Second Opinion: Cambridge & Counties Bank doubles lending target
Cambridge & Counties Bank was launched in Leicester in June 2012, at a time when small and medium-sized businesses were finding it tremendously difficult to access finance from the high street banks.
We are delighted to report that in a relatively short space of time we have already been very active in lending to businesses in Leicestershire.
Ahead of our launch, we initially thought our clients would be SMEs looking to grow with new loans.
However, as well as lending to and helping such customers, we have been surprised by the significant amount of interest from high quality businesses coming to the end of their existing loan period with their bank, but who have been unable to obtain new finance from them.
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We have helped a range of different types of customers and businesses in Leicester. This includes a hosiery manufacturer that had been renting their business premises for a number of years until the landlord decided to sell.
The company owner approached his existing bank but was turned down.
Through Cambridge & Counties Bank, he was able to borrow the money necessary to continue to operate his business in his existing premises. Another example of where we have stepped in involved a Hinckley-based family business that spent 18 months trying to secure funding to retain a commercial and residential property portfolio following the death of a family member.
A key difference between us and the bigger banks is our individually tailored manual underwriting process, which enables us to review customers on a case-by-case basis.
This approach enabled us, for example, to help a Leicester restaurant business to expand by acquiring a new restaurant.
Since June last year, demand has more than exceeded our expectations.
The amount of lending we were originally looking to complete in nearly four years is now likely to be achieved in just over two years. We have completed nearly 50 loans so far totalling £18 million and have also approved more than 50 further applications worth £22 million.
Lending is funded by our competitive business deposit accounts, which have proved attractive to businesses looking to generate a decent return for their money.
We have received excellent feedback from our customers by providing simple, value for money accounts, without complex product features that could catch them out. In eight months, we've opened 500 new accounts. Through our growing deposit account business we look forward to lending to a growing number of SMEs.
Gary Wilkinson is chief executive of Cambridge & Counties Bank, based in Leicester.