If a bank takes action to freeze a company’s bank account it is an indication that the bank is nervous and under its bank facility terms and conditions has exercised its right to not release funds.
A bank’s behaviour is monitored by its facility people and triggering action to freeze does not imply any expression of judgement or opinion on the business itself.
There are two other circumstances that can trigger a bank account freeze.
The first is when a winding up petition is advertised in the London Gazette, which is a legal requirement before a petition can be heard in the High Court. In this situation the bank is required to freeze the business account because the bank can be held to be liable for any funds paid out of the account.
A second situation that can trigger a bank account freeze is when there are not sufficient funds in the account, which makes it effectively frozen, even if it hasn’t been done formally by the bank.
It is most likely to happen because the company is not paying money into the account, possibly because its factoring company is not remitting funds to the bank.
A company’s relationship with its bank is aggravated if the company fails to take steps to deal with this situation, putting the bank in the embarrassing position of having to return cheques or direct debits.
Payment returns can also cost a company a great deal of money, adding to the pressure on its cash flow by charging fees but it also causes the bank to more actively monitor the account because the company’s directors are failing to manage it within the facility that has been agreed.
In a situation like this when there are insufficient funds but the bank account is not formally frozen, the directors need to take prompt action, including stopping the release of cheques, cancelling all standing orders and direct debits and taking control of the cash to manage all future payments. This creates a hiatus period during which cash is only released if there are sufficient funds.
During this hiatus period when survival is in jeopardy, directors must manage the company in the best interests of creditors. Payments are only made to meet ongoing costs and those crucial liabilities that need to be paid for to keep the business going.
If, however, the bank account has been formally frozen the directors can only make payments either with the bank’s approval or with an order from the courts.