Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds Banking Group, Royal Bank of Scotland and Santander are recruiting current and retired employees to act as volunteers for the scheme and the Government’s ambition is to have as many as 35,000 advisers in place, drawn from both the financial sector and trade bodies.
Under the Project Merlin deal with the Government the banks had agreed to lend £76bn to SMEs in 2011, equating to £19bn a quarter. However, they have been criticised for failing, as they had only lent £16.8bn in the first quarter of this year.
Stephen Pegg, director at Lloyds Banking Group said that there was finance available and this scheme would help businesses gain access to it.
"Having a bit of financial input, someone to ask the right questions... helps you put together better lending propositions so actually that finance can get out there and businesses can be encouraged to have the confidence to invest and the contacts to look at a wider range of finance," he said.
And Andrew Cave from the Federation of Small Businesses, said: "(This initiative) starts to repair the mistakes of the past by bringing people who are working in the banks closer to the business community."
It is hoped that the network of managers will be the catalyst for a much larger mentoring system capable of taking over from the Business Link centres, which are due to shut down in the autumn.
Business Minister Mark Prisk said: "The mentoring is really replacing the 1,500 currently state paid advisers we have under Business Link by recognising that most SMEs ... are looking for someone who has been there and done it; someone who has solved that problem and they are looking for that practical advice.”
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