Wales: Transforming the economy, engineering success
Standing tall as the U.K.’s largest regional small to medium-sized enterprise (SME) investment entity, the Development Bank of Wales is dedicated to promoting Welsh industry and commerce, meaning it plays an integral role in shaping the future of thousands of businesses. Despite being formed only five years ago, the bank has already provided valuable support to more than 3,000 businesses with an overall economic impact of £1.2 billion. The state-owned bank makes it easier for businesses to secure vital finance — through loans of up to £10 million at market interest rates — to launch, strengthen and grow. The award-winning enterprise manages more than a dozen funds worth almost £2 billion — including the £204 million showcase Wales Business fund — and a business angel network, Angels Invest Wales. In addition, the respected company is a significant co-investor in higher-risk/higher reward technology venture investments. With a dedicated technology investment team, the bank boasts access to off-market, tech deal flow. Investors can work with investment-ready firms and co-fund deals where a number of investors are required.
“Wales is very focused on growing businesses locally, attracting talent to Wales and capitalizing on the talent already here,” says Giles Thorley, CEO of the Development Bank of Wales. “We are extremely active, providing equity finance to support an incredible range of innovative, technology-based businesses on one end of the spectrum, and also helping ambitious entrepreneurs in the foundational economy, such as coffee shops and photographers starting out in business. It is a really eclectic range of businesses and representative of the economy as a whole.” The senior executive is quick to highlight his bank’s decent sized property development offer, which supports residential house building, and commercial property. In the area of business financing, there is a substantial amount of activity in medtech, fintech and insurance tech, he notes, adding the country’s rich, natural resources are ripe for renewables projects. “Wales can be an energy center for the U.K. as the renewable energy opportunities are more significant than anywhere else, whether solar, wind, tidal or hydro,” he says. “Developing new technologies in that space is a very important component. The whole strategy of using finance to incentivize and help businesses to decarbonize is quite nascent and we are at the forefront of some of the ideas. That is going to be a very exciting area of development, seeing businesses changing their strategy for their benefit, but also for the environment, community and wider world.”