Banks Are Helping Creative Startups Get Finance-Savvy

WIRED: Following yesterday’s announcement that the UK games industry will receive an £8m boost as part of the latest budget, a group of banks have outlined new plans to improve access to finance for small companies in the creative industries. The British Banking Association, which represents over 200 banks, has partnered with Creative England to put together a “toolkit” in the form of Better Business Finance. The site offers advice on the kinds of funding available and how to apply for it, and is chiefly backed by Santander, Barclays, HSBC, RBS, and Lloyds. Although it has been in operation since 2011, the new partnership sees the notoriously conservative banking industry making a concerted effort to open its coffers to more unorthodox businesses and daring entrepreneurs.

Banks have traditionally been overly cautious about lending to or supporting small to medium enterprises in the creative sector, concerned they wouldn’t see the desired return. This case of economic cold feet has had something of a stifling effect on the growth potential of the film, music, design, and gaming industries.

Gaming trade associations Tiga and Ukie have both been lobbying heavily for better access to finance for SMEs, as have comparable bodies in other content industries. The BBA’s move is one of the first signs that those calls are being listened to by the banking industry.

“The UK is — quite rightly — fiercely proud of its world renowned creative industries. From games and digital design to filmmakers, there is an ever-growing pool of talent, more and more of whom are working together to bring their ideas to life,” said Irene Graham, executive director of business finance at the British Bankers’ Association. “The banking industry recognises that it has a role to play in supporting this work. We’re delighted to be launching this comprehensive guide to the different forms of financial help available to the creative sector. We hope it will make life easier for businesses looking for funding, and open their eyes to the impressive breadth of both banking and alternative options available.”

As purse-shy as banks have been, there’s also a tendency for creatively minded people to be less financially savvy and the new BBF is intended to tackle that problem too. The new focus on creators has been in the works for over a year, and is designed to make matters a little less confusing.

“We know there is a knowledge-gap among creative businesses that regularly struggle to know where and how to access finance. Information can be hard to find and extremely complicated to navigate,” said Caroline Norbury, CEO of Creative England. “This new toolkit is very much welcomed as it will help demystify the funding landscape for creative entrepreneurs and let them understand what help is available where.”

Continuing, Norbury added “We are working hand-in-hand with the banks and alternative finance providers to help build understanding across the sectors and, crucially, make sure the country’s world-leading creative talent get the support they need.”

Currently, the creative industries are worth £8.8m every hour to the UK economy. If the new toolkit works as intended — and, crucially, banks follow through on financing — then this greater access to funding should help even more firms get off the ground, snowballing the financial benefit to the nation.