NatWest launches city hub to support risk-takers

The RBS branch in Bradford city centre
The RBS branch in Bradford city centre
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​NatWest opened a new hub for entrepreneurs in Leeds on Friday as part of a drive to open the largest network of free business accelerator hubs across the UK to support 7,000 entrepreneurs over the next five years.

The centre, which was opened by Ross McEwan, the CEO of NatWest’s owner RBS, will offer entrepreneurs free workspace, hands on mentoring, a start up boot camp and a free programme of 18 months worth of advice, support and funding clinics.

The launch follows new research that shows 42 per cent of people in Yorkshire and the Humber would prefer to be self employed, but 62 per cent are held back by fear of failure.

​The data, compiled for NatWest by Populus, shows a record 33 per cent also think now is a good time to set up their own business, however just ​five per cent​ are actually doing it.​

NatWest, in partnership with Entrepreneurial Spark and KPMG, ​said the Yorkshire launch follows the success of its hubs in Scotland.

“I think one of the most important things for the UK to continue growing is we need more entrepreneurs starting businesses,” said Mr McEwan.

​“They need support. They may have great ideas, but they don’t know how to get up and running.”

The launch follows heavy criticism of the way R​BS ​has treated struggling small businesses​ ​in the past.

​Mr McEwan, who joined RBS two years ago and is not associated with the executive team that tipped the bank into crisis, said: “​We are a very different business to what we were seven years ago. Our focus is very much on our customers.

“We are the largest lender into the SME market so this is a natural progression for us.”

NatWest is opening 10 Entrepreneurial Spark free business accelerator hubs, or “hatcheries” in its buildings across the country.

The programme will see new hatcheries open this month in Leeds, Brighton and Bristol. More will open in Manchester, Belfast, Cardiff, Newcastle and Milton Keynes next year and one will open in the heart of the city of London in 2017.

Alison Rose, CEO of commercial and private banking at NatWest, said: “Despite improving economic conditions and a widely held desire to be self employed, only a very small number of people are actually taking the plunge.

“These findings show we have a nation of potential entrepreneurs, but they are held back by a lack of knowledge. NatWest wants to fill that gap.

“This will give thousands of entrepreneurs free facilities, free business advice and supporting networks to ensure they are given the best possible chance of success.”

Entrepreneurial Spark ​said it ​has already made a significant impact in Scotland, with almost 400 companies supported so far, £20m investment secured and over 1,000 new jobs created.

Jim Duffy, founder of Entrepreneurial Spark,​ ​said: “Starting and scaling a business can be daunting, so we support budding entrepreneurs every step of the way in our ​hatcheries, from hands on training at our #GoDoBootcamps and one-to-one enablement to providing them with free desk space and IT.”

​Entrepreneurs can apply ​to join the Leeds hub at http://www.entrepreneurial-spark.com/