Challenger bank OakNorth expands regional presence

Challenger bank OakNorth has unveiled plans to further expand its operations outside of London, in a bid to attract regional business owners.

The lender, which has previously backed the likes of Leon and Notes Coffee, has ramped up hiring in Manchester, the Midlands and the South West to keep up with demand for its business loans.

It comes as the UK’s biggest fintech players compete to gain national recognition, with Monzo creating hundreds of jobs in Cardiff while lender Iwoca has pledged to loan £100 million in the North by 2020.

OakNorth’s new hires will make it easier for regional businesses to apply for funds from the bank, which has lent more than £3 billion since it launched in 2015.

Ben Barbanel, head of debt finance at OakNorth, said: “One of the features about our process that our borrowers greatly appreciate is the ability to discuss their finance needs directly with the Credit Committee.

Ben Barbanel
Ben Barbanel (OakNorth/PA)

“To ensure we can continue offering this experience whilst providing British businesses and property developers with access to customised debt finance options, we have made several senior hires in Manchester, Bristol and Birmingham – all of whom have incredibly strong regional knowledge and over a century of experience between them.”

Christopher Swarbrick, who joins from Europa Capital Debt Investment, will head up the Manchester office.

He will be joined by David Rowlinson, formerly of Investec.

The Manchester office will also expand from 20 to 50 people over the next six months and move to a bigger location.

Meanwhile in Bristol, OakNorth has poached Tom Windett from HSBC as its first hire in the South West.

Christopher Richards also joins from RBS as the first appointee in Birmingham.

OakNorth more than tripled its profits in 2018 as its loans facilities surpassed £2 billion.

Profits before tax rose 220% to £33.9 million last year, while total loan facilities grew 160% to £2.2 billion.

It lends between £500,000 and £40 million to profitable British businesses with ambitions to scale up.

Its clients to date include Leon, NetPay and Raymond Blanc’s pub and restaurant group Brasserie Bar Co.

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