The boss of the state-owned bank that has helped funnel billions of pounds in UK business loans has said she has gone through “gigantic change” in the pandemic year.
Catherine Lewis La Torre told the PA news agency that the British Business Bank she heads has an “important role” in the economic response to Covid-19.
Around Â£ 80bn in government-backed emergency loans went to UK businesses during the pandemic, with systems being put in place quickly when the country began to shut down.
Almost 1.6 million businesses have taken out Bounce Back loans – small loans of up to Â£ 50,000 which were provided by large-scale lenders but administered by the BBB.
The bank also handled Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans (CBILS), which disbursed 109,877 businesses and Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loans (CLBILS).
He transformed the BBB from an institution that supported less than Â£ 10bn in funding to UK businesses, into a vital backbone of the economy, supporting 1.8m businesses with over Â£ 88bn funding.
âI hope what comes out of the annual report is what an amazing year it has been. I think this is better reflected in the numbers, âsaid Ms La Torre.
It will be impossible to say how much this actually helped the economy and how businesses would have fared without the support, but the BBB said the impact on many businesses was likely huge.
“While it is difficult to say exactly what would have happened in the absence of these programs, it is reasonable to assume that without their support many other companies may not have survived the pandemic,” did he declare.
Along with Covid’s support programs, the bank continues to help small businesses get loans and investments to grow, supporting Â£ 8.5bn in financing for 95,000 businesses.
Small businesses now have up to ten years to pay off their Bounce Back loan.
âWe need to be very clear on how we are handling this Covid era loan portfolio going forward. And even though this was all introduced in response to the crisis, the run-off of these loans – we have to have a 10-year plan to know how we’re doing it, âshe said.
However, the bank expects to “be over the bump” before the end of ten years.
She said the bank is planning this in the future, including investing in its data analytics.