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Capital idea for sharing

Douglas Fraser | 17:27 UK time, Thursday, 3 March 2011

If the banks aren't lending to business, perhaps business is looking in the wrong place.

That's according to Mark Hoban, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, when speaking to Scottish Financial Enterprise in Edinburgh today.

He was giving a round-up of government policy on regulation and promoting growth, reminding a receptive audience of how important the financial sector is.

But the bit that's still missing is how to get finance to small and medium size businesses (SMEs).

That was underlined by this week's report from Holyrood's economy committee into the enterprise agencies, totting up the £262m of equity investment by Scottish government agencies, and saying that the case for more funding for private business is urgent.

According to the Treasury minister: "If we want a private sector recovery, this is something we have to address."

SMEs are "easily the nation's largest employer" (though some might argue with how easy it is to be an employer), and "it's their success that defines growth in the economy".

Over-reliant on banks

There have been credit guarantees, the growth fund and a promise from banks to reach lending targets, "but it's also apparent that many businesses still feel shut out of the equity financing market.

"They've become over-reliant on bank lending as their primary source of external finance, when other types of funding would better suit their needs," he said.

The government is looking at Britain's strength in equity markets - representing 70% of the European total - and asking why it isn't sufficiently liquid for smaller enterprises.

"There's a real opportunity to do more," said Mark Hoban.

Quite what he meant we don't know, as this speech was delivered behind the SFE's closed doors.

But it may be that this refers to UK government's look at the possibility for a range of stock exchanges located around the the UK, as they were until the 1970s.

But as readers of the Ledger know, attempts to rejuvenate the idea - in Wales and in Birmingham - have been rather less than successful in unlocking new sources of funding.


  • Comment number 1.

    Are BANKS not lending to business or rather the ones that would make a real difference to UK economy, simply because there's none of any significance to lend to. The 7th calvary private sector is simply not going to come to the UK rescue, I'm afraid no matter what treasury chief or whatever political captain of industry tell you, unless you put a huge sign outside the UK door aka FOR SALE SIGN, EXPLOITATION ASSURED! or your MONEY BACK! Well the latter comes in the shape of huge government start up grants......

  • Comment number 2.

    why should banks lend to business - fixed returns, predicted outcomes, dealing with real people, boring ,boring ,boring....

    now give then a chance to bet a zillion on credit default zero option with profit bonds and hey presto one touch of the computer screen and its jackpot city or heaven forbid they back the wrong horse, government begging bowls at the ready and if you don't pay up we're all going to Zurich.

    ha ha ha ha ha.

  • Comment number 3.

    I have in my possession a letter from one F Goodwin late of RBS which was a response to my question to him as to why RBS didn't provide any risk equity to start-ups, spin-outs and early stage companies.

    His answer was "because it's not part of RBS's strategy".

    When I asked why they didn't change their strategy he didn't bother to reply.

    It's a big problem and as long as Scotland is under the malign influnce of the City and institutions like RBS with their appalling attitude then we will make no progress.

    The main issue being of course that the people that run these institutions aren't actually very bright and operate in their own little world without reference to or interest in what's going on in the real economy.

  • Comment number 4.

    What we're seeing here is the banks running the country. You may not like it or even want to admit it, but dems de facts.

    We have had the unedifying sight of the MDs of various banks queuing up to be bailed out by the taxpayer while keeping thier huge salaries and paying out huge bonuses. Any other businesses would have fired them out of hand!

    It's time our politicians for off their fat backsides and defended this country, Scotland, against the plundering bankers. Next time the bankers come along with their hands out, we should cut them off!

  • Comment number 5.

    Banks nowadays are rightly wary of lending to small or medium sized businesses since it seems many of these businesses are not just in need of capital to "tide them over, to restock or whatever" but in need of capital to keep them in business when in fact nothing short of a miracle will keep them going. The banks have a duty to invest the money they hold in trust wisely, not to lend it to companies or enterprises that may give no return or in fact a negative return. It would be wrong of banks to risk their investors' money in failing business just because politicians say it should be so. It may be socially desirable to prop up dying businesses to keep providing employment, but not if the bank risks it's investors' cash. Let the politicians risk their savings if they're all that keen on the idea.

  • Comment number 6.

    dear kaybraes as for the risks in lending to small businesses the banks don,t exactly stand on a window ledge before they splash the cash. You will get nothing out of them unless you put up your home, guarantees from family members perhaps,first charges and debentures on other assets, taking out their key manlife insurances if you happen die from the stress of paying for their Maldives conferences....

    as for investors cash, ha ha ha only when it comes in the form of state handouts. Risk should be quantifiable, but what risk is there running this type of business model?

  • Comment number 7.


    The problem with this argument is that we need then to answer the question as to why so many alledgedly failing businesses get bought up by overseas companies they suddenly seem to do so well.

    Remember Jaguar/Land Rover? Deemed a basket case by the City it is now highly successful. Why? Because it's now being invested in properly and is developing new products.


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