NatWest shut down Esme Loans, its bespoke SME lending platform that marked the bank’s first foray into the world of fintech.
Launched in 2017 and rolled out more widely in 2018, the business was designed to provide small businesses with the convenience of loans ranging from £ 5,000 to £ 250,000.
Esme Loans had the potential to appeal to a wide range of small business owners by offering relaxed one to five year loan terms backed by personal guarantees. NatWest has now posted a statement on its website confirming the closure of the lending platform.
“Esme Loans is closed and is not accepting any new loan applications. Businesses who currently have a loan with us are not affected by this decision and can still log into their dashboard as usual. The team will continue. to serve current clients and is always happy to speak to clients, brokers and partners to answer any questions, ”the announcement states.
Concerted attempts were made to raise the profile of Esme Loans, including marketing campaigns that included advertising on the Tube, but the lending platform failed to tackle the fundraising circle. already well established and others in the financial sector.
Despite its impending closure, Esme Loans has been credited with around £ 100million loans to SMEs by the end of 2019. However, with the business world having been plunged into chaos in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic , NatWest was unable to double the amount in 2020 as it had hoped to do.
The news is particularly grim given that at the start of the year the bank was talking about 300% growth after entering into a partnership with B2B software provider Ezbob. This move should have enabled it to harness the power of Open Banking data and analytics to improve the efficiency of its loan application processes.