The British Business Bank is an organisation that has innovation, adaptability and an understanding of smaller businesses at its core. These strengths were brought into sharp focus by our response to the coronavirus pandemic.
It is a tribute to the leadership of Keith Morgan and the hard work and dedication of our people that the Bank was able to respond to the economic challenges of Covid-19 so effectively. In just over four months* we helped deliver more than £51bn of critical support, with over 1.2m facilities provided to businesses at their time of greatest need.
Smaller businesses have shown great strength and resilience to survive and stabilise, and we can be proud of the role we have played in helping them do so. There is more to do, however, and we are now looking forward to how we can support them in the post-crisis recovery period and beyond.
Recovering through growth
As the UK economy shifts its focus from stabilisation to recovery, we need to ensure smaller businesses can manage the many new challenges they face.
It is growth that will ultimately be the key to a thriving post-Covid-19 UK economy.
The British Business Bank is integral to supporting government in leading Britain’s recovery and its ambition to make the UK the best place in the world to start and grow a business.
Now is the time for us to build on the great successes of the last six years and to give smaller businesses the confidence to move from recovery to planning for growth.
Leading commercially while providing widely
The Bank and our role within the UK economy has never been under greater scrutiny as we work as a trusted partner of government to create the conditions that will enable smaller businesses to prosper and grow.
The results reported in this set of accounts demonstrate that we continue to make progress in delivering against our objectives in order to address the structural challenges faced by smaller businesses in the marketplace when seeking the finance they need to invest and grow.
The Covid-19 pandemic impacted our financial performance towards the end of the financial year, with the final adjusted return being below our target adjusted return for the first time in our history. As we discuss further in the report, continuing economic uncertainty means that the long-term impact on our investment valuations and credit losses is not yet fully discernible. Nevertheless, our aim always is to provide solid commercial stewardship in deploying public funds irrespective of the macroeconomic context.
The government recognised this capability in 2019, allocating us an additional £200m to invest in high-growth businesses as the UK leaves the EU and further resources to enable up to £600m of funding for the UK’s world-leading health tech and life sciences sector.
Alongside commitments through our commercial arm, which reached a record level of £952m in 2019/20, equally important are the subsidised schemes which we deliver on behalf of government.
By addressing persistent market failures in the supply of finance, our programmes help businesses at all stages of development, from providing aspiring entrepreneurs with mentoring and funding to enabling a greater choice of finance options for well-established companies.
We remain committed to increasing opportunity for businesses wherever they are in the UK by levelling up economic activity through regional access
to finance across the country. However, if we are truly to help the UK economy to thrive, we need to go further, embracing the best talent regardless of gender, ethnicity, age, location, or other characteristics.
This is critical if we are to help light the way for government, the finance sector and smaller business owners.
I take on the role of Chief Executive of British Business Bank plc at a crucial time for smaller businesses and look forward to supporting them as they come out of the pandemic and thrive once more.
Catherine Lewis La Torre
* As of 11 August 2020