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Support for women

RBS backs female-led startups with £1 billion fund

Alison Rose

Alison Rose: ‘building a business is often tough and lonely’ (pic: Terry Murden)

RBS is investing £1 billion to support female entrepreneurs – the largest intervention by a UK lender focused specifically on female-led businesses.

The bank has also announced that it is setting a target to support and inspire 500,000 people to consider starting a business – of whom at least 60% will be female – in order to help create at least 50,000 businesses by 2023.

The Female Entrepreneurship Funding, managed through the NatWest brand, builds directly on a key finding from The Alison Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship – led by RBS’s CEO –that the single biggest issue holding female entrepreneurs back is the lack of funding directed towards them. 

According to the Rose Review, female-led businesses receive less funding than those headed by men at every stage of their journey. Women launch businesses with 53% less capital on average than men, are less aware of funding options and are less likely to take on debt.

Open to both new and existing customers, the Funding represents new lending into the UK economy and is intended to go some way to closing the gap with male entrepreneurs.

The new targets will make RBS the biggest supporter of start-ups in the UK. The bank will increase the level of support provided through its accelerator programme, and other initiatives and partnerships such as ‘Back Her Business’ and the The Prince’s Trust.

This support is designed to tap into the unrealised potential for the UK economy and will be open to anyone who is looking to start-up a business, regardless of whether they are a customer of the bank or not.

Ms Rose, commented:  “As we build a purpose-led bank that champions the potential of people, families and businesses up and down the country, we are focussing on the areas where we can have the biggest positive impact across society.

“Small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy and we are backing Britain’s entrepreneurs and helping them to thrive by removing barriers to success.

“The funding and targets announced today will help support anyone who is thinking about starting a business throughout the UK. There is much more to come. Building a business is often tough and lonely and can be harder than it needs to be.

“By tackling the most important issues facing our entrepreneurs, we can make a real difference to those who need it most, especially in female-led businesses.”

Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom said:  “Building on the groundbreaking work of the Rose review, RBS is offering a real boost for the country’s female entrepreneurs and for the whole British business community. Their new investment supports our ambition to make the UK the best place in the world to work and to grow a business.”

Andrea Leadsom

Andrea Leadsom: ‘groundbreaking work’

Simon Clarke, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, said:  “It is shocking that only one in three entrepreneurs are women, and just one penny in every pound of investment goes to female-led firms. That is why the Treasury commissioned the Rose Review  to explore the barriers to female entrepreneurs and how we can close that gap. 

“This £1 billion of funding is a tremendous step forward and demonstrates the finance sector’s commitment to promote female entrepreneurship in the United Kingdom. “

The Female Entrepreneurship Funding builds on a number of initiatives that the bank already has in place to support women looking to start, scale and grow their businesses.

Female entrepreneurs can access local networking and mentors through NatWest’s 500 ‘Women in Banking’ specialists, as well as being able to use the ‘Everywoman Hub’ which, amongst other things, provides an online PR service to help entrepreneurs raise their business profile.

RBS is the largest supporter of small businesses and provides extensive support to enterprise across the UK. The bank has supported 20,000 entrepreneurs through its Entrepreneurship programme to date, with those businesses turning over in excess of £120m and creating more than 1,500 jobs.  



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