Enlight Photo’s James Madelin relies on the good relationship with BNZ business partner Shaun Burney and the access to financial specialist • Photo by Alex Wallace
When James Madelin developed and marketed new photographic equipment, BNZ was behind him all the way
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When it comes to banks, James Madelin of Enlight Photo is pretty sceptical but his recent experiences with BNZ might change his attitude.
“Banks aren’t there to help, they are there to make money like any other business,” says Madelin.
He should know. Before coming to New Zealand from the UK with his wife, Naomi, seven years ago, he was an investment banker and she was a business project manager.
Madelin says many banks in New Zealand seem to indicate in their advertising material that finance is available for businesses if they need it—especially new businesses. However, he says, the reality is quite different. Some banks, he suggests, struggle with business relationships.
Madelin is the director of Enlight Photo, a business that markets an innovative piece of lighting equipment used in photography called the Orbis (Latin for ring). It is a modular ring flash that attaches to a normal flash gun. It directs light through a series of patented light tunnels into a ring that surrounds a camera lens, to give an effect similar to very high-end studio equipment at a fraction of the cost.
“It turns very hard, shadowy light that you get from your normal detachable flash gun to this beautiful, shadowless, lovely, soft lighting effect really easily,” explains Madelin.
On coming to New Zealand, Madelin started a photography business. He found himself carrying a lot of equipment so rather than buying new products, he wanted to ensure he was making the most of what he already owned.
Madelin built a prototype flash ring in his garden shed but it took a bit of tweaking to get the results he was looking for.
“The day I took the first photo with it I thought, ‘This is brilliant,’” he says.
Later, Madelin received a call from a corporate client who wanted portraits.
“I couldn’t charge them corporate photography rates when I was turning up with equipment that was obviously home-made. It’s not a good look.”
He decided to buy a modular flash ring but couldn’t find anything similar on the internet: no one made them.
“The proverbial light-bulb went on over my head and I thought, ‘Ohh, this has got potential.’ That was the seed of the idea.”
Madelin and his wife borrowed money against their house to finance the business and funneled the money into a business account with his former bank.
In the first few months the product generated incredible sales volume. Madelin phoned the bank to discuss the business.
“They didn’t even phone me back to speak to me. They just left me a message that basically said, ‘We’re not interested in helping you or talking to you at all,’” says Madelin. “They have lost hundreds of thousands in business in the first year alone.”
It was a chance encounter with an Icehouse Ice Angel that led Madelin to sign up with the business incubator’s Accelerator programme, where he was introduced to BNZ business partner Shaun Burney.
“Shaun came over with one of the guys from trade services and that was the beginning of us opening our account,” says Madelin. “They didn’t tell me to go away. They were clearly keen to establish a relationship.”
Madelin says he has contact with Burney every two or three weeks.
“Just recently I needed a pounds sterling account. I emailed Shaun and within a couple of days the account was opened.”
On another occasion, a BNZ representative gave a presentation to Icehouse businesses about international trade.
“He was absolutely brilliant,” says Madelin. “He simplified everything.”
Burney says the BNZ Partners relationship model, which was introduced in October 2008, is different to anything offered by other banks. Small to medium-sized businesses are assigned a dedicated BNZ Partner who has access to various specialists in a team environment. A treasury expert; asset, debtor and stock finance consultants; and merchant specialists are all available.
“Information and open, honest communication are the keys to building a positive relationship. It is a two-way relationship, in good times and bad”
The bank used to have all these specialists in their own teams. Now they work closer together, which provides a better service for clients.
“The other thing about it is that it is local. My team focuses on businesses that are based in the Auckland CBD. James is based in Parnell so all the people he is talking to are based in my office and easily contactable.”
Information and open, honest communication are the keys to building a positive relationship with BNZ, says Burney. It is a two-way relationship in both the good and bad times.
“As far as we are concerned, a client that has a good relationship with their banker makes it so much easier to deal with any issues that come up. My relationship with James and his company has been pretty successful from what I can tell.”
Madelin agrees. He says the BNZ has been prompt with answers to his questions and has provided fair and reasonable customer service.
“When we need to know something we don’t need to hear, ‘Thank you for your enquiry which will be answered in X days.’ I don’t get that from the BNZ. I get a very personal reply from Shaun or one of his colleagues, fast.
“They have been very helpful and the customer service has been absolutely outstanding.”