It was heartening to hear Brian Sheldon, hospitality director for property agent Christie & Co in Scotland, declare the banks have been “very, very tolerant” with businesses in the sector facing challenges in the tough times we have seen in the last few years.

He contrasted this with a less supportive stance during the global financial crisis.

It has, of course, been far easier for banks this time round to do what Mr Sheldon rightly observes is the “right” thing.

They have not faced the same liquidity crunch that they did when the financial crisis took a lurch for the worse in autumn 2008.

Indeed, the stimulus put in place by the authorities amid the coronavirus pandemic made it rather easy for the banks to support customers. And it would have been shameful had the banks done otherwise. Not only that but you would imagine they would have come under fire from the authorities and the public if they had not been supportive.

Now we are well past the immediate economic emergency of the pandemic. However, that does not mean in any way that the troubles of many hospitality businesses have somehow disappeared.

Yes, these businesses are free to trade again freely as they wish, without restrictions.

However, many had to take on extra debt to get through the various protracted periods of forced lockdowns and restrictions.

Some of those which had relatively high levels of debt before the pandemic will now be faced with the prospect of much higher interest rates on this.

The Bank of England has hiked UK base rates from a record low of 0.1% in December 2021 to 5.25%.

This has put pressure not only on businesses across all sectors of the economy but on households already laid low by the UK’s inflation woe.

Millions of households have seen a relentless squeeze on their disposable incomes and this is bad news for hospitality businesses reliant on discretionary spending.

Not only that but hospitality businesses in town and city centres in particular are having to deal with a lack of footfall arising from hybrid working.

Meanwhile, hospitality businesses continue to face grim staff shortages, which Mr Sheldon attributed in part to Brexit.

So, in terms of how the banks treat hospitality businesses, the big test has probably yet to come as operators with high debt levels try to navigate a very difficult environment.

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It is encouraging of course that Mr Sheldon, who will have a close-up view of what is going on in the hospitality sector and be able to put this in the context of decades of experience in this area, sees banks as having been tolerant. He believes they have generally only been taking final action when it has become almost inevitable that hospitality businesses are going to have to call it a day.

However, as is generally the case with recessions and is likely to be no different following the particularly steep one seen amid the pandemic, insolvencies take a while to come through.

In this case, they are probably taking longer to do so, probably because of the huge fiscal and monetary stimulus provided amid the economic emergency triggered by the pandemic.

However, as Mr Sheldon observed, insolvency practitioners are becoming busier.

Some insolvencies will, sadly, be inevitable.

However, it will be in the cases where banks have a real choice of what they do that their behaviour can and should be judged.

It is worth observing in this context that the banks, as a result of the surge in interest rates, have been making a lot of money recently.

They were doing quite nicely before, of course.

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However, the surge in benchmark borrowing costs implemented by the Old Lady of Threadneedle Street has enabled banks to raise their interest margins quite significantly.

So they can certainly afford to be tolerant, where they choose to be.

In many cases, of course, such behaviour will be to the benefit of struggling businesses and the banks. If businesses are given space to trade their way out of difficulty, where this is possible, both they and the employment they provide can continue. And banks will be likely to recover more, and hopefully in many cases all, of what they have lent to such businesses. Trade creditors will meanwhile probably be in a better position.

Tolerance by the banks is also good for the economy.

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Amid the global financial crisis, it felt like there was a vicious circle. Banks, some of which were under great financial pressure themselves, pulled the plug on many businesses relatively swiftly. This compounded the economic woe and in the longer run probably made things tougher for the banks, given the knock-on damage.

Remember the major company collapses in the construction and property sectors amid the global financial crisis?

This time round, things have been different.

The housebuilding sector is now coming under some pressure as a result of the surge in interest rates.

However, it is nothing like the pressure it faced during the global financial crisis. Back then, work stopped swiftly indeed on sites which were under construction.

This time round, it looks far more like housebuilders are rationing supply to keep prices up, rather than because of any particular financial pressure on them.

In the hospitality sector, some owners who could not face the unknowns of coronavirus decided to sell out as the pandemic took hold. And opportunistic buyers, often with cash, were happy to step in.

Some others in the sector will have been under greater pressure to sell but will have been able to do so in a calm manner, afforded breathing space by the banks.

Mr Sheldon does expect an increase in distressed hospitality assets coming to market, although he understandably says the degree to which this happens is “anyone’s guess”. These are unprecedented times, and it is difficult to tell.

Of course, there have been high-profile collapses, including the fall into administration of acclaimed chef Brian Maule’s Le Chardon d’Or restaurant at West Regent Street in Glasgow.

The ultimate number of casualties will depend, in no small part, on how patient or otherwise the banks prove to be as we go through the difficult times ahead.

Hopefully, they will continue to be more tolerant. And the profits they are making surely afford them the opportunity to take a longer-term view.