The British Business Bank’s mission has always been to make finance markets work better so that smaller businesses across the UK can prosper and grow.
For the majority of 2019/20, we continued to build our programmes of support for smaller businesses across the UK, growing as an organisation and putting in place appropriate infrastructure as we did so.
Our focus on smaller businesses – of great importance to the UK economy – continued, and we increased substantially our volume of finance supported while adding a greater diversity of provider to our portfolio.
Responding to the Covid-19 pandemic
In mid-March 2020, the economic shock to the UK economy caused by the outbreak of Covid-19 saw the British Business Bank become a key element of the government’s response to the crisis, including expanding our remit to support larger companies in certain circumstances. Our people responded swiftly, and with great agility, to address this unprecedented situation, and the Board is truly appreciative of their dedication and hard work under pressure in delivering many billions of pounds of vital emergency loans to UK businesses.
Our market-focused objectives – increasing volume and diversity of finance, responding to regional imbalances, and encouraging and enabling smaller businesses to seek the finance best suited to their needs – remain the same, even though the emphasis within each changed as Covid-19 accelerated.
Because this report is retrospective in nature, covering the 2019/20 financial year, it does not cover in detail our full response to the Covid-19 crisis. We have, however, included an outline of our work during the first few months of 2020/21, to provide some context around what has proved to be one of the most significant events for the country in recent times.
Keith Morgan, the Bank’s Chief Executive Officer, announced in October 2019 that he would be stepping down in late 2020. Keith first became involved in setting up the Bank in 2013, and has been pivotal in making it the success it has become over the intervening years – a fact recognised by the award of a CBE for services to Small Business Finance in the Queen’s New Year Honours list 2020. I would like to thank Keith for his exemplary leadership of the organisation.
I was delighted when Catherine Lewis La Torre, the CEO of our commercial arm, agreed to take up the position of CEO of the British Business Bank from 1 September 2020. Catherine has achieved great success as CEO of our two growth-focused and commercially successful subsidiaries, and I look forward to working with her as we drive forward our support for businesses during a period of UK economic recovery.
I would also like to thank Christina McComb, who stepped down as Senior Independent Director this year, for her valuable service and contribution over the last five years. We appointed Neeta Atkar as her successor in November 2019, and Nathaniel Sloane as a new Non-executive Director in March 2020.
Our future role
We expect the British Business Bank to play an increasingly important role as we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic, flexing our resources to help UK businesses re-establish themselves over the coming months.
There may well be additional responsibilities, and changes to our role, as we work with the government to map out the next phase of the Bank’s development. We stand ready, willing and able to do what is needed to help address whatever challenges lie ahead.
Lord Smith of Kelvin