Phil Andrew, CEO of, StepChange
NatWest partners with StepChange to offer SMEs debt advice
The bank said the tie-up will help give SMEs a “realistic pathway” to solving their financial problems.
NatWest has partnered with StepChange, the UK’s largest debt charity, to offer its SME customers independent debt advice.
The service is set to launch later this month.
The bank has donated £2m to StepChange to fund a dedicated team, which it says will offer appointments to business customers who the bank feels would benefit from debt advice, where an advisor will explore the customer’s situation and agree on the next steps.
NatWest said these steps will range from completing full debt advice to referral to a specialist such as a tax accountant.
StepChange claims it will then support the customer through the "next stages of their journey", and help support the ongoing relationship between the bank and its customers.
The news comes at a time when SME debt remains a serious issue.
Analysis from the Bank of England shows that over the course of the pandemic, SMEs acquired substantially more debt than larger businesses, whose outstanding debt was broadly flat, while total outstanding SME debt increased by over 20 per cent between the end of 2019 and the end of 2021.
Alison Rose, CEO, of the NatWest Group said that though NatWest looks to support businesses facing financial problems in “a sympathetic and collaborative way” she recognizes that “there are instances where customers would benefit from speaking with an independent advisor, particularly where debts are spread across multiple lenders”.
Phil Andrew, CEO of StepChange, said the new service is aimed at providing “a realistic pathway” for customers to address their problems and restore their personal financial health.
“Debt is something that can affect absolutely anyone, and what’s important is having easy access to good services at a time of need,” he added.
In addition, NatWest touched on additional measures it has been rolling out for SMEs; in August it announced it was freezing its account tariffs and charges for business current account customers for a minimum of 12 months.
NatWest also highlighted how in July it announced a package of £1.25bn in lending support for the UK agriculture sector, alongside measures such as capital repayment holidays and increased overdraft limits.