Nationwide wins £50m prize to help boost small business banking

Nationwide wins a £50m grant to help fund its expansion into SME banking, while Investec and Co-Operative Bank also win awards of £15m each

Nationwide Building Society has won a £50m grant to help support small businesses.

The award is part of a £775m programme funded by Royal Bank of Scotland as a condition of its bailout during the financial crisis. A total of £425m will be given in cash grants to rival business banks and financial technology companies, while a further £350m is being used to encourage RBS customers to switch to alternative providers.

Investec and the Co-Operative Bank, which won smaller awards of £15m each, have also pledged to match the prize with their own investments.

Nationwide will use the money to deliver new services for SMEs. The building society will match every pound received over five years to shape new products and services.

Nationwide says 7,000 branch workers will be trained in business banking and it will create a further 400 jobs. including at the society’s head office in Swindon, Wiltshire.

The society is the only major high street provider currently not to offer a business current account.

Five big banks dominate 85pc of the business lending market, where switching levels are low.

Nationwide aims to shake up the market by focusing squarely on supporting the UK’s 5.6 million SMEs. Among the products and services it will offer are unsecured loans along with accountancy and cash flow support to assistance with foreign payments.

Longer-term view

The society says that it can often take a longer-term view because it is owned and run for the benefit of members, not shareholders.

Joe Garner, chief executive of Nationwide, said: “This is good news for small businesses. The fund gives unprecedented opportunity to accelerate plans and inject competition into this market. As a building society, we are in a unique position as the only mutual with the scale, trust and track record to offer a compelling alternative to the banks.

“While the money is a massive boost for our plan, we also aim to match every pound of the £50 million award with our own funding over a five-year plan. As a mutual organisation driven by our social purpose, it is important that business owners are given more choice to find an account which suits their needs and we look forward to delivering this proposition.”

Andrew Bester, Co-Op Bank chief executive, said: “Our SME banking business is a key priority for us and we see considerable potential for growth. We are committed to more than doubling our current 2pc share of the market over the next five years and look forward to putting our plans into action.”

Further reading

SME lending: 56% of country saw the value of loans fall last year

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