Raising Finance

OakNorth Bank gains licence and aims its proposition firmly at SME lending

3 min read

10 March 2015

Former editor

Described as a "new lending bank for high-growth small and medium-sized companies", OakNorth has recruited a number of high-ranking senior business leaders to its board.

Now able to begin business lending after securing a banking licence, OakNorth said it is hoping to “shake up sluggish SME lending”. It believes fast-growing SMEs have been under-served in Britain because of a lack of services targeted specifically at that market space.

The new challenger bank, which will be going up alongside the likes of Metro Bank, Handelsbanken, Aldermore Bank and the recently-announced CivilisedBank, is using financial technology to provide “faster service and superior customer experience”.

Rishi Khosla, who set up the lender and services as CEO, commented: “These appointments give us an exceptionally strong and well-balanced leadership team that will foster the growth and resilience of the business.

“OakNorth will be a positive force in SME banking, blending new technology to deliver a better customer experience with a capability to accept a wider range of collateral for loans.”

Joining Khosla and fellow founder Joel Perlman, who serves as chief strategy officer, on the OakNorth board will be Ratan Engineer, Lord Turner and Robert Burgess.

Turner used to be chairman of the Financial Services Authority (FSA) and will sit as a senior independent director at OakNorth.

Explaining his move, he said: “Fast-growing small and medium-sized businesses play a pivotal role in the economy, but they find it more difficult to access finance in Britain than they would in many other countries, such as the US or Germany.

“OakNorth understands that it doesn’t have to be this way, and we see an opportunity to focus on this market of growth SMEs, be more flexible in the range of collateral we accept from them and invest in IT that improves customer service.”

Read more about challenger banks:

When it begins lending and taking retail deposits in the summer, OakNorth will be accepting “multiple collateral types”, according to a statement. Major banks, it went on to say, have been focused on services and larger companies, or “property-rich SMEs”, and not adequately giving consideration to growing small companies.

New board member Engineer was formerly head of global asset management at EY and CFO at Invesco, while Burgess used to be CEO of Alliance Trust Savings and Exchange Associates.

Prior to establishing OakNorth, Khosla and Perlman founded investment research and analytics company Copal Amba before it was acquired by Moody’s Corporation.

Other recent challenger bank news saw online proposition CivilisedBank announce a first phase of funding and begin the process of applying for a banking licence. CivilisedBank will not have branches, instead operating through a network of local bankers utilising the same technology platform.

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