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In conversation with Dr Yvonne Gale, Chief Executive of NEL Fund Managers Limited and Business Growth Board member at the North East LEP

As a newly appointed member of the Business Growth Board, how will your skills and experience support the North East LEP’s aim to increase the density of scaleups in the region?

“I have been working with scaling up local businesses my whole career, first in professional services, then running the finance teams inside several high growth local businesses, and now as CEO of NEL Fund Management who have funds specifically targeted at scaling up businesses. You could say I’m a finance for scale-ups expert – helping businesses to grow with the finance they need is what I do every day.

“I bring to the Business Growth Board the knowledge of what scaleups need so we can ensure, as a Board, we create a joined up system to empower businesses with growth potential and provide them with the wide range of ingredients they need, including finance. The more businesses with scaleup potential that are financed for deliverable business plans, the more we together increase the density of scaleups in the North East LEP region.”

How important will access to finance be for our regional economic recovery as a result of the coronavirus pandemic?

“Economically we are a long way both physically and culturally from City of London approaches to finance, but we don’t want any business to suffer for the lack of access to the right finance. Like most imbalances, the coronavirus pandemic has made more pronounced the existing disconnects.

“For years I’ve been advocating that accessing finance from a computer portal or call centre is fantastic until there’s a problem. An example is how many local businesses struggled to get through to their finance providers when they desperately needed to talk because they didn’t have a person-to-person relationship.

“Being able to access finance is about knowing where to go and who to talk to as much as it’s about the amounts involved and the level of cash. Central government created some fantastic interventions but these were for the heat of the emergency and not designed to be permanent or perfect. The recovery will take time and access to finance is likely to be a problem both in who will put up the finance in uncertain times, and does that finance fit the recovery, as every business will be different. As a Board, we need to ensure there is finance available that fills in any gaps over the medium to long term for regional businesses to deliver their potential.”

How will a recession further impact the North East, and what can businesses do to survive?

“I advocate three actions. First, good cashflow planning helps every business owner make informed decisions. As a chartered accountant, I would always advocate spending time on a good long range forecast, but almost anything is better than knee jerk reactions based on today’s bank account balance.

“Second, relationships matter when times are tough. The current situation presents an opportunity to forge deeper relationships with customers and suppliers. Now more than ever, people are logging who helps and who doesn’t. This creates opportunities for developing your business with new and existing partners.

“Third, the business world is in a state of flux and ‘fortune favours the brave’. It is difficult for complex organisations to be nimble but local businesses don’t need to wait for permission from head office. Now is the moment to think big and bold, striding out while others are busy elsewhere.”

Many small businesses are struggling as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. What support is available for them in the North East?

“There is an immense amount of support available in the North East, all of which have rapidly adapted so they can help now. The list is so long that it’s not possible to cover it in a blog. My best suggestion is to talk to people; be that your existing trusted advisors as there may be many ways they can help that you’ve never needed to ask about.

“If you want to widen your pool of who can help, consult the North East Growth Hub or make an appointment to talk to the Growth Hub Connectors. The Growth Hub is a comprehensive portal of the support available in the region.

“Of course if you need information on finance, I’m happy to help. You can reach me by emailing [email protected].”

Home / Finance for Business

North East LEP votes to keep £120m fund under regional control

A crucial £120m business support fund will be invested exclusively into scores of North East companies after the North East LEP voted to keep it under local control.

The Treasury has backed the LEP board’s decision to keep the new JEREMIE 2 fund in the North East and not become part of the new Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund unveiled in yesterday’s Comprehensive Spending Review.

The LEP was asked by the Government to decide on JEREMIE 2’s future.

The original JEREMIE programme has been a spectacular success.

Known more commonly by business as the Finance for Business North East Fund, it has invested £140m in equity and loans from its North East base over the past five years into more than 800 local small and medium-sized firms.

The LEP understands the importance of keeping the JEREMIE scheme live. It has agreed an extra £4.5m from its North East Investment Fund to be pumped into the original JEREMIE fund to keep it running as normal until the new £120m JEREMIE 2 opens for business in the North East late next year.

Helen Golightly, North East LEP Chief Operating Officer, said: “We believe the decision we have taken to keep the JEREMIE fund administered from a North East base exclusively for investment in North East businesses, is the best option for the region.

“We have a tried, tested and highly successful funding eco-system in place which has delivered outstanding results for many North East companies, and we want to preserve and build on those foundations.”

The new JEREMIE 2 fund is likely to be branded as part of the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund, but will be a separate North East pot of cash.

The Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund has £400m which will be invested in firms across the North West, Yorkshire and Humberside and Tees Valley.

The British Business Bank will run it from Sheffield.

Paul Woolston, North East LEP Chair, said: “The LEP has lobbied hard to ensure JEREMIE 2 remains North East based, North East run and fully invested into North East companies.

“JEREMIE is a huge success story for our region. It made no sense to take such an enormous leap in the dark to let its successor JEREMIE 2 leave the region when we have the proven track record of exceptional delivery and return on our investment right here.

“Our decision is excellent news for the North East economy. The new fund will be delivered in the North East as its predecessor was, through proven delivery channels with the repaid loan funding all being pumped back into even more growing local businesses.”

The North East LEP has committed a substantial proportion of its European structural funds to support the development of JEREMIE 2 along with match funding from the European Investment Bank.

It is hoped in time that the JEREMIE fund programme will become an ‘evergreen fund’, self-sustaining through the reinvestment of paid loans into even more new firms.

North East Finance is the holding fund manager for the Finance for Business North East fund, operating from offices in Grey Street, Newcastle.

The fund has helped create more than 2,600 new jobs, safeguard a further 3,000 and secure £180m in private sector investment.