A co-operative business loan fund based in the West Midlands has joined the European Microfinance Network, which could help it secure more capital.
Founded in 2002, BCRS Business Loans provides loans ranging from £10,000 to £100,000 to businesses in the West Midlands that make a positive contribution to the social, environmental and economic well-being of the region, but have been turned down by the banks.
While lending to SMEs under the government’s Funding for Lending Scheme has continued to fall, and Bank of England figures say net lending was down by £435m in the second quarter of the year, BCRS increased its loans to SMEs by 40% in 2013. As a co-operative business loan fund, it is owned and run by its member investors who elect representatives to the board.
Chief executive Paul Kalinauckas said: “We’ve just had our best month ever for lending to local businesses. The landscape for access to finance has changed substantially, so we are continuing to scale up to meet the demand for business loans. Securing European funding is essential to the growth prospects of the region, so we’ve joined the European Microfinance Network to help us access further capital.”
The European Microfinance Network, which works to promote microfinance in the European Union, was established to address social and financial exclusion within 28 member states. Their members include French co-operative bank Crédit Coopératif and the Community Development Finance Association (CDFA), a London-based trade association representing community development finance institutions, one of them being Co-operative and Community Finance.
BCRS receives funding from the Regional Growth Fund through CDFA and the European Regional Development Fund. It has received over £12m of the £30m allocated by the government to the CDFA, while the Co-operative Bank and Unity Bank Trust have received another £30m to provide lending to small, micro and social enterprises.