UPDATE: Despite the Bounce Back Loan scheme being extended until the end of January, no high street banks are open to BBL applications from new customers.
As of today (November 3), Starling Bank remains the only accredited lender out of 28 which is open to Bounce Back Loan applications from those who bank elsewhere.
A Starling Bank spokesman said: “There is currently a waitlist and we are prioritising established business and sole traders who use Starling as their primary account. Eligible customers will be sent an email inviting them to apply, but we can’t guarantee that everyone on the waitlist will receive a loan.”
The big five high-street banks — Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds, NatWest and Santander — have accounted for about 90 per cent of the Bounce Back Loans so far but are not taking on new customers. They complain about being inundated by demand from struggling small businesses for the loans of up to £50,000, which are interest free for a year and are fully guaranteed by government.
All-Party Parliamentary Group on Fair Business Banking research has suggested that up to 250,000 small businesses “are effectively locked out of the market”, given they do not bank with accredited lenders.
Kevin Hollinrake, the Conservative MP and co-chair of the APPGFG, said: “We welcome the extension to Bounce Back Loans [BBLS] and the ability to top up, but it is critical that banks are open for new business including from new customers.
“Over the last few weeks the handful of lenders who were open to new customers gradually closed their doors. The APPG has been campaigning on this issue for months and this must be addressed as a matter of priority.”
Mr Hollinrake is in talks with Chancellor Rishi Sunak and City minister John Glen to try to find a solution.
Yesterday, bankers were talking to Treasury officials and the British Business Bank, which administers the BBLS, on finding a way forward for existing customers and new applicants. The Treasury has made clear to the banks that they must re-open to new customers as soon as practicable.
Problems also persist for the non-high-street lenders accredited to offer Bounce Back Loans who don’t benefit from cheap Bank of England funding.
A spokesman for digital banking platform Tide said: “Tide remains paused unless the government is able to directly fund the scheme. We are still pushing for this.”
Another concern is that the small business lending market has been cancelled by the prevalance of Bounce Back Loans, distorting the sector.
Charlotte Crosswell, head of Innovate Finance, which represents the alternative finance sector, said that non-bank lenders were at risk of being shut out of the market for longer.
“We have to find ways to support businesses that have been closed down in the lockdown and focus on longer-term SME financing to help economic recovery,” she told the Financial Times.
Bounce Back Loans top up
The Treasury announced on Tuesday that businesses will be able to benefit from the government loan schemes – including the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme and the Future Fund – until the end of January. That is two months longer than the previous November 30 deadline.
The 1.3m UK firms that have already taken out the £40.2bn worth of Bounce Back Loans since they were launched in May can “top up” existing BBLs should they need to, up to a maximum of 25 per cent of turnover (capped at £50,000).
The top-up option will be available from next week and firms will only be able to use it once.