Daniel Cichocki, Policy Director, Business Finance, UK Finance
The Chancellor’s Budget announcement that he will boost funding for the British Business Bank by two thirds marks a major expansion in its reach and resourcing. Government investment in this important part of the business finance ecosystem will now stand at £6.2bn.
UK Finance has welcomed this announcement as an important part of UK plc’s attempts to expand the accessibility of Patient Capital, which has been identified as a ‘gap’ in the funding ecosystem for businesses. (For more detail see the HM Treasury Consultation on ‘Financing growth in innovative firms’ and its subsequent response released with the Autumn Budget).
Indeed, the potential impact of this investment is not limited to the initial headline figure. One of the key reasons for the British Business Bank’s success to date has been its ability to effectively partner with the private sector. We can therefore expect that the £2.5bn new fund provided to the British Business Bank will, through co-investment, potentially unlock a total of £7.5 billion of investment.
It is now widely accepted that while bank lending is an appropriate and healthy form of finance for many businesses, for others, especially high-growth businesses, Patient Capital – defined as a ‘long-term investment … in innovative firms … led by ambitious entrepreneurs who want to build large-scale businesses’ – can also play an important role.
With the shortfall in this type of financing estimated at between £3bn and £6bn, solving this should be a national policy objective. It is therefore welcome that HM Treasury has agreed with UK Finance that increasing resources of the BBB could reap significant dividends for UK plc.
UK Finance isn’t alone in pointing out that the gap is particularly acute for innovative, growth companies seeking to scale-up. As the Scale Up Institute has noted, there is a ‘huge prize’ to be gained by supporting such businesses. According to Sherry Coutu CBE (its Chair), “a one per cent boost to our scale-up population would bring about an additional 238,000 jobs and £225bn in Gross Value Added (GVA).”
Alongside the supply of finance, there is still more to be done to support businesses’ investment readiness. UK Finance believes that a focus on mentoring as a source of influence and development for suitable firms could help with this. There is more to be done to ensure that mentors working with high growth firms have the right background and skills. Given the appropriate support, these individuals could also have a positive impact in helping firms to become investment ready.
As the voice of the financial services sector, UK Finance has an important role to play in the high-growth/patient capital finance debate. With BDRC, we are currently looking at how the bank-funded SME Finance Monitor might better reflect the wider finance landscape for SMEs (including getting more data on scale-up businesses and businesses funded through alternative finance). We look forward to working with the newly-expanded British Business Bank, our members and stakeholders to ensure that businesses have the widest possible financing options – allowing firms to access the right finance, at the right time.