Statement – Ron Emerson, British Business Bank Chairman
When I first took on the role of chairman of the British Business Bank, I said it was an idea of its time. This has been borne out by our rapid progress and significant levels of delivery as we have built a deeper understanding of the financing challenges faced by the SME sector of the UK economy. Recent events have perhaps reinforced the need for a platform of this kind.
Earlier this year, as I contemplated the end of my three-year term, I took stock of where we had got to in setting up this economic development bank. The bank is delivering on the four key objectives set for it and is now supporting £3.1 billion of lending and investment to small and mid sized businesses and participating in a further £4.4 billion to small mid caps. But it has also extended its remit and reach as new areas of intervention have been identified, the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund being only one example of new initiatives that were not part of the original plan.
We are being asked to do more by our government. In responding to this broader remit we have assembled an outstanding set of skills as we have found a strong desire for talented people to join a project of this kind. Recent internal surveys have shown very strong engagement from staff in London and Sheffield, significantly higher than the financial services sector in general and also the public sector; they too believe this is an idea of its time.
The bank bases its activities on rigorous research conducted in collaboration with a very wide group of stakeholders in this area, which ranges across the CBI, the BBA, the FSB the ICAEW and others; our recent Business Finance Guide had 23 contributors. This collaboration defines our approach to this challenge: we have been able to convene highly constructive dialogues and built strong relationships that have illuminated the nature of problems and the kinds of interventions that are likely to be effective. In that sense, too, the bank’s activities have been characterised by innovation and creativity, recognised by a series of awards from the market.
So good progress. As such, I believe this is a good time to hand over the reins to a fresh pair of hands to take the bank through the next phase which is now likely to have a new set of challenges thrown up by the Brexit vote. I have no doubts whatsoever that the bank will be equal to these challenges and, under the continuing leadership of Keith Morgan, prove a critical player in ensuring we remain a strong economy.