A look at the progress and structure of Vince Cable’s British Business Bank

British Business Bank CEO Keith Morgan answers our questions

How would you describe the BBB to someone who had never heard of it?

We are a government-owned taxpayer-funded financial institution, and are here to change the structure of the marketplace so that the finance market for smaller business works better. That is how we apply our resources, working through the marketplace to get funding to small businesses in the areas of greatest need.

How does it differ to previous government finance schemes?

We are able both to put more resources into existing programmes that we think are doing the right things, and also develop new programmes. A big focus for the latter has been making investments in new, alternative and smaller providers of finance to give smaller companies more choice. We?ve also been working to allow banks and other providers of finance to get better funding and to improve capital conditions to enable them to lend more to companies.

For someone who looks at it as government organisation, how would you describe its independence and autonomy?

The Board of the BBB is made up of private sector experts – out of our board of ten there is only one government shareholder director. Our investment business is run by a seasoned investment professional. Our guarantees business is run by someone who has structured guarantees throughout the private sector. Our risk is controlled by a very well experienced risk professional from the banking industry. So we?ve brought together private expertise, but to deliver a public sector objective.

Why did the BBB decide to base itself in Sheffield?

We have two offices, one in Sheffield and one in London. Roughly speaking, half the people are in Sheffield and half in London. We think it is very important not to be a London-centric South East-focused organisation, and to be operating on a national basis..

We?ve just started an engagement process with the regions, and our first event was up in Salford where we brought together a hundred or so representatives and people who are active in small business finance and small business company generation. We will be doing that around the country, so it is very important to us to keep us in touch with the regions of the UK.

How will the long-term success be gauged?

The simple answer to that question is that in five years time, if small businesses say that we have done a good job for them then that will be the test of whether we?ve met our objectives. More broadly speaking, what we want to do is have an impact of ?10bn in five years ? in terms of quantum of finance available through our programmes. The British Business Bank wants to make sure we have a meaningful impact on the structure of the marketplace so there is more choice of finance for smaller businesses.

What are the main objectives for 2015?

2015 is about growing our new programmes and investing more in smaller finance providers to create more diversity. It is also about getting funding to the asset finance market though our Enable Funding programme and creating the opportunity for more bank lending through our Enable Guarantees.

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