Removing the barriers to enterprise – even during hard times. As the largest supporter of UK businesses, we champion anyone starting or growing a business. However, we know that for many, it still remains harder than it should be. Against a backdrop of continued disruption due to COVID-19, we supported c.55,000 individuals and businesses through c.200,000 interventions in support of starting and growing a business.
Ways in which we have supported business included our newly expanded Business Builder platform which now includes climate and sustainability learning for SMEs; our award-winning Accelerator programmes; a mentor-matching platform pilot with 100 NatWest Accelerator businesses now having access to 50 Coutts clients to act as mentors; and our work with HM Treasury, providing funding, as well as in-person support, to the Help to Grow (Management) scheme. Further details of these activities and others can be found in our 2021 ESG Supplement (PDF 3MB)
Our Enterprise ambition
Championing diverse entrepreneurship
We remain committed to supporting the UN Sustainable Development goals on gender equalities and reduced inequalities. Women made up at least 60% of those we supported in 2021, and more than 26% were Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic. More than 75% of the businesses we support are based outside of London and the South East, with 52% of businesses having a socially purpose-led focus.
Advancing female entrepreneurship
In March 2021 – two years on from the launch of the Rose Review – Alison Rose and Minister Scully (Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), published the second progress report on the review. Despite the multitude of challenges and uncertainty of 2020 and 2021, we are delighted that the update highlighted real progress on all eight Rose Review recommendations.
The first annual publication of the Investing in Women Code report – a commitment by financial services firms to improve female entrepreneurs’ access to tools, resources and finance launched by Alison Rose and HM Treasury in July 2019 – came out in April 2021. The report contained industry commentary and insight on the impact of COVID-19, as well as outlining best practice from finance providers on how to support female entrepreneurs. We believe this marks another important output from the Rose Review and is another step towards encouraging greater gender transparency in business funding.
A key barrier to female entrepreneurs starting or scaling a business is a lack of relatable role models and access to networks, sponsorship and mentorship opportunities through which they can gain relevant advice and insight. To help address this, through the SME Taskforce, NatWest collaborated with Digital Boost to provide tailored digital training and advice to SMEs and charities looking for extra support to help grow their business and boost revenues. Elsewhere, following a successful two-year pilot, our ‘Expert in Residence’ programme launched across the UK, dedicating 28 roles based in branches and communities to help female entrepreneurs realise their growth ambitions. Expert in Residence is delivered by local enterprise managers. Working collaboratively with our Local Enterprise Partners across the UK they proactively spend time supporting local businesses, sharing advice, creating networks, leveraging the local ecosystem, and hosting events to boost businesses and help them grow.
From a colleague perspective, a further 320 NatWest Group employees progressed through our ‘Women in Business’ accreditation programme. This takes our total to over 1,000 Women in Business specialists, providing expertise and delivering online events specifically for our female business customers.