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New business mentoring scheme unveiled

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) will be offered more support on key business issues under a new scheme being launched by the banks.

Five of the UK’s largest banks - Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds Banking Group, Royal Bank of Scotland and Santander - will offer firms assistance with issues such as finance, HR and marketing.

They are believed to be recruiting current and retired employees to assist with the mentoring programme.

The scheme was set up by the business finance taskforce and is intended to bring businesses and banks closer together.

Commenting, Stephen Pegg, director at Lloyds Banking Group, said: ‘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.’

Meanwhile, 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.’

As part of the Project Merlin agreement, the UK's biggest banks are committed to lending £76bn in 2011 to SMEs.

However, the banks have been criticised for not lending enough to small firms.

Last month the Business Secretary Vince Cable said the Government was willing to take ‘further action with tax on banks’ if they do not increase lending.