Such a statement might be a commonplace for most business leaders in Scotland, but coming from the man who holds the purse-strings to much of Scotland's corporate lending, it took on extra significance.
Mr Gardner, an Edinburgh University graduate, father of three, and qualified rugby referee, is the former head of energy for HBOS, who was put into the Bank of Scotland business lending hotseat three years ago this month.
He was talking in a wood-panelled office high on The Mound, in the building where, from 1695 until 2008, there was a Bank of Scotland with its own Governor but where there is now an outpost of Lloyds Banking Group, 38% owned by the taxpayer.
Its corporate bankers have generally kept a low profile since the devastating events of late 2008 which saw a £20 billion writedown on the bloated £120bn corporate lending book of Mr Gardner's predecessor Peter Cummings, who presided over a division which made huge loans to developers, as he continued to build a £40bn property and construction lending portfolio in the teeth of the credit crunch.
In March the Financial Services Authority, concluding its long-running investigation, said BoS's corporate division had run an aggressive, high-risk growth strategy, prioritised optimism over prudence, and sanctioned too many big loans to a small number of borrowers.
Business plans had set ever-increasing targets for profit growth in the corporate arm –increasing them further during the first half of 2007 to "imprudent" levels as the group looked to the corporate division to make up for the under-performance of the retail arm.
Mr Cummings was reported in April to be disputing a punitive fine, which it was said at the time was believed to be in seven figures, and a warning notice from the Financial Services Authority.
Mr Gardner, regional managing director for large corporate (over £15m turnover) lending in Scotland, and also leader of the bank's UK-wide complex transaction team, presides in a new era where, like other banks, Lloyds stands permanently accused of lending not too much, but too little.
He said: "We have reviewed our proposition to the market place.
"From a purely Scottish point of view, we have re-energised our credit management centre and our credit function, 90%-plus of our credit decisions are made in Scotland."
The alignment of the credit function and the corporate support teams meant "we have a consistency of lending decisions so our clients understand our appetite, and see us as a genuine partner and someone they can trust".
Rebuilding trust has been key, and the banker admits that although recent scandals may have left Lloyds alone among the 'big four' relatively unscathed, they are not helpful.
He says: The challenge for bankers is to rebuild the image of the profession. These issues just don't help any bank in its engagement with its client base, and they are not helpful for UK plc, which needs a strong banking industry to support it." Mr Gardner vowed: "Everything our organisation espouses puts the customer first."
On business complaints that some sectors have become lending no-go areas, he says: "There are very few sectors where we would have limited appetite, the key to us is the strength and capability of the management team. The big operational change we have had is to encourage our teams to spend more time with our client to really understand his strategy, particularly in the corporate space."
The banker says set sizes (numbers of clients to a manager) are considerably lower than they used to be.
He adds that although lending is a key product, and forms the basis on which he and colleagues are incentivised, "we also spend a huge amount of time with customers who don't borrow, who require liquidity management and management of their cash". The bank's relationship managers would call on specialist colleagues to advise on more complex transactions.
On the bank's sales of interest rate hedging products, currently in a review and redress process supervised by the regulator, Mr Gardner said the bank has less than 100 clients across the whole business entitled to automatic redress for being sold an over-complex product. He added: "Interest rate hedging is used by many businesses as a risk management tool. It is part of the whole package."
On employee incentives, he says: "All of our front line teams have a target to increase their lending book. Colleagues are rewarded on a balanced scorecard basis – the metric include targets around customer service as well as lending."
And what about that past devouring monster, property? "We have set up a team in Scotland to seek out opportunities in that space. We worked through the residue of our back book, but we are now looking for opportunities, there is a team dedicated to that in the mid-market and our commercial guys have been doing significant business."
For businesses still in trouble, there is the bank's support unit. "They have a much more intensive relationship," Mr Gardner said. "Some businesses may not recover, but we are absolutely focused on attempting to return these companies back to a healthy trading position."
Lloyds is still digesting the implications of the Funding for Lending Scheme launched last week, with bank sources explaining the breadth of the scheme across both retail and business lending meant "no department has ownership of it".
But Mr Gardner, at the head of a 70-strong team in Scotland, says: "We wouldn't participate in it if we didn't believe it was going to work."
He reassures: "We are the biggest private sector employer in Scotland – other than on Saturdays when Tesco have more people. Scotland is very meaningful for Lloyds Banking Group, it is a huge part of the business."
As the new scheme gets under way, Lloyds will continue to be very meaningful for Scotland.
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