Business bank: Industry's views

Bank manager and customer The Chambers of Commerce believes a business bank could have a positive impact for decades

It seems the government is inching towards another potential solution for one of the country's entrenched economic problems. How to ensure that more money is lent to small and medium-sized businesses that need it?

It is a pet idea of Business Secretary Vince Cable.

The project is still being devised, so there are few details yet.

But it should dovetail with other recent initiatives, such as the Bank of England's Funding for Lending scheme.

What do business organisations think?

Federation of Small Businesses

Mike Cherry, national policy chairman, said: "It is something we welcome being looked at.

"At long last the government is beginning to listen to some of our ideas about getting more finance to the small businesses that need it because the current method is not working.

"First and foremost, it needs to get money to those small businesses that are able to support the repayment of any loans, without necessarily having to rely on capital assets to support it.

"Banks lend primarily on assets. Clearly that has failed."

British Chambers of Commerce

The organisation has been lobbying hard for such a bank to be set up.

Dr Adam Marshall, policy director at the BCC, said: "For the next 50 years it could be making an impact on British businesses' growth prospects.

"A business bank would lend, at a fair risk premium, to some of these new and growing businesses. Ultimately a taxpayer guarantee is going to be required.

"You have examples from around the world, such as the US, South Korea, and Germany, where business banks help provide 'patient' capital for growing firms over time, which is longer term than our banks are prepared to provide.

"But we have one word of warning: if ministers believe that a very quick rebadging of government schemes and programmes can then be called a British business bank, that would ruin both the concept and its ability to deliver fundamental change."

British Venture Capital Association

Tim Hames, policy director, said: "As a simple matter of fact it can work, but it is not obvious what route the government as a whole is going to take.

"It depends so much on what the government intends.

"Is this a temporary fill-in for a remediable situation for banks and small businesses, or are we taking a more profound view that unless you have a big state investment bank, you will always be missing something from the equation?

"I fear we may end up with some horrible mess in the middle, in which we neither have a German-style full-blown state investment bank, nor do we have a swift and well-targeted temporary fund which fills the gap while the banking system pulls itself together."

CBI

The organisation for larger employers said a direct state lender for business was not necessary.

"The government has introduced a number of funding schemes to assist smaller businesses, so to help them make best use of these, a business bank that acts as a 'one-stop shop' for these initiatives is a priority," the CBI said.

British Bankers' Association

"We look forward to further details of how this is going to be put together."

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