Ulster Bank doubles Female Entrepreneurship Funding to support recovery

Ulster Bank is making additional funding available to help support female-led businesses in Northern Ireland recover from the coronavirus. It is part of an additional £1 billion that its parent bank NatWest has made available in the UK – doubling its commitment.

The aim is to ultimately help female entrepreneurs scale and grow and builds on the £1bn announced by NatWest and Ulster Bank last January, which was the largest intervention by a UK lender focused specifically on female-led businesses.

The bank has also committed to help create an additional 35,000 new businesses in the UK by the end of 2021, focusing its efforts on underrepresented groups and geographical inequality.

Due to the extraordinary impacts of the coronavirus NatWest has seen unprecedented demand from female-led businesses and has exceeded its £1bn target 4 years ahead of plan. The availability and ease of access through digital channels of the Government lending schemes, combined with virus impacts, has led to many more female entrepreneurs applying for funding. The share of lending to female founders has not only increased in absolute terms, but proportionately rising from 9.5% to 14% of total lending.[1]

A central finding of The Alison Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship (‘the Rose Review’), was that the single biggest issue holding female entrepreneurs back is the lack of funding directed towards them. Traditionally women are less likely to take on debt than male-led businesses and this can impact their ability to scale and grow at the same rate. The increased engagement stimulated through the Government schemes has also allowed NatWest to ensure that female entrepreneurs gain access to this overall package of support.

The additional funding will be open to both new and existing customers and represents new lending into the UK economy, to continue to close the gap between female and male entrepreneurs. Support and encouragement for female entrepreneurs is needed more than ever due to the disproportionate impact of the crisis on women. Recent research commissioned by NatWest in conjunction with YouGov shows that:

  • 1 in 10 female entrepreneurs plan to start a business in 2021;
  • 55% of female business leaders would not recommend starting a business in their sector in 2021;
  • Female entrepreneurs and business owners are 17% more likely to struggle balancing business with family life during the pandemic; and,
  • Nearly three quarters (71%) of female business owners and entrepreneurs found managing their business stressful during the pandemic, compared with just over half of males (55%).

NatWest Group CEO, Alison Rose, commented:

“As we build a purpose-led bank that champions the potential of people, families and businesses up and down the country, we are committed to supporting the UK’s recovery from the crisis. However, if women find themselves at even more of a professional disadvantage on the other side of this crisis, then we’ll be attempting to build an economic recovery whilst ignoring a huge area of potential. 

“All of us, from ministers to employers, have a duty to ensure that further pain isn’t felt disproportionately by women and that anyone who retains an ambition to start or grow a business is helped with targeted and innovative assistance. We’re determined to play our part and I’m pleased to confirm that we are now able to launch a second £1bn tranche of funding to continue and extend our support to female entrepreneurs and business owners.”

Gabi Burnside, Entrepreneur Acceleration Manager, Ulster Bank in Northern Ireland said:

“Female-led businesses have an extremely important role to play in the economic recovery and this additional funding will help many female-led businesses to scale and grow their companies. I would encourage Northern Ireland’s female entrepreneurs to talk to us about how we can help them on that journey,” she said.

The Female Entrepreneurship Funding builds on a number of initiatives that the bank already has in place to support women looking to start, scale and grow their businesses.