From the start, we built flexibility into the design of the British Business Bank which has served us well over the last year.
The British Business Bank is now in its sixth year of operation, having been founded at the end of 2014 to make finance markets work better for smaller UK businesses. By the end of March 2020, we were supporting 98,000 businesses through a range of programmes that increase both the volume and range of finance available.
While this year the Bank’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic has naturally tended to overshadow the work we have undertaken in normal circumstances during 2019/20, it’s important still to recognise the progress that came before the emergence of the virus in the UK in March 2020.
Building throughout 2019/20
Our highlights of 2019/20 included the launch of a new ENABLE Build programme to help fund smaller housebuilders, the expansion of our flagship Enterprise Finance Guarantee to asset finance and asset-based lenders, and the publication of valuable research into UK Venture Capital (VC) returns and the case for increased investment into VC by Defined Contribution pension schemes. We also passed a major milestone for our Start Up Loans programme, with £500m lent since 2012.
Our work to level up the regions continued to grow, with extensive outreach from our UK Network colleagues, who held over 1,200 intelligence-gathering meetings with smaller business intermediaries throughout the year, and over 800 businesses receiving funding of £436m from our three regionally focused funds.
In November 2019, we marked the Bank’s fifth anniversary, reflecting on the five-fold growth of the organisation since the end of its first year and highlighting many of the successful businesses our funding has supported during that time.
businesses supported at 31 March 2020
stock of finance supported, at 31 March 2020
Our response to Covid-19
The British Business Bank was set up to be able to respond with agility to changing market conditions. This and our extensive forward planning for a downturn, meant that when the Covid-19 lockdown began in mid-March 2020 we were able to respond rapidly to the demands of a radically changed finance landscape, operationalising in days interventions that would take months under normal circumstances.
Providing value for money for taxpayers
In a value for money report published by the National Audit Office (NAO) in January this year, the NAO found that “the British Business Bank has performed well against its objectives”, enabling additional growth in UK SMEs as a result of our activities.
It also said the Bank “had clear performance metrics and carried out evaluation of its impact on SMEs. Overall, it has been performing well and SMEs have been growing as a result of its activities”, providing a welcome and valuable endorsement of our approach over the last six years. This gives the Bank a strong platform on which to build as it addresses the issues smaller businesses will face as the UK emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic.
Looking to the future
I announced in late 2019 that I would be standing down from my position as CEO of the British Business Bank by the end of 2020, having joined to lead its set-up team in 2012. Over the last eight years, it’s been a pleasure to work with a host of dedicated professionals, all totally committed to the Bank’s mission of supporting finance for smaller businesses across the UK.
I have worked closely with Catherine Lewis La Torre for much of that time, during which she excelled as CEO of British Business Investments and British Patient Capital. Catherine’s strong track record means she is ideally placed to take on the role of CEO of British Business Bank plc, and I wish her every success.
Chief Executive Officer