Jim McColl's challenger bank Alba hails 'landmark moment' of being granted banking licence
Alba is billed as Scotland’s first bank solely dedicated to lending to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and has now been awarded the licence by the UK Prudential Regulatory Authority and the Financial Conduct Authority.
It was established five years ago by Clyde Blowers chairman and chief executive Mr McColl, who saw a “compelling” need to create a new lender for SMEs, combining modern banking technology capabilities and face-to-face interaction and engagement.
The team at investment vehicle Clyde Blowers has been working alongside the Alba team to secure the banking license, and has also led the capital-raising for the bank to date –which has included the launch of a £5m funding round in 2021 – supported by various entrepreneurs. The lender says it has now raised sufficient capital to support the mobilisation phase “and beyond”, and it will initially operate from hubs in Glasgow and London with longer-term ambitions to establish commercial offices in regions across the UK.
Chief executive Rod Ashley said: “This is unquestionably a landmark moment in our journey so far. I am incredibly proud of the team who have steadfastly believed in our mission of launching a new SME-focused bank and have worked tirelessly to build a comprehensive business plan.
“SMEs have long been regarded as the lifeblood of our economy, but haven’t always received access to appropriate levels or forms of finance. Alba is an opportunity to design a bank specifically with these businesses in mind, helping them to realise their true potential and fulfil their vital role in enhancing both employment and economic growth. Alba’s proposed high-tech, high touch business model, marrying the latest innovative digital technology with skilled relationship managers and personal judgement, will differentiate us within the UK SME lending market.”
Chairman Graeme Jones welcomed Alba being granted its licence with restrictions, meaning it now crosses the threshold into full mobilisation. “Alba’s establishment is not only important to the Scottish banking and financial services community, but also to the Scottish economy where the majority of our working population are employed in [SMEs]. The bank has a dynamic and ambitious agenda which, through time, will see it operating across the UK regions,” he stated.
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