Sheffield bank scrambles to expand as it pays out coronavirus loans to 1m businesses
The British Business Bank created 48 jobs in Sheffield as it launched four coronavirus loan schemes which paid out to more than 1m businesses.
It now employs 175 in the city and new boss Catherine Lewis La Torre said she expected growth to continue, including ‘onboarding’ recruits remotely.
Since March it has set up schemes to help companies survive the pandemic include business interruption and bounce back loans.
In Sheffield, between them, they have paid out 7,704 loans worth £311m – a frightening insight into the scale of the crisis.
Ms Lewis La Torre took over from Keith Morgan in September but has yet to visit the Sheffield office on West Street while chief executive because of lockdown.
She said: “I think the bank is one of the anchors of the North. I think it’s a powerful signal that Sheffield is a vibrant city with a business centre that should be supported and be a magnet not just for government capital put for the private sector too.”
Bounce back loans have been targeted by scammers partly because they require few checks and are ‘self-certified’.
The bank estimates it has stopped more than £1.1bn in fraudulent loans from being paid out nationally after rejecting 26,933 applications.
Ms Lewis La Torre said: “We’ve had to accept an element of fraud because if they were too restrictive people wouldn’t have received the money quickly. We put a tremendous amount of time and energy in to work with other bodies to prevent it.”
No interest is due on bounce back loans for the first year.
The bank will gain an insight into whether companies are recovering when the first wave of repayments becomes due in May, she added.
Her priorities in the job include investing in science and tech hubs to drive the recovery, tackling ‘funding disparities’ by attracting more lenders into the regions and encouraging diversity ‘in all its forms’, whether in debt, equity or talent.
She added: “Our own agenda addressing regional finance pre-dates levelling up - but it is helpful.”
The bank was launched six years ago with £6bn from government to serve businesses that might have struggled to access lending on the High Street.
In Sheffield City Region it has put £150m into 2,406 businesses. Local success stories include smart sensor firm Tribosonics and tech company Azzure IT, which secured £2m.