When first appointed Chairman of the British Business Bank in October 2013, I said that this was an idea of its time – with the potential to be a key catalyst in producing a more effective set of financing options for smaller businesses.
As we file our second set of accounts, it is clear that we are continuing to make significant progress along the road to fulfilling that aim.
In 2015–16, it would be fair to say that we have gone from start-up phase to delivery. While the figures in this report largely speak for themselves, it is worth reiterating the effort and thought that has gone into making that happen.
This kind of success doesn’t happen by accident – we’ve specifically set out to do this in a collaborative way, holding two-way conversations with the market, businesses and stakeholders across the range of our work. A recent example of this is the revised version of the Business Finance Guide that we have launched which involved more than twenty partner organisations.
The way we formulate our solutions – from our dynamic, iterative process to put in place the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund, to the open nature of our Help to Grow initial phase – helps us build fruitful partnerships that bring to bear our own expertise and money, and that of our partners.
We have done this by building a powerful and talented platform of people which has the capability to develop a wide range of innovative and relevant solutions. Increasingly, we are recognised across government and our stakeholders as agents for change who get things done.
But it’s not just about commercial partnerships – our public sector partners include the Department for Communities and Local Government, UK Export Finance, the Local Enterprise Partnerships and HM Treasury – in addition to our ‘home’ Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy – as we work together to bring about real and lasting improvements in markets for smaller business finance.
With such success we are being approached to do still more, and while we have had to deal with the many challenges that an increased role brings, we can look back over the past year with a great deal of pride in what we have achieved.
European Referendum Result
On 23 June the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. This generates some uncertainty for the Bank, as some of our programmes rely on EU funding or guarantees, but also creates opportunity for us to respond to the changing environment, building on the platform we have established. We are in close contact with our stakeholders and are monitoring market conditions to ensure that we respond as appropriate.
I’ve said before that one thing that really shines through about our organisation is the shared sense of purpose and mission that runs through it. This drive to improve, and belief in what we are doing, helps us to thrive as we deliver our expanded agenda.
We are taking on new staff to deliver these new priorities, and colleagues across the British Business Bank are being recognised, for example, the annual Fintech innovation award for alternative debt finance, In-house innovation award for our Legal team at the British Legal Awards and individual recognition for Shanika Amarasekara, our General Counsel and Keith Morgan, our Chief Executive.
During the year, Maria Turner gave notification of her intention to resign from the Board as she moved to an overseas assignment. One of our non-executives, Teresa Graham, stepped in as the interim Chair of the Risk Committee, and we have recently welcomed Neeta Atkar to the role on a permanent basis.
And finally, there will shortly be another change at Board level. Having been Chairman of the British Business Bank since October 2013 and overseen its setup, I feel this is a good time for me to hand over the reins to a successor to take the business through to the next stage, which I will do in October. It has been a delight to work with Keith Morgan during this very busy and formative time, and the market can be confident that he will continue to develop the capabilities and effectiveness of the bank. I would also like to thank all of the staff for what has been a truly remarkable performance on their part in creating this powerful new platform to support the SME sector.