BCR Award: Our Q1 2024 update

23 April 2024

Business Banking

Tom Renwick, Head of Business Banking
Tom Renwick, Head of Business Banking

In February 2024, Banking Competition Remedies (BCR), the organisation responsible for overseeing the implementation of the Capability and Innovation Fund, was wound down. We will however, continue to report on our progress until the conclusion of our business case in 2025.

We started the first quarter of 2024 as we ended the last: with continued growth in our lending book, the acceleration of new product features and steadfast determination to help as many small businesses as we can grow in this difficult environment.

As part of our successful application to the BCR Capability and Innovation Fund, we made nine commitments, and we remain resolutely committed to delivering against all of them. Here is how we are tracking:

1. Bringing innovative smart lending products to market

We have continued to bring enhancements to our lending proposition in the first quarter of 2024.

In our previous blog, we detailed that we were not in a position to build an organic unsecured lending product to add to our existing product inventory in timescales aligned with the BCR business case, and instead, had made the decision to deliver an unsecured lending product through partnership agreements. We are pleased to report this is underway with ambitions to deploy an initial £150m to small businesses.

We are still reporting delays associated with bringing our business instant access product to market. However, a number of the key capabilities required for the business product are being delivered through the build of our personal savings variant on track for Q2 2024, which we will leverage as we develop our business instant access product.

2. Commitment to deliver a next generation broker experience

This commitment has been formally delivered. However, our delivery teams remain focused on implementing ongoing enhancements to our next generation broker portal and building technical enablers for future automation deliverables. This resulted in a total of 43 features being released in the last quarter.

3. Address discouraged demand and improving financial wellbeing

This commitment has been delivered. We have continued to work with our existing partners to understand emerging ways for us to use Open Banking cloud accountancy e-commerce data to enhance our decisioning and monitoring processes.

4. Accelerate the net zero transition

The commitment is on track. We are concluding trials with a fintech partner to account for commercial emissions and gather EPC data to aid the continued development of green lending products. Over the first half of 2024, we plan to deliver enhancements to our business lending policy which will allow us to finance a diverse range of green products and initiatives, from commercial retrofit to habitat restoration and carbon sequestration.

5. Transforming small business banking

This commitment is on track. We continue to deliver timely and affordable lending into the market and provide exceptional, market leading levels of customer service. As of 31st March 2024, we have completed £624m of BCR-attributable secured lending and a further £57m of unsecured lending via our partner.

6. Create 70 jobs in the North East

This commitment has been delivered. To date, more than 70 people have joined us directly supported by BCR funding, including 11 graduates. There remain five vacancies associated with our BCR programme of work live on our website. All open roles are available to view on our careers page.

7. Partner with innovative fintechs

This commitment has been delivered. To date, we have partnered with ten innovative UK SMEs to support us in delivering our commitments.

8. Deliver transparency

We have and will continue to publish BCR Commitment Updates to our website until we have successfully met our deliverables under the programme - even in spite of the wind down earlier this year. This includes live updates to our transparent product roadmap, allowing our customers and intermediary partners to keep up to date on what we’re building and where we’d like to go in the future.

9. Invest our own money alongside the award

Alongside the BCR award of £10m, we remain committed to invest at least £15m of our own funding. Investment funded by both pools has continued on the same trajectory as the previous quarter as we seek to realise our commitments. We expect to have deployed the entirety of the remaining monies by Q1 2025.