U.S. Markets close in 4 hrs 24 mins

NatWest adds £2.2bn to Brexit preparation fund

Oscar Williams-Grut
Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
A Natwest bank on the high street in Devon, England. Photo: Keith Mayhew/SOPA/LightRocket via Getty Images

NatWest has increased the size of its Brexit prep fund for small businesses to £8.2bn after finding thousands of businesses in need of support.

NatWest, which is part of Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS.L), said on Thursday it had identified thousands of small business customers likely to be affected by Brexit through Brexit Customer Outreach programme. As a result, an extra £2.2bn has been added to its Growth Funding initiative to support them.

“During a time of such uncertainty, it is imperative that we do all we can to support our customers,” Paul Thwaite, managing director of commercial banking at NatWest, said in a statement.

“Our business customers are extremely busy, and there is a lot to do. This is why we wanted to go to them offering our support in a proactive way. We are very much open for business and want to be the bank that supports the UK’s businesses through this uncertain time.”

The extra funding comes days after business secretary Andrea Leadsom warned that “not enough” small businesses were preparing for the possibility of a no deal Brexit.

READ MORE: Pound sinks as DUP rejects draft Brexit deal

“A lot of business say, ‘You asked us to get ready for the end of March and we didn’t leave so now you’re asking us to get ready for the end of October and it is not clear to us that you’re going to leave then either’,” Leadsom told the Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy select committee on Tuesday.

NatWest has rapidly increased the size of its Growth Funding programme since it was set up in May last year due to demand. The fund was originally a £1bn pot to help fuel small business growth, green investment, and navigate Brexit. It was trebled to £3bn in September last year, then doubled to £6bn in April. NatWest said Thursday that £5.6bn of that had already been committed.

NatWest said it was “committed to supporting all companies looking for this support” and would not put an upper limit on the fund, suggesting further increases could be announced in future.

The bank on Thursday also became a founding signatory of the government’s SME Finance Charter, which sets out how banks will support small businesses through Brexit and beyond.

"Financial support from banks is often crucial to the success of an SME,” small business minister Kelly Tolhurst said in a statement. “So it is great to see NatWest reaffirming support for their business customers through our new SME Finance Charter.

“NatWest’s commitments of continued and proactive support will give their SME customers the confidence they need ahead of Brexit on 31 October and beyond – with opportunities to thrive, grow and scale up in new markets.”

READ MORE: Organised crime groups ‘would exploit a no-deal Brexit’