In the aftermath of the recession, high street banks were widely criticised for failing to provide adequate levels of financing to SMEs, causing many to look elsewhere for business loans. However, under a new initiative launched by RBS and NatWest, start-ups and small firms are being offered opportunities over and above the ability to secure stable finance.
Together the banks have announced they will launch a chain of eight “business acceleration” hubs to the UK, with the first being established in Birmingham next year.
These will be located in NatWest branches – where possible – in Cardiff, Manchester, Belfast and Leeds, among other major cities, and will allow entrepreneurs access to multi-million pounds’ worth of regional support no matter what sector they are looking to launch into.
Applications have already begun to flood in for the Birmingham programme, which will see successful applicants begin their 18 month free support service with a business start-up “bootcamp”.
Following this, they will be eligible to receive “growth awards” of up to £50,000 and attend regular networking and educational events whilst benefiting from a system of peer support, mentoring and acceleration.
Commercial and private banking chief executive at NatWest, Alison Rose, explains that this initiative is a continuation of the partnership RBS has established with Entrepreneurial Spark in Scotland.
She says; “This is a step-change in how NatWest supports entrepreneurial talent in the UK.
“By opening up our premises and providing them with support and a far reaching network of contacts, we are backing the businesses of tomorrow and helping ambitious entrepreneurs take their businesses to the next level.
“This is good for them, good for us and ultimately good for the UK economy.”
Each hub will accept two new intakes every year, and entrepreneurs do not need to be RBS or NatWest customers to apply. Physical work spaces for up to 80 entrepreneurs will be created within the selected NatWest branches, with the programme due to be rolled out in full over the next two years – the next two cities to receive their hubs will be revealed early in 2015.
Chief executive of Entrepreneurial Spark Jim Duffy believes that this method will prove beneficial to start-up businesses.
He says; “Our work in Scotland has had a positive impact on the huge upsurge in the number of new business incorporations, and better still those who go through our programmes have an 80 per cent survival rate which is way above average.
“Our shared vision with NatWest is to create an entrepreneurial revival across the UK and we can’t wait to take our success story to benefit a wider audience.”
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