Bank of Scotland today pledged to help hundreds of Scottish businesses become first-time exporters as part of a wider effort to help plug Britain’s trade deficit.
The lender’s commitment is included in a new charter for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) released by its parent company Lloyds Banking Group, which sets a target of supporting 5,000 new exporters across the UK in 2016 and 25,000 by 2020.
The charter also pledges to boost lending to SMEs by £1 billion, support 100,000 start-ups and back 1,000 “fast-growth” businesses during 2016.
Banking bosses said the move would support the UK government’s efforts to help 100,000 businesses export for the first time, as part of its “Exporting is Great” campaign.
Last week it emerged that the UK’s current account deficit had widened to a record high in the final quarter of 2015, as the value of imports of goods, services and investment income swamped export trade.
Lloyds Banking Group plans to invest a total £450 million in digital technology and training in the next three years, including creating a new international trade portal enabling UK businesses to discover opportunities across the globe.
The group has trained more than 300 UK staff in international trade and also has a network of export specialists across the country to help develop and advise on overseas trading opportunities.
Among the other pledges in the new charter, Lloyds said it would respond to appeals on lending decisions “faster than the industry as a whole” and provide goodwill payments for any cases overturned. It added that it would “continue to work with customers whose businesses are in difficulty to bring them back to financial health”.
Graham Blair, Bank of Scotland’s regional director, SME banking Scotland, said: “The future success of the Scottish economy hinges on small businesses looking to overseas markets for growth.
“Through this new pledge, we want to support a new legion of Scottish exporters, and ultimately to help the Scottish economy to prosper.
“We have been working in partnership with UK Trade & Investment for the past year, looking at ways to boost Scottish exports, and through this commitment we hope to contribute towards supporting new exporters.
“Successful exporting is no mean feat – and that is why we are investing in both on-the-ground expertise and digital technology, in order to ensure that businesses have the backing they need to succeed.”
UK Trade and Investment minister Lord Price said: “This government has committed to having 100,000 more UK companies exporting by 2020 and this pledge by Lloyds is a welcome contribution towards this target. It’s great to see the banks doing their bit to support SMEs looking to invest and create jobs.”