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Freeserve founder and Yorkshire entrepreneur Ajaz Ahmed has accused banks of “immoral” behaviour towards small businesses.

Speaking at the Yorkshire Mafia Conference at the Royal Armouries in Leeds yesterday, Ahmed said banks were “increasing their margin at a time when they should be helping businesses and sharing the pain with them”.

His comments came during the Billion Pound Panel, a Question Time-style session which also featured local entrepreneurs Dean Hoyle, James Sommerville, Lawrence Tomlinson and Lord Kirkham.

Hoyle, the Huddersfield Town chairman who sold Card Factory for £350m last year, said banks were driven by “greed and fear”.

“If you run your business like they have run theirs in the past two to three years then you would be in trouble,” he added.

Marketing expert Sommerville, who sold his design agency Attik to Japanese advertising giant Dentsu, said banks were struggling to keep up with the times.

“The banks need to change. They need someone somebody who is younger, hipper, more on-the-ball, someone who can talk to you about marketing, social media.”

The panellists advised SMEs to look to opportunities in the Far East and to treat cash as king.

Lord Kirkham, who stepped down as chairman of DFS last year, urged businesses to go east for “numbers like you have never seen before”. He added: “Go out there and do it”.

There were conflicting views on the importance of social media to business. Ahmed said: “For the majority of SMEs, social media would not make a blind bit of difference.”

The Yorkshire Mafia started life as an online business forum, but a huge escalation in membership saw more than 1,000 people sign up for its first conference.

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