High Growth and Entrepreneurs is part of Barclays’ business proposition, aiming to support ambitious founders in Britain through financial advice, expert support networks and the Eagle Lab startup working spaces.
The banking world has acknowledged the need to extend the traditional responsibilities of a lender. Through Entrepreneurial Spark, NatWest has supported UK entrepreneurs with investment in growth accelerators across the country, offering startup incubators and access to business mentors.
Meanwhile, Lloyd’s Bank has been enlisted by the government to support digital skills development in Britain, with a seat on the Council for Digital Inclusion.
Barclays’ High Growth and Entrepreneurs offering is led by Richard Heggie – one of our Small Business Decision Makers for 2017 – who sat down with Business Advice to explain the approach taken by Barclays to support the nation’s small business owners.
Despite the competition, Heggie maintained that the High Growth and Entrepreneurs “holistic” approach sets Barclays apart.
“We’re offering more than just a bank account and an overdraft. For us the focus is on the entrepreneurs and the startups,” Heggie told Business Advice.
“The benefit of what you get in banking with Barclays is access to people who understand the entrepreneurial journey and can be a couple of steps ahead of where you are. It gives you the confidence of knowing you have that trusted advisory network to help you through those challenges,” he added.
Heggie outlined the three pillars that defined Barclays’ approach to enterprise development – a relationship management model that brings the expertise within Barclays directly to the business owners, a funding model that looks to find the right funding for the right stage of the business, and a “beyond banking” outlook.
“Where we differ from other banks is through products like innovation finance – part of our high growth lending proposition, where we lean in and provide working capital financing from post-seed upwards. That’s different to other banks. Funding is a core part of our offer,” he explained.
In terms of what the Eagle Labs can offer, Heggie highlighted the access to rapid prototyping facilities like 3D printers, but also emphasised the benefit of immersing yourself in an entrepreneurial environment.
“It’s your ability to sit opposite other companies who are on similar journeys and can understand the challenges of being a startup, because it’s a lonely business, starting out and scaling up,” he said.
Clearly, there is a recognition among banks that more can be done to feed expertise down to business customers.
“If you look at the UK now, you’ve probably never had as many options in terms of funding sources available to you, whether that’s government grants, angel investors, crowdfunding, you can find ways in which you can start your business and get support for it. But what I don’t think you have in the UK is the equivalent focus on developing the skills expertise needed to grow and scale. Trying to put investment into the skills side is so important to UK productivity and growth,” he said.
Heggie added that Barclays intend to invest in the skills and leadership side where the gaps often appear among British founders.
He said: “As a startup owner you are very focused on what is in front of you – setting up your bank account and getting your company registered. Your priority is getting that product out. Getting your first sale really is the most exciting thing, but converting that into a business is something different, and then turning that business into something that is growing, expanding and scaling is a different set of challenges.”
The scale up gap
With sweeping political change in the past year having an impact on global markets, Heggie remained optimistic of the potential for entrepreneurial success in post-Brexit Britain.
“The challenges of growing are always there. Uncertain environments are never good for business but there is always great opportunity there,” he said.
Heggie emphasised it was the responsibility of High Growth and Entrepreneurs to leverage the potential of promising startups: “The access to the right kind of talent to help them grow is so important from a UK perspective.”
One immediate possibility for small UK companies in the aftermath of Brexit was in exports, and Heggie has spoken previously on the marketing potential of the “Made in Britain” brand to overseas audiences. Research from his team showed not just British-made products in demand abroad, but also Britain’s entrepreneurs.
“We looked at the perception of UK entrepreneurs amongst CEOs across the world. It highlighted that ‘brand Britain’ is very well regarded and showed a whole series of opportunities in countries such as China. But it also highlighted the perception that we were lacking in some of the skills to take advantage of such opportunities, for example our digital skills,” he revealed.
It was important for the UK to “shout about” its success stories more and celebrate the entrepreneurial role models the country has produced, he added.
High Growth and Entrepreneurs: Looking forwards
According to Heggie, the future agenda for High Growth and Entrepreneurs is to develop the “beyond banking” proposition, open more Eagle Labs across the UK and use them to address the skills gaps among small business owners.
In terms of advice for Britain’s next generation of entrepreneurs toying with an early business idea, the advice from the man driving Barclays’ small business offer was to capitalise on that initial inspiration.
“Too few people convert that lightbulb moment into action. I would encourage them to have the confidence to start their business. I’d also advise coming to a place like an Eagle Lab. There is nothing better than immersing yourself and talking to people who are out there doing it. Most entrepreneurs are very honest about their failures and it’s good to benefit from that collective wisdom.”
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