Insights: helping entrepreneurs to flourish
Barclays’ high growth expert discusses how the bank provides the best services for scale-up companies, from “holistic funding” to “pay it forward” problem-solving.
My job is to try to make Barclays the best bank for innovative high growth companies across the UK. We’ve built a high growth and entrepreneur proposition based on putting the customer at the heart of what we do. Typically, a growth company is going to need to access different parts of our organisation sooner – so there’s a need for collaboration across the bank.
Barclays has entered into a lot of strategic initiatives – Unreasonable Impact, Rise, Eagle Labs, Scale UP UK programme – where much of our job is to connect that great work with our customers. To do that, our area has itself grown exponentially over the last two years – from building a proposition within the business bank to now, where we have a team of 40 people.
How Barclays supports high growth companies
We see our proposition as having three pillars: specialist team, holistic funding, and beyond banking. “Specialist team” is about us building a team that can talk more about the growth challenges of companies and also can navigate our organisation for those businesses. Typically, companies that are growing quickly face similar challenges, so through creating a High Growth segment we are better placed to support the specific challenges of companies as they scale up.
That leads on to “holistic funding”: we know that there are multiple funding sources available to companies throughout their growth trajectory, so we need to understand what options are available to our customer base, both through Barclays but also on the broader funding landscape. We launched a venture debt offering in 2015 which is geared towards companies that are growing fast and have raised venture capital, but are loss-making. We think it’s important to think innovatively around funding sources for growth companies as the market is constantly evolving and we need to be there for our customers.
“Beyond banking” is defined by how we can support growth companies past our core banking services. For this, connectivity is key , where great Barclays initiatives like Eagle Labs, Unreasonable Impact and Rise can tangibly connect customers, either by actually introducing them into that network, or just by making sure that those networks know about them.
Those networks are a great part of why we think we can serve innovative companies so well. High growth companies have a range of different funding routes, and we ensure we know all about the different options available to our clients, so we can talk about them.
It’s not about making sure that we have a loan book of a defined amount of money, it’s about making sure we support companies with the right type of financing at the right time, and sometimes that’s not through us, it could be equity – but venture debt also enables us to support where we can. We never talk about being the only provider – it’s not about that, it’s about making sure we’re the best place to go if you want to understand the whole ecosystem better. We’re trying to reignite that conversation and the value-add your bank manager can give you.
Pay it forward
We don’t see investors as competition, we’re clear that our support lies in connectivity. Barclays is involved in these schemes because we want to hold a banking relationship with these great companies but recognise that there’ll be other providers along the way that will also support those businesses: collaboration is fundamental. Ultimately, we need to be super-connected to that. The best way to support the companies we work with is through total transparency about what other providers there are in the market.
There’s a lot of glamour associated with starting your own business, and I see some great success stories – but I also see how hard it can be
We also have a programme called Scale Up UK, run with the Cambridge Judge Business School. It’s a three-month course where founders can go and run diagnostics on their business and look at different strategies. When we see companies that need that support, we introduce them to that deep dive – or where that’s not appropriate, we introduce our clients to each other. Particularly in high growth, there’s a “pay it forward” ethos and companies tend to be open to that type of support.
Things change for high growth companies on a day-by-day basis, and evidence suggests that the rate of change of technology, whether through speed or data, is growing exponentially. With that will come innovation and investible opportunities and continued disruption. And there will be companies within that who need to access capital, and capital will be available. Also, although I come from a tech background, our proposition is built for growth companies of all sectors. I would rather my relationship managers talk about being experts in growth than experts in individual industries.
In terms of things we do know: we know that there are a lot of new funds, there are a lot of new companies, and there are a lot of people looking to go into entrepreneurial businesses who have been enabled through the democratisation of technology. The High Growth ecosystem is booming as organisations see the value in supporting early stage companies from a macro perspective. This has led to a much higher calibre of company coming through and the development of technology means that regardless of wider macro-economic headwinds, those fundamentals exist and the ecosystem will continue to flourish.