NatWest pulls down the shutters on its Esme Loans lending service

Esme Loans
(Image credit: Esme Loans)

NatWest has closed Esme Loans, its bespoke SME lending platform that marked the bank’s first foray into the world of fintech.

Launched back in 2017 and more widely rolled out during 2018, the venture was designed to offer small business customers the convenience of loans ranging from between £5,000 and £250,000.

Esme Loans had the potential to appeal to a wide range of small business owners by offering relaxed loan terms of between one and five years backed by personal guarantees. NatWest has now posted a statement on its website confirming the closure of the lending platform.

"Esme Loans is being closed and is not accepting any new loan applications. Businesses that currently have a loan with us are not affected by this decision and are still able to log into their Dashboard as usual. The team will continue to service current clients and is always happy to speak to customers, brokers and partners to answer any questions they may have,” the announcement states.

Esme Loans

Concerted attempts were made to raise the profile of Esme Loans, including marketing campaigns that included advertising on the Tube, but the lending platform failed to take on the already well-established Funding Circle and others in the finance sector.

Despite its imminent closure Esme Loans has been credited with lending in the region of £100m to SMEs by the end of 2019. However, with the business world having been thrown into chaos following the coronavirus pandemic NatWest was unable to double the amount during 2020 as it had hoped to do. 

The news is particularly bleak considering that earlier this year the bank was talking of 300% growth after striking up a partnership with B2B software provider Ezbob. That move should have allowed it to harness the power of Open Banking data and analytics to boost the efficiency of its loan application processes.

Rob Clymo

Rob Clymo has been a tech journalist for more years than he can actually remember, having started out in the wacky world of print magazines before discovering the power of the internet. Since he's been all-digital he has run the Innovation channel during a few years at Microsoft as well as turning out regular news, reviews, features and other content for the likes of TechRadar, TechRadar Pro, Tom's Guide, Fit&Well, Gizmodo, Shortlist, Automotive Interiors World, Automotive Testing Technology International, Future of Transportation and Electric & Hybrid Vehicle Technology International. In the rare moments he's not working he's usually out and about on one of numerous e-bikes in his collection.