Providing vital support to help firms bounce back
Robert McCullough, Danske Bank's head of business sector engagement, explains how a range of unprecedented packages are helping companies to recover
Thousands of companies here have been taking advantage of an unprecedented package of UK Government support to protect jobs and support businesses during the coronavirus outbreak. As more and more companies continue to get back to work, we look at how the financial support is helping firms to adapt, innovate and protect jobs. Here is an example of how companies have been helped, and what support is available.
Business lenders like Danske Bank in Northern Ireland have been working with the UK Government to provide vital financial support to companies experiencing lost or deferred revenue as a result of the pandemic.
They have appointed a dedicated head of business sector engagement to lead proactive engagement with businesses, raising awareness of the support available. Robert McCullough has taken on the important role.
Speaking last month, he said: “Since the beginning of March, Danske Bank has provided £200million in overall business lending, including £80million through the UK government-backed Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme and £50million on the Bounce Back Loan Scheme.”
The UK Government’s Bounce Back Loan Scheme grants finance of up to £50,000 to small and medium-sized businesses, interest free for the first 12 months. Meanwhile, for companies with a turnover of up to £45million, the UK-wide Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme allows them to access up to £5million where the UK Government will pay interest and any fees for the first 12 months.
Danske Bank has also been able to provide relief of up to £25million to large businesses via the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme.
As the largest bank in Northern Ireland, Danske Bank supports companies in a wide variety of sectors, such as retailers Lunn’s Jewellers, manufacturers The Signature Works and in tourism, family-run bus company Airporter.
£200M LENDING: Danske Bank’s Robert McCullough
Robert said: “Businesses in some industries have managed to adapt quickly to a new reality of remote working and social distancing, while others have regrettably seen trade grind to a halt.
“The unprecedented measures announced by the government will help a lot of companies to survive and we are hopeful the majority will ultimately recover.”
The bank was able to launch each of the Schemes on day one, the majority of applications being approved through an easy, automated process.
“Getting this financial support in place in Northern Ireland was the result of a huge effort from teams across the Danske Bank and we continue to work hard to make sure the process is as good as it should be and that we can get money to our customers quickly.
“There is no doubt that we have an important role to play in the weeks and months ahead to get Northern Ireland moving again.
“We have the commitment and the capacity to continue to support customers, the community and the wider economy.”
FINDING A SOLUTION: Staff working at the Sunamp site in East Lothian.
When the Covid-19 pandemic arrived the chief executive officer of East Lothian firm Sunamp, knew the company could respond.
Andrew Bissell (below) said: “A week into lockdown I woke up in the middle of the night and just thought ‘we have to do something that makes the business relevant in this crisis’.”
Mr Bissell turned to Sunamp’s innovative technology, developed in partnership with the University of Edinburgh. The company has led the way in the manufacture of heat batteries that store heat energy rather than electricity like conventional batteries.
The applications of the technology span several industries, but the company’s focus has so far been on offering a product that replaces the hot water tank in heating systems with something smaller and more efficient.
Recognising the potential of the technology in the context of Covid-19, Sunamp was one of more than 8,600 companies to apply for grant funding from Innovate UK, the UK Government’s innovation agency.
In April, Innovate UK launched the Fast Start initiative, with £40m of funding available to companies responding to the pandemic with some form of innovation. In the end, Sunamp was one of 800 companies to secure a grant.
The £50,000 award is being used to develop mobile handwash units that can be installed in locations where people lack access to hygiene facilities that can help prevent the spread of Covid-19.
Mr Bissell said: “You don’t need hot water to wash your hands, but it is much more comfortable.
“Right now, we’re dealing with the virus in the summer time, but as we head into winter, if you have to wash your hands outside a railway station or supermarket or vaccination centre, it will be much more pleasant to have warm water.”
The idea has gained traction with Sunamp’s clients, with inquiries coming in rapidly even though the finished product is still in development.
Mr Bissell said: “Covid-19 is a global problem so there’s widespread interest.
“Sunamp has partnerships and licensing arrangements with businesses all around the world through which it sells its heat batteries, so the ambition for the mobile units is international.”
For Mr Bissell, the appeal of the project is that in addition to its obvious commercial potential, there’s a real societal benefit.
“There is no minimising the negatives of Covid-19,” he said.
“But there are many people stepping and doing amazing things.”
Working with everything from gas boilers to solar and heat pumps, Sunamp says its Heat Batteries deliver hot water with efficiency and proven savings of up to 75 per cent on utility bills in residential, commercial or industrial settings.
The types of support on offer to help your company…
Here are some examples of the support available for businesses and workers.
- The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has enabled businesses to put employees on a period of temporary leave (furlough) and apply for a UK Government grant to cover 80 per cent of those workers’ usual monthly wage costs, up to £2,500 a month.
- The Self-Employment Income Support Scheme will allow eligible self-employed individuals to claim a taxable grant of 80 per cent of their average monthly profits, up to £7,500.
- UK VAT-registered firms have been given the option to defer VAT payments until the end of June. There will be no interest or penalties on any amount deferred.
- The UK Government’s Bounce Back Loans Scheme provides loans of up to £50,000 to small businesses, with a 100 per cent government-backed guarantee for lenders.
- Commercial tenants who cannot pay their rent because of coronavirus will be protected from eviction.
- The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme is available for loans or finance of up to £5m. The UK Government will provide the lender with an 80 per cent guarantee to support the lending.
- The Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme will repay employers the current rate of Statutory Sick Pay they pay current or former employees for sickness starting on or after March 13, 2020.
- The Future Fund will issue loans between £125,000 to £5 million to innovative companies which are facing financing difficulties due to the coronavirus outbreak.
211,700 jobs in Northern Ireland have been furloughed through the Coronavirus Jobs Retention Scheme up to May 31.
69,000 claims amounting to £198 million through the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme up tp May 31.
70 per cent (UK wide) of those eligible for SEISS made a claim. The average value of a claim is around £2,900.