Removing barriers to enterprise

We’re passionate supporters of UK enterprise and offer a wide range of services to people who want to start, run and grow a business. Enterprise is the lifeblood of a thriving economy, so we’re committed to removing barriers and providing more opportunities to help companies grow. But we also know that for many, it remains harder than it should be.

Following the outbreak of Covid-19 and the uncertainties that businesses face, we recognised that our existing enterprise goals were no longer our sole focus. To further support customers and enable them to survive and thrive through the pandemic, we increased our support interactions, and created resources and tools. 

Beyond our support during Covid-19, we remain committed to helping create 50,000 new businesses across the UK by 2023, with women making up at least 60% of those we support and more than 20% being black, Asian, minority ethnic-led businesses. More than 75% will be based outside London and the South East, and we will ensure that 10% of those inspired and supported will be social purpose led. By helping to tackle the barriers to starting a business, there will be more opportunities to help companies grow.

Advancing female entrepreneurship

The Rose Review into Female Entrepreneurship, launched by NatWest Group CEO Alison Rose in March 2019, made a series of recommendations to help remove barriers facing women who want to start a business.

The Review found that £250 billion could be added to the economy if women started and scaled new businesses at the same rate in the UK as men. 

It also highlighted three opportunities to help more women succeed as entrepreneurs: 

  • Increase funding directed towards female entrepreneurs; 
  • Provide greater family support; and
  • Make entrepreneurship more accessible and increase access to support. 

In March 2020, one year on from the launch of the Rose Review, NatWest Group launched a Progress Report (PDF 1.41MB)

£1 billion Debt Funding

In January 2020 we launched our £1 billion debt funding for Female Entrepreneurs. The fund builds on a key finding of the Rose Review, that the number one issue holding female entrepreneurs back is the lack of funding directed towards them; which is why we are seeking to address this by focussing on the areas where we can have the biggest positive impact across society and demonstrates our commitment to support female entrepreneurship in the United Kingdom.

In January 2021, we announced an additional £1 billion in funding to help support female-led businesses in the UK recover from disruption caused by coronavirus. 

This aims to help female entrepreneurs scale and grow their businesses and builds on the £1 billion announced last January, which was the largest intervention by a UK lender focused specifically on female-led businesses.

Investing in Women Code

The first delivered output of the Rose Review, the Investing in Women Code was launched by Alison Rose and HM Treasury in July 2019. The bank was a founding signatory of the Investing in Women Code – a commitment by financial services firms to improve female entrepreneurs’ access to tools, resources and finance.

Led by NatWest Group and HM Treasury, working with UK Finance, British Business Bank, UK Business Angels Association and other financial institutions, it has been signed by over 66 major banks and investment firms since its launch in 2019.

The Code’s first progress report is due to be published in Quarter 1 2021 and is expected to contain industry commentary and insight on the impact of Covid-19 on support for female entrepreneurs. It will also feature case studies from finance providers on best practice to support diversity.

UK Enterprise Fund 

Coutts has partnered with BGF (Business Growth Fund) to develop the UK Enterprise Fund. This fund will co-invest equity growth capital in businesses looking to scale in the UK, with a focus on investing in female and diverse entrepreneurs. The fund will take minority stakes in these businesses, giving entrepreneurs access to the funding they need to scale, whilst retaining control of their businesses.

Experts in Residence

Experts in Residence is a partnership with 38 Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEP) in England. As part of the programme, a local NatWest expert spends up to 7 hours per week working with each LEP, sharing advice and hosting events with a focus on supporting female and diverse business owners. 

The programme also sees us work alongside national partners such as Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft and LinkedIn, with all activity tailored to the specific needs of the individual LEP. 

The financial Expert in Residence programme is also looking to expand into Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.


In October 2020, we launched a mentoring pilot in collaboration with Be the Business, to engage female entrepreneurs in the Leeds city region and in the West of England Combined Authority Area. The pilot utilises Be the Business’ existing platform and network of mentors from corporate partners. In 2021 we plan to roll out across the UK. 

Dream Bigger

Dream Bigger is NatWest Group’s own programme aimed at inspiring young girls (aged 16 to 18) and giving them the skills and motivation to start a business. In 2020, we supported more than 15,000 young people via our live and digital events. 

In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, we adapted Dream Bigger to deliver events digitally. This Feedback suggested this was very much appreciated by the audience. 

Dream Bigger/Anelu’n Uwch is the first bank proposition to be launched and delivered bilingually in Wales/Cymru. 

Women in Business

The bank’s Women in Business programme has been running for nearly 16 years. We currently have more than 600 independently accredited Women in Business specialists who provide mentoring and financial guidance, as well as support to female entrepreneurs. In 2020, more than 100 business support events were held. In 2020 over £1 billion was lent to female entrepreneurs including support through the government loans schemes (BBLs and CBILs).

Digitising our accreditation process in 2020, helped us create 330 new Women in Business specialists, while in response to Covid-19 we delivered online events specifically for our female business customers to ensure they were supported during national and local lockdowns. 


We have been working hard to support Britain’s businesses and at the heart of our support is our NatWest Accelerator, a comprehensive programme of free mentoring, insight and bespoke coaching. The programme is the largest of its kind in the UK and is specifically designed to meet the needs of entrepreneurs who want to grow and scale their business. We provide entrepreneurs with full wrap around support, connections and know-how to help them make the most of their potential, and deal with any challenge they could face in the difficult initial phases of growth. Participants also benefit from additional support provided by the bank’s Accelerator partners: Dell Technologies, Equifax, Hiscox, FreeAgent and Pinsent Masons.

In response to Covid-19, we digitised our Enterprise model in response to the changing needs of businesses. Our immediate focus was on helping around 1,000 entrepreneurs in our Accelerator Hubs to survive through the period of unprecedented economic disruption by offering an additional four months of support. We were also able to welcome 26% more entrepreneurs as a result of these changes, and by opening a number of Accelerator events to SMEs outside the programme.

In 2020, The NatWest Accelerator was rated as the top Accelerator in the UK for growth and impact, by business database Beauhurst. This follows on from our endorsement by the Scale Up Institute, for the second year in a row. New events have been aligned to Scale Up barriers and developed around key themes to support scaleups throughout the current challenges presented by Covid-19, such as developing a remote culture, wellbeing, pivoting and diversifying your business model, entrepreneurial leadership and responding to change.

In 2020, we launched a new digital Business Builder platform to support entrepreneurs through the different stages of their enterprise journey. This free, open access platform provides access to bespoke digital learning, virtual workshops and an online community. It’s a robust source of business and personal development tools, with guidance from high-level market research for those at an early-stage, and Covid-19 specific content helping more established businesses navigate the pandemic. Since September 2019, we have supported more than 14,000 individuals through this programme.

In addition to Entrepreneur Accelerator and Business Builder, we run a series of specialist Accelerators, committed to helping specific segments of the business community:

We launched a focussed Climate cohort within the NatWest Accelerator, in line with NatWest Group’s environmental pledges as a purpose-led organisation, helping businesses whose core offering supports sustainable environmental activities. At the end of October 2020, 25% of spaces in the NatWest Accelerator were filled by climate-focussed businesses, forming our new Climate Accelerator – an industry first.

Similarly, our Fintech Accelerator provides wraparound support to Fintech focussed businesses. In 2020, our Fintech Accelerator provided specialist guidance and support to 91 Fintech focussed businesses.

We continue to create a significant impact across all our Accelerator programmes:

  • Over 30,000 entrepreneurs supported through our various support programmes
  • 2,416 jobs created by businesses participating in the Entrepreneur Accelerator programme
  • 43% female entrepreneurs supported across all our Accelerator programmes
  • £299m total turnover of the businesses supported through our NatWest Accelerator
  • £141m of investment raised by the businesses participating in the core Accelerator
  • (investments include grants, investment and debt raised)
  • A blended net promoter score of 73 across all Accelerator events
  • In 2020, we delivered 10,240 hours of coaching delivered to business owners.

As part of our response to the challenges faced by businesses, we launched a public Coronavirus Response Hub, featuring help, tools and guidance for businesses. Since March 2020, the hub has had over 2.95 million visits, accessing support on topics from government backed loans and repayment holidays, to supply chain disruption and a diagnostic tool to signpost relevant help.

The Prince’s Trust Enterprise Programme

In a 20-year partnership with The Prince’s Trust, we have provided more than £24m of funding enabling Princes Trust to help young people succeed in business. 

We are the largest corporate supporter of The Trust, and one of its longest-standing partners. Our shared mission is to help young people to start up and succeed in business whatever their background. Together we are supporting the next generation of UK entrepreneurs by providing start-up help to 18 to 30-year-olds who are unemployed or working fewer than 16 hours a week. 

The Princes Trust Enterprise programme encourages young people interested in self-employment to explore and test their business ideas through a four-day Explore Enterprise course. These budding young entrepreneurs can also access mentoring and last-resort funding – or get advice about alternative options in education, training, volunteering or work. 

2020 highlights: 

  • Over 500 young people completed the Enterprise Programme in 2020. 
  • £3m from the NatWest & Princes Trust Enterprise Relief Fund - 1,261 grants were distributed to 794 young entrepreneurs enabling them to keep their businesses afloat during the coronavirus pandemic. The Fund closed in October. The grants could be used to maintain core business operations during the crisis, as well as meet any existing financial commitments, such as paying for essential equipment or settling invoices from suppliers.

2021 Plans: 

  • Create a new £5m Fund for the NatWest & Princes Trust Entrepreneurs of tomorrow to help support over 10,000 young people passing through the enterprise program over the next five years.

Scottish EDGE Fund

Scottish EDGE is a competition aimed at identifying Scotland’s up-and-coming, innovative, high-growth-potential entrepreneurial talent, and helping them to thrive. Scottish EDGE provides prize funding and ongoing business support and has so far supported 421 businesses with more than £16m funding. Alongside The Hunter Foundation and the Scottish Government, we have a strong working relationship with Scottish EDGE since it was founded in 2014.

Social & Community Capital

Social & Community Capital (S&CC) is an independent charity supported by NatWest Group that lends to social enterprises who are unable to borrow from mainstream banks. In 2020, it approved seven £20,000 regional grants to support businesses delivering impact in their communities to celebrate the charity’s 20th year. Existing clients were supported through the Covid-19 pandemic with both capital and interest holidays and non-financial support. S&CC also provided £1m in grants through its Coronavirus Relief Fund which helped social businesses employing people from disadvantaged and vulnerable groups across the UK.

You can view customer case-study videos on our website.

Related content

Download historic and current Sustainability reports and other useful documents.