Finance · 15 February 2017

NatWest goes digital with new business loans offering

NatWest business loans
Banks could soon have quicker access to business loans through the service

British bank NatWest has unveiled an online platform that will provide quick access to unsecured business loans of up to £150,000, part of its fintech push.

The lender revealed the Esme Loans offering was developed out of its “Innovation Cell” and involved collaborating with financial technology business Ezbob – an attempt to speed up and simplify the business loans process.

Going forward, the lending platform will originate unsecured and unregulated loans of amounts of up to £150,000, with each of the business loans having a maximum five year maturation period.

NatWest’s Alison Rose, who is CEO for Commercial and Private Banking at NatWest, believes Esem Loans means more choice for British small businesses.

“Esme will offer SMEs a quick decision and almost instant funding, allowing those customers to go on and do what they do best – run a business,” she added.

“Through Capital Connections, our panel of five P2P and alternative lenders, we’ve already broadened choices for customers but we wanted to go one step further and create our own alternative lending platform.”

The business loans digital platform will reportedly target small businesses with a starting turnover of £15,000, and top out at medium-sized businesses posting revenues of £25m. Companies must be limited entities, and have been trading for a minimum of 18 months.

NatWest’s Innovation Cell has developed Esme Loans to compete with what it sees as “innovative” direct and peer-to-peer lending platforms.

The bank plans to invest £70m over the next five years to give what it calls “non-personal banking customers” the best digital experience it can. It’s New Bankline was set up to provide a service requiring less steps to complete a payment, with business customers automatically shown the cheapest methods available.

Other new products and services to be recently introduced by the bank include a low-cost investment service for existing customers called NatWest Invest. There are also rumours that 2017 will also see the unveiling of a robo-advice offering – with risk-profiling questions used to recommend investments to clients.

“At NatWest we are committed to designing, developing and trialling innovative customer solutions so we can offer services and products that will really make a difference to our customers,” Rose pledged.

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Hunter Ruthven was previously editor of Business Advice. He was also the editor of Real Business, the UK's most-read website for entrepreneurs and business leaders at the helm of growing SMEs.

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