Barclays Bank launches £500m northern growth fund during visit to Northumberland company

Barclays today (Thursday) launched a new £500million growth fund for small and medium-sized businesses in the North of England as part of the bank's commitment to support the Government's Northern Powerhouse initiative.

Thursday, 31st May 2018, 10:57 pm
Updated Friday, 1st June 2018, 3:31 pm
Barclays CEO Jes Staley during his visit to bank customer Thornton Brothers in Ashington where he launched a new growth fund for small and medium-sized businesses in the North of England.

The new fund is available from today to inject investment into businesses across the region with favourable terms for manufacturing, transport and logistics companies, helping them to grow and create new jobs.

Launching the fund during a visit to a Northumberland business, Jes Staley, Barclays Group CEO, said: “Barclays has been helping businesses across the North to succeed since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, when we financed the world’s first steam locomotive passenger railway between Stockton and Darlington. Today, we face new economic challenges and opportunities posed by the digital revolution, the growth in competition from emerging markets, and of course, Brexit.

Barclays CEO Jes Staley during his visit to bank customer Thornton Brothers in Ashington where he launched a new growth fund for small and medium-sized businesses in the North of England as part of the banks commitment to support the Governments Northern Powerhouse initiative. From left are Jes Staley, George Thornton, Keith Thornton and Lord Jim O'Neil. Photo: Professional Images/@ProfImages

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“The Northern Powerhouse is an initiative which, if delivered, would help the whole country to meet that challenge and take those economic opportunities. That is why I’m delighted to announce our £500million Northern Powerhouse Growth Fund, enabling businesses across the North to invest in jobs and growth.

“As the UK prepares for Brexit, it’s vitally important that businesses, civic leaders and Government work together to make the Northern Powerhouse a reality. That means supporting entrepreneurs and businesses to succeed, but it also means providing more ways into high quality work.”

The new fund, made up of £350million from Barclays Bank UK plc and £150million from Barclays Bank plc, was announced by Mr Staley as he visited Thornton Brothers Limited, in Ashington. The business was founded by two brothers George and Keith Thornton in 1979, who started out with a £25,000 loan from their local Barclays branch. They have since built up the business, which now employs over 70 highly-skilled engineers who modernise fleets of buses for major transport providers across the UK, including Transport for London, Go-Ahead and First Group Ltd.

George Thornton, co-founder of Thornton Brothers, said: “Our family-run business was founded 40 years ago with the help of a loan from Barclays, which is why it’s so fantastic to see a growth fund of this size being launched today to help other entrepreneurs just like us. We specialise in bus refurbishment, serving a number of transport providers from across the country, helping them to modernise their fleets and serve communities.

“This fund will be a real boost to businesses just like ours across the North of England. Gaining access to finance over the years has enabled us to grow our business, hire a number of skilled engineers and build a new state of the art garage with some of the best specialist facilities of their kind in the UK.”

Later, Mr Staley also met Barclays apprentices at one of the bank’s major contact centres in Doxford International Business Park, near Sunderland. The centre employs 1,600 people in customer support roles doing everything from providing mortgages, to helping to fight fraud against customers, to advising small businesses. The company has already doubled the number of apprentices it has hired in Sunderland in 2018 in comparison to last year.

During the visit, Mr Staley announced a pilot scheme for new retail entry roles in the bank’s Sunderland and Liverpool contact centres to be focused towards apprenticeships first.

Jes Staley said: “We’ve discovered at Barclays that the ‘can-do’ attitude our apprentices have means they are excellent at helping our customers and clients. We want more people to have the life-changing career opportunity that a quality apprenticeship provides.”

Small Business Minister Andrew Griffiths said: “This Government is fully behind the entrepreneurs delivering jobs, growth and greater choice for consumers so it’s great to see businesses like Barclays providing further investment to help Northern SMEs start-up and grow.

“Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, with over 1,000 being created every day across the country supporting nearly three-million jobs and generating revenues of more than £200billion in the North of England alone. Through our modern Industrial Strategy, we are building a Britain in which they will continue to thrive.”

Northern Powerhouse Partnership vice-chairman and leading economist Lord Jim O’Neill said: “I have consistently said that for the Northern Powerhouse to be a success and deliver a more balanced economy for the whole of the UK requires the support and vision of the North’s leading businesses.“This major fund from Barclays will significantly increase the potential of our SMEs across the Northern Powerhouse to embrace the next Industrial Revolution, incorporating innovation such as robotics and AI into everything they do.“There is real momentum growing in the Northern Powerhouse, and I hope the commitment Barclays and their CEO Jes Staley have demonstrated today will be matched by our political leaders in Whitehall so the Northern Powerhouse can truly fulfil its potential.”

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said: “When I was elected a year ago, I said that I was committed to expanding the sources of finance available to businesses. Today’s announcement by Barclays is excellent news for the entrepreneurs and small and medium sized businesses in the Tees Valley. Barclays' new £500million growth fund means the risk-takers and job-creators that are powering our growth now have access to an even greater pool of funding.

“Our region is full of so many great businesses, operating in a diverse range of fields ranging from life sciences, digital and heavy engineering, and I would encourage any company that is looking to grow and expand to explore this exciting new funding stream.”

Irene Lucas, CEO of Sunderland City Council, said: “We are passionate in Sunderland about the opportunities that apprenticeships can provide as one of the most effective routes to permanent employment. We have many great examples across retail, advanced manufacturing and of course financial and customer services. None more so than Barclays whose commitment to providing high quality apprenticeships contributes to our reputation as one of the most highly skilled productive workforces in the world.’

“We value highly our relationship with businesses like Barclays and have worked closely with them to support their growth in the city over many years. We look forward to continuing to support them in this exciting next step for the organisation.”

Francessca Teasdale, a Barclays apprentice based in Doxford International Business Park, said: “Barclays is known for being a good employer and having lots of room for progression and development, which is why I decided to apply for an apprenticeship online, and the rest is history!

“I’m earning while learning, and I’ve formed great relationships with my peers and colleagues.

“To anyone thinking of doing an apprenticeship, I’d say go for it! You’ll have amazing qualifications, a career and friends for life.”

Barclays has a substantial commitment to the North of England, employing around 12,000 people in high quality jobs across the region, including nearly 1,000 apprentices in branches, contact centres and technology roles, and providing some of the country’s leading technology jobs at the bank’s Radbroke Park Centre in Knutsford, Cheshire.

The bank will also shortly open new Eagle Labs - dedicated co-working spaces for promising start-ups to grow and collaborate - in Newcastle and Sheffield, adding to its existing Labs in Salford and Liverpool.

Under the £500million Northern Powerhouse Growth Fund, Barclays will also be able to offer a range of business lending services to support day-to-day cash flow, expansion and investment for growth, including:

* Up to £250,000 overdraft without the need for property security for transport and logistics, business services, wholesales and manufacturing companies;

* Term lending fee-free up to £25,000;

* Up to £100,000 lending without the need for tangible security;

* Cash flow funding to invest in acquisitions and organic business growth;

* Lending and debt support, which can be combined with the Government’s Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund.

The Barclays fund is intended for SMEs in the Northern Powerhouse region, including established businesses with ambitious growth plans, start-ups with high growth potential, companies with early-stage equity funding and businesses focusing on innovation, R&D and technology.

More details on the fund and how to apply can be found at or via a local relationship manager on 0333 202 7446.

Many local businesses across the North of England are looking to access the new fund:

John Worrall, managing director of Proper Pasty, based in Sheffield, said: “A Northern Powerhouse fund from Barclays would be excellent and provide access to finance in a new and different way. It would enable us to maximise the capacity within our existing factory and allow us to grow our business faster through an additional depot and increased fleet which would open us up to new markets.”

Marcus Doyle, co-founder of the Yorkshire Soap Company, based in Leeds, said: “This fund will potentially help us massively as we will be able to invest in new machinery such as labelling and filling machines which cost thousands of pounds. With extra investment, we could also employ more people and additional stores could be opened.”

Lee Ealey, accounts manager at Frameline, based in Knowsley, Liverpool, said: “By accessing the Northern Powerhouse fund with Barclays support, together with some additional capital, businesses such as Frameline will be able to achieve their growth aspirations. Which in simple terms equates to: ‘Capital + Barclays Bank = Growth’.”

Tim Pellow, managing director of ARTKO Ltd, based in Dukinfield, Greater Manchester, said: “We started banking with Barclays in 2013 having been disillusioned with the financial support offered by our previous bank. We found the Barclays relationship director assigned to us to be in a different league and the support team in general very helpful and proactive. Barclays take a keen and genuine interest in our business, suggesting products and services suited to us and genuinely trying to support our requirements. Recent discussion on the options available to us on currency matters has helped us reduce our exposure to foreign exchange risks.

“The idea of a fund to support SMEs in the North is very welcome news and comes at a crucial time with businesses struggling with the current climate and the uncertainty over Brexit. Having a fund in place which SMEs can turn to will provide a lifeline to access funds which can be used to support and strengthen businesses in a variety of areas. Research and development for new products and markets, developing and training staff or investment in machinery/infrastructure. All areas that will strengthen businesses at a crucial time.

“We have exciting growth plans in place, the most pressing of which involves the purchase of new and larger premises. We will require assistance from Barclays if we are to commit to such a large investment and we see the fund as a great opportunity to support this project.”