The Scottish business incubator has announced its ambitious plan to significantly increase the number of small businesses it helps to grow and to double the reach of the UK’s largest free entrepreneur accelerator network. Over the past four years, the RBS incubator has supported 4,000 businesses via its 12 accelerator hubs across the UK. It has raised £255 million in investment and created more than 8,000 jobs.
Now it aims to bring 5,000 entrepreneurs through the scheme in 2018 alone. There are also plans to establish specific fintech hubs in Edinburgh, Manchester, Bristol and London. The programme offers free mentoring, insight and coaching to startups and businesses looking to scale.
Previously the programme was managed jointly with Entrepreneurial Spark, but as of February it will be wholly managed by the bank and its network will be transferred accordingly. Darren Pirie, Head of Entrepreneur Development at RBS said: “We want to try to extend the reach of the accelerator to a wider audience and this allows us to go into the regions.”
Gordon Merrlyees emphasised that candidates for the Entrepreneur Accelerator did not have to be customers of RBS. Additionally, he noted that the bank had established an entrepreneurial development academy to equip staff with the knowledge to better understand the thought processes of its entrepreneur customers. Applications are currently being accepted to join the next cohort in April 2018.
This news comes after RBS was exposed by a report of how it treated customers of its Global Restructuring Group (GRG). The report, commissioned by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) revealed that the unit, established to help small businesses in financial distress, had actually been mistreating them by focusing on commercial interest at the expense of helping businesses. The FCA found that one in six had actually been harmed by GRG.
An RBS spokesperson said in response to the report: “We (RBS) are deeply sorry that customers did not receive the experience they should have done while in GRG. Although the most serious allegation – that we deliberately targeted otherwise viable businesses in order to distress and asset-strip them for the bank’s profit – has been shown to be without foundation, we know that the bank got a lot wrong in how it treated some customers in GRG during the financial crisis.”
“The culture, structure and way RBS operates today have all changed fundamentally since the period under review and we have made significant changes to deal with the issues of the past, including how we treat customers in financial distress. We have accepted all the relevant recommendations from the report and our focus is now on rebuilding trust and supporting our customers.”