L-R: Jonathan Diggines, Sir Howard Bernstein, Damian McGann, Mark Payton and Mike Rose
Richard Bell

Sir Howard Bernstein: SMEs and global industries key to Manchester’s future

Driving growth in Manchester’s SME community and developing global industries are key priorities for the city’s economy, according to Sir Howard Bernstein.

Speaking at an event this week, the city council’s chief exec called on Manchester’s financiers to suggest new ways of funding SMEs to help them expand and encouraging them to boost productivity through automation.

Sir Howard also called for ideas on giving Manchester better access to investment from the government’s Local Growth Fund.

The event, organised by capital venture firm Enterprise Ventures and Santander Corporate and Commercial, followed the launched of a new SME loans fund from Enterprise Ventures, which forms part of Mercia Technologies PLC.

Sir Howard said he believes the Northern Powerhouse is offering Manchester an opportunity to not only boost transport, but also stimulate “new patterns of international trade and investment”. The city’s corporate finance community, he said, could play a part in achieving that.

He explained: “Life sciences, creative and digital industries, advanced materials – we know from the collaboration on a global scale within the city that there are real opportunities to drive our economy.

“We want the Northern Powerhouse to focus on driving these globally distinctive industries. The commercial and professional services sectors are key enablers to facilitate our ambitions for these growth sectors.”

The executive director for funds at Enterprise Ventures, Jonathan Diggines, praised the existing collaborative efforts of the city’s public and private sectors.

He added: “Manchester has a great track record for making things happen. The partnership between Greater Manchester Pension Fund and Santander, which made the Enterprise Ventures SME Loans fund possible, demonstrates this spirit of collaboration and could be a prototype of things to come.”

Santander UK Corporate & Commercial’s divisional managing director for the North, Damian McGann, explained that SMEs require access to multiple sources when it comes to finance.

Damian continued: “It is great to see that this collaboration between Enterprise Ventures and Santander plugs a gap in the market and allows us to support SMEs across the Northern Powerhouse with their growth plans.

“Our investment in the Enterprise Ventures SME Loans fund forms part of our Breakthrough initiative, a unique suite of financial and non-financial services and products for the country’s most ambitious businesses.”

To qualify for Enterprise Ventures’ new SME Loans offer, firms need to be based in the UK, have three years of trading under their belts and a turnover of at least £1m, and have an operating profit of £100k or more.

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