to £5m.

FOS’s new limits are SMEs with an annual turnover of less than £6.5m and a balance sheet total of less than £5m, or that employs fewer than 50 employees.

SMEs above these levels but with annual turnover of up to £10m and total assets up to £7m can turn to the BBRS.

Lewis Shand Smith, the former chief ombudsman in the energy, telecoms and property sectors and interim chair of the BBRS, said: “I believe that Samantha and Alexandra are the best possible people to bring confidence to eligible businesses with unresolved disputes that the BBRS will hear and treat their complaints both fairly and independently.”

Ms Marks described the BBRS as “a much-needed service that will provide dispute resolution to many businesses who are unable to use alternative schemes”, while Ms Barrass said its creation was “a landmark moment for dispute resolution in the UK, bringing independent, transparent and effective closure for tens of thousands of businesses across the country”.

The BBRS is currently running a live pilot ahead of its full launch in early 2020.

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