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NatWest RBS adds £1bn to help female-led firms

Alison Rose

Alison Rose: targeted help (pic: Terry Murden)

NatWest (RBS) is investing a further £1 billion to help female-led businesses in the UK recover from the coronavirus.

It builds on the £1bn announced last January, which was the largest intervention by a UK lender focused specifically on female-led businesses.

The bank has also committed to help create an additional 35,000 businesses in the UK by the end of 2021, focusing its efforts on underrepresented groups and geographical inequality.

Due to the extraordinary impacts of the coronavirus the bank has seen unprecedented demand from female-led businesses and has exceeded its £1bn target 4 years ahead of plan.

The availability and ease of access through digital channels of the Government lending schemes, combined with virus impacts, has led to many more female entrepreneurs applying for funding. The share of lending to female founders has not only increased in absolute terms, but proportionately rising from 9.5% to 14% of total lending.

A central finding of the Alison Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship, was that the single biggest issue holding female entrepreneurs back is the lack of funding directed towards them.

Traditionally women are less likely to take on debt than male-led businesses and this can impact their ability to scale and grow at the same rate. The increased engagement stimulated through the Government schemes has also allowed NatWest to ensure that female entrepreneurs gain access to this overall package of support.

The additional funding will be open to both new and existing customers and represents new lending into the UK economy, to continue to close the gap between female and male entrepreneurs.

Support and encouragement for female entrepreneurs is needed more than ever due to the disproportionate impact of the crisis on women. Recent research commissioned by NatWest in conjunction with YouGov shows that: 

  • 1 in 10 female entrepreneurs plan to start a business in 2021;
  • 55% of female business leaders would not recommend starting a business in their sector in 2021;
  • Female entrepreneurs and business owners are 17% more likely to struggle balancing business with family life during the pandemic; and,
  • Nearly three quarters (71%) of female business owners and entrepreneurs found managing their business stressful during the pandemic, compared with just over half of males (55%).   

NatWest Group CEO, Alison Rose, said: “All of us, from ministers to employers, have a duty to ensure that further pain isn’t felt disproportionately by women and that anyone who retains an ambition to start or grow a business is helped with targeted and innovative assistance.”

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