Following what has been hailed as a ‘successful pilot’, the high street bank will look to scale the Esme platform in 2018.
NatWest plans to ramp up its efforts to fight back against online lenders. Esme Loans, the wholly digital platform launched by the bank in early 2017, is now out of pilot mode.
In a release, NatWest described the first phase of the project as a success, after fielding close to 3,800 applications equal to over £200m of possible loan opportunities. Exactly how much has been lent out by the platform is unclear, but of those businesses that have taken a loan so far, 75-85 per cent said that they would recommend the product and/or use it again.
In tandem to announcing the planned scaling of the Esme project, the platform has begun appearing on the London Tube (as part of a broader marketing campaign), with a new brand, and has also signed up to become the headline sponsor of the Evening Standard Business Awards.
Esme makes loans of up to £150,000 to UK-based small-to-medium sized businesses. The application process is paperless and generally simplified, with ‘competitive’ annual rates as low as 4.08 per cent. Its research shows that transparency and simplicity are among the key attributes considered by small business owners when sizing up a loan.
Crucially, Esme is built for speed, with applications taking les than 10 minutes, and decision-making and transferral of funds taking place in some cases within an hour. Esme does not charge for early full or partial repayment.
Richard Kerton, head of Esme Loans, said: “As a new scale up business ourselves it is important to us that Esme Loans offers a product and service that reflects what entrepreneurs and SMEs need. We were constantly engaging with our customers throughout the pilot phase, and the most common feedback we received was that a lending process that is transparent, simple and stress-free is what business owners want. This way they can spend their time and energy on running their business, and I truly believe that is what Esme Loans delivers.”
Click here to read former FT Weekend editor Andy Davis’ in-depth interview with Richard Kerton, written exclusively for AltFi.