By the start of 2016/17, the British Business Bank had successfully moved from its startup phase to delivery. A year on, the business has substantially scaled up its programmes and broadened its support for smaller businesses across the UK.
We have achieved this progress against a rapidly evolving political and economic background. Thanks to the adaptability designed into our organisation from the outset, the Bank has been able to respond to changes in our environment and the finance markets with flexibility and agility while continuing to deliver for smaller UK businesses and our government shareholder.
This organisational flexibility and our track record in innovation is likely to be increasingly important, as the government negotiates the UK’s future relationship with Europe. There have been many suggestions around how our role may change as a result and, while it is too early to be certain of what the future holds, I am confident that the Bank is well placed to support the country’s smaller businesses whatever the outcome of negotiations.
Throughout the year, we have continued to develop our partnerships with a broad range of finance providers, fund managers and challenger banks. A key highlight of this year was the successful delivery of the £400m Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund, in partnership with ten Local Enterprise Partnerships across the Northern Powerhouse region. This unique collaboration, described in greater detail later in this report, is a compelling illustration of how we work alongside our partners to deliver finance to smaller businesses where it is most needed.
Addressing regional disparities in finance is a key aim of our shareholder, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
We continue to act as a trusted advisor on important priorities for the department and the government more widely, such as the new Industrial Strategy, the Patient Capital Review and funding for innovation.
Start Up Loans Company
The Start Up Loans Company (SULCo) joined the British Business Bank group on 1st April 2017. SULCo has a well established and successful track record providing finance to micro businesses across the UK. This means that, as a group, the Bank is now able to offer support for funding for businesses at all stages of their development – from microfinance to later-stage venture capital.
We were delighted to welcome our SULCo colleagues into our organisation and I am pleased to report that the integration process is making good progress.
During 2016/17 our staff numbers have grown from 117 to 167. Such rapid expansion brings a series of challenges, as many of the scale-up businesses we support will know all too well – including a need for communication, changes to ways of doing things and developing more robust systems and procedures.
It is testament to the dedication and commitment of our people throughout the organisation that we have made such meaningful progress this year whilst building and scaling to such a degree.
We are committed to making the Bank a great place to work. The outputs from our most recent annual colleague survey reflect the success of our approach, with 95% of our workforce saying they were proud to work for our organisation. Our people continue to be our most important resource, bringing their expertise, experience and enthusiasm to bear in contributing to our organisational goals.
There have been a number of Board changes this year. Ron Emerson stood down as the British Business Bank’s Chair in September 2016, taking with him our thanks for overseeing the setup of the Bank as its first Chair. I have been privileged to fill the role of Interim Chair over the past nine months and I am delighted now to hand over to our new Chair, Lord Smith.
Neeta Atkar was appointed as Non-executive Director and Chair of the Risk Committee in July 2016, taking over from Teresa Graham, who had been fulfilling the latter role on an interim basis.
In April 2017 our shareholder announced the appointment of our new Chair, Lord Smith of Kelvin, to the British Business Bank, and I and the rest of the Board look forward to working together with him in supporting the UK’s smaller business community.