Need a business loan? Ask a pensioner

WHERE the banks won’t help SMEs, some of Cambridgeshire’s pensioners are set to step in.

A groundbreaking scheme to use pension funds from Cambridgeshire public services to support and grow local small businesses has been launched this week.

The newly-created Cambridge & Counties Bank is jointly owned by the Cambridgeshire Local Government Pension Fund and Trinity Hall, the Cambridge University college.

The move is part of the county council’s and Trinity Hall’s commitment to get the best return on their investment while also supporting the local community, the council said.

Cambridge & Counties Bank management team will be led by chief executive Gary Wilkinson, who has held a number of senior roles in the banking and building society sectors.

Assets from a former bank have been bought for the new venture, which will concentrate on secured lending to SMEs.

Cambridge & Counties Bank will provide SMEs with loans secured against commercial property as well as a highly competitive deposit account. In addition to this, it will also offer secured pension scheme lending, and has plans to launch professions financing, as well as other competitive savings accounts into both the retail and non-retail sectors.

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“Investment in the bank brings good returns for the pension fund, which has more than 170 member organisations, reducing any burden on the tax payer so money can be spent on frontline services,” a spokesman said.

“At the same time it shows that Cambridgeshire is open for business and will provide financial support to help small and medium businesses grow and create jobs at a time when it is harder to secure funding.”

Analysis of industry data by the new bank reveals that, in the second half of 2011, over 60,000 loan and overdraft applications from SMEs worth as much as �3billion, were rejected by banks. New research from the bank reveals that 47 per cent of businesses believe that their relationship with their main business bank is only average or bad.

Councillor Nick Clarke, Cambridgeshire County Council leader and a non-executive director of the bank, said: “The new bank will give local SMEs a real boost and the chance to grow, at a time when it’s proving hard to secure funding even for viable business propositions.

“This venture will not only produce a good return for the pension fund, but also mean that money from public services pensions is being used to support the economy, create jobs and improve the quality of life for our communities. The return on investment will reduce the burden on local taxpayers and leave more money available for frontline services. The bank has been properly assessed and is a very good investment.”