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It’s About Time

Nick Howe, NatWest Regional Enterprise Manager, London

The ABM is delighted to post Nick’s blog following his fantastic speech on breaking down the barriers to women in enterprise at the ABM London conference in April. Check out some great infographics here to support his blog!

Up to £250 billion could be added to the UK economy, if women started and scaled new businesses at the same rate as men.

At the recent annual conference of the Association of Business Mentors, which on behalf of NatWest I was proud to host, I spoke about the recommendations that have been put forward in order to make the UK the best place for women to start and grow a business.

Back in 2018 Alison Rose, deputy CEO of NatWest Holdings and CEO, Commercial & Private Banking, was asked by Robert Jenrick MP, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury to carry out the UK Government’s review into Female Entrepreneurship. The goal of the review was to understand the disparity between male and female entrepreneurs and identify the barriers facing female entrepreneurs. We uncovered some very stark findings. The current position is unacceptable.  For example:-

Women in the UK currently receive less than 1% of venture capital and on average have starting capital that is 50% below men. They are also less aware of funding options than men. This is the single biggest opportunity and the number one barrier that we need to smash down.

Only 1 in 3 entrepreneurs is female compared to best in class countries which have female entrepreneurship levels of over 40%.

Female businesses are only 44% of the size of male-led businesses.  Male-led businesses are five times more likely to scale-up.

But let’s look at the opportunity as the unrealised potential is considerable.

Up to £250 billion could be added to the UK economy, if women started and scaled new businesses at the same rate as men.  That is equivalent to around four years of natural economic growth.

What we have seen in NatWest, through our Entrepreneur Accelerator Hubs, is that tailored support and access to timely advice can have a significant impact on removing barriers.

Access to role models who are relatable and local is critical.

So how do we achieve this? There are five key barriers that make a difference: 

1 Low access and awareness of capital 

2 Greater risk awareness  

3 Perceived missing skills and experience 

4 Disproportionate primary care responsibilities  

5 Lack of relatable sponsorship, mentorship and role models

Being clear on the barriers has  allowed us to identify the most significant opportunities to help woman better succeed in business :

The first is to increase funding directed towards female entrepreneurs – this is the number one issue identified ;

The second is to make entrepreneurship more accessible for women – increasing support locally, through relatable and accessible mentors and networks. Indeed organisations such as Association of Business Mentors can be a useful starting point when considering who you may wish to work with in order to propel the business.

We need to break down the cultural barriers in this area around risk, perceptions of confidence and knowing the right sponsor or network; and,

The third is greater family care support for female entrepreneurs – these responsibilities disproportionally affect female entrepreneurs from start-up to scale-up

Understanding these opportunities has allowed us to devise eight practical initiatives that we are working on that will help women better succeed in business. 

Firstly, we have already seen the launch of a new Investing in Women Code that commits financial institutions to gender diversity. NatWest is one of the founding signatories.

The development of a new investment vehicle to encourage investment in female entrepreneurs and a task force to encourage UK based institutional and private investors to further support and invest in female entrepreneurs.

We recommend that the UK’s leading financial institutions create new banking products aimed at entrepreneurs specifically with family care responsibilities.

We are improving access to expertise by expanding the expert in residence programmes. Work is already underway with pilots in a number of areas.  

We will work to expand existing mentorship and networking opportunities – we all need to get better at sharing best practices and supporting others.  Founders are encouraged to seek out their own mentors also that can add something that may be currently missing from their business set-up.

Finally we will develop and roll-out entrepreneurship-related courses to schools and colleges.

These initiatives are a starting platform – not an end point.

There is no one silver bullet that will transform the landscape for female entrepreneurs overnight; it will take time and commitment.

However, there are real and practical steps that can and will be taken.

Which is why I am so delighted with NatWest’s new programme, NatWest Back Her Business.

We’ve teamed up with Crowdfunder to launch Back Her Business; the first female-only crowdfunding programme that supports would-be entrepreneurs across the UK.  But it’s not just about the funding, it’s about nurturing female entrepreneurs and helping them to benefit from:

Coaching

Networking

Events

Meeting relatable role models

Although most of the funding will come from “the crowd” – friends and family of those crowdfunding, others in the community and Crowdfunder’s vast network – NatWest will provide top-up funding of £1 million per year across the UK.  We will offer up to 50% of an entrepreneur’s fundraising target, capped at £5,000. The programme is open to all women, including those who identify as female, and you don’t have to be an existing customer to apply.

We’re also supporting a number of local enterprise support organisations, who will run programmes focused on helping women into business, by providing further grant funding to allow them to do so. And our plan is that those organisations will signpost women to the Back Her Business programme.

Each year we anticipate that through the Back Her Business programme across the UK, we’ll enable:

c. 50,000 women to test their business idea

c. 5,000 women to successfully crowdfund and start trading

We commit to helping to create an additional 65,000 new female-led businesses by 2025, and we’ll do this through inspiring and supporting 400,000 women to consider enterprise as a career option.

The full Rose Review can be found here and more information can be found on NatWest Back Her Business here .

It’s going to take a huge amount of determination and collaboration to get us to where we want to be; to turn that untapped potential into reality.

This is a genuinely exciting time and, with our collective efforts, we can Back Her Business.


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