RBS' £775m set to boostcompetition in SME banking

Banks, lenders and fintech firms are set to finally receive details on how to access a £775 million fund from Royal Bank of Scotland after months of delays to the scheme.

Picture: PA

The Banking Competition Remedies (BCR) body - which is tasked with distributing the cash aimed at boosting competition in the sector - said yesterday that it had sent invites to “eligible bodies” for a market event in central London in late September.

Clydesdale owner CYBG, TSB and Starling are among those expected to attend to hear more on the process of applying and the timescales.

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It is understood invites were sent directly to chief executives and included all members of sector trade bodies UK Finance and Innovate Finance, which have around 250 members each.

The cash includes a £425m Capability and Innovation Fund, meant to help bidders develop their current account, lending and payments offerings for business customers.

There is also a separate £350m Incentivised Switching Scheme, which will encourage SME customers to ditch their RBS account for rival banks.

CYBG - which is in the midst of a £1.7 billion takeover of Virgin Money - is among those that plans to attend the event on 27 September, .

The group has said it had spent £5m in the six months to 31 March preparing its application for funding.

Metro Bank said in April that it had spent £590,000 last year on its application, having publicly said it hopes to clinch £120m in funding to take a larger slice of the business banking market.

The biggest award of £120m is aimed at banks that already have “substantive” current account offerings, with an aim to develop more “advanced” accounts and products.

That compares to smaller pots of cash that will give £10m each to four recipients to develop SME lending and payments businesses, particularly through new technology.

Attendees will have to register within the next two-and-a-half weeks, though the event is also set to be live streamed.

A separate event will be held for those interested in the smallest pool of funding, which will distribute five awards worth £5m each to help fund financial technology “that is relevant to SMEs”.

The fund comes from RBS as part of conditions attached to its £45bn Government bailout during the financial crisis. It replaced plans for the lender to sell off a portion of its SME banking business and is meant to promote competition for banking services to SMEs.

But the process of doling out the funds has been beset by delays, recently attributed to recruitment of executives to the newly formed BCR taking longer than expected.

Applications are set to open around the start of November, will awards announced in February 2019.