BCRS CEO Stephen Deakin, back row far right, joins the IFW launch

Loan provider BCRS Business Loans is to support small businesses in Wales after being appointed as a fund manager for the new £130 million Investment Fund for Wales launched by British Business Bank.

Having worked with SMEs unable to access finance from traditional sources in the West Midlands since 2002, BCRS Business Loans has expanded into Wales to help smaller businesses there prosper and thrive under the fund, which was officially launched in Cardiff on Thursday (23 November).

The Investment Fund for Wales will drive sustainable economic growth by supporting new and growing businesses through investment strategies that best meet the needs of these firms. Operating across the whole of Wales, the fund includes a range of finance options with loans from £25,000 to £2 million and equity investments up to £5 million to help small and medium-sized businesses start up, scale up or stay ahead.

Three fund managers have been appointed, with BCRS Business Loans managing the smaller loans part of the fund (£25,000 to £100,000). FW Capital will be responsible for larger loans (£100,000 to £2 million) and Foresight will manage equity deals (up to £5 million).

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BCRS Business Loans CEO Stephen Deakin said: “We are delighted to be named as a fund manager for the British Business Bank’s new £130 million Investment Fund for Wales to support business growth and employment opportunities.

“Moving into Wales will allow our experienced team and proven model to safeguard jobs and foster growth. As a non-profit we are not driven by shareholder return or corporate gain but to help SMEs and the communities they serve based on a core belief that no viable business should go unsupported. We believe there are many businesses in Wales who could benefit from this approach.

“BCRS are a relationship-based lender and central to this is our commitment to meet all our customers face to face before writing a loan. We have hired three new Welsh Business Development Mangers who are based in Wales full time and whose sole focus will be helping SMEs in the region.

“We have worked with the British Business Bank in successfully delivering Midlands Engine Investment Fund (MEIF) and we look forward to working with our Investment Fund for Wales partners to deliver further success.”

Since BCRS was founded as a community development financial institution in 2002, it has provided loans worth more than £85 million to businesses across the West Midlands. A social impact report for the last financial year showed BCRS lent £6.5m to 72 businesses, safeguarding 999 jobs and creating 473 roles, adding £33.7m in value to the economy of the West Midlands and surrounding region.

The report showed 50 per cent of funding went to the UK’s top 35 per cent most disadvantaged areas with 16 per cent going to female-led businesses and 14 per cent to ethnic minority-led firms.

Last month BCRS was named as Innovation Thought Leader of the Year – Business at the Innovation Awards, staged in Birmingham to “recognise, celebrate and reward the businesses, organisations and individuals who are dedicated to innovation”.

The Investment Fund for Wales is the first solely UK government-backed investment fund for smaller businesses in Wales, helping to increase the supply and diversity of early-stage finance by providing options to firms that might otherwise not receive investment. Funding is designed to help businesses with activities including expansion, product or service innovation, new processes, skills development, and capital equipment.

Louis Taylor, Chief Executive of the British Business Bank, said: “This fund, which has been designed specifically for Welsh businesses, is intended to further address the challenges of access to finance and to provide opportunities for business talent in Wales to grow, to develop and to thrive.

“Over the past nine years we have supported thousands of Welsh businesses across urban and rural Wales and with the launch of the Investment Fund for Wales we will be able to go further and deeper, to support hundreds more as they continue to contribute to the ongoing sustainable success of the wider Welsh economy.”

Welsh Secretary David TC Davies said: “I’m delighted to see the UK Government backing this £130m Investment Fund for Wales. We are a nation of entrepreneurs and this fund will provide much needed finance for start-ups to turn their great ideas into a business. The fund will also support smaller businesses who need support to expand and grow.

“This new source of financing will help the UK Government deliver on our priority of creating jobs and driving prosperity in Wales.”

The Investment Fund for Wales is the fourth of six new Nations and Regions Investment Funds being launched by the British Business Bank and follows the launch of The Investment Fund for Northern Ireland earlier this month, The Investment Fund for Scotland in October and the South West Investment Fund in July.  A total of £1.6 billion has been committed to the new funds to drive sustainable economic growth and break down barriers in access to finance.

Following Thursday’s launch, the British Business Bank will hold a series of information roadshows aimed at people working in the small business finance ecosystem including enterprise agencies, advisers, accountants and more. The first will be held in Llandudno on 20 February with additional sessions held in Aberystwyth, Swansea and Newport later that week. An online version of the session will also take place on 7 December 2023 at 11.00am.

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