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Unity Trust Bank is making business banking better for SMEs and helping society - here's how

Unity Trust Bank Chief Executive Margaret Willis tells how they are helping SMEs and the community

One of the best kept business secrets in Birmingham – Unity Trust Bank offers an expert banking service for small and medium sized enterprises while contributing to economic, community and social change.

The bank opened in the city in 1986 and celebrated its first year as an independent bank in December, after buying back its shares from the Co-operative Bank.

Last year was a “very strong year” for Unity, which saw the bank provide £77 million in loans to clients to boost their enterprises – an increase of 25 per cent.

Fourteen per cent of these loans were drawn in the West Midlands where Unity’s clients include Age Concern, Worcestershire YMCA and The Springfield Project.

Figures from the bank show that in 2016 it created and protected 1,895 jobs and created and renovated 1,026 bed spaces.

Headquartered in Brindleyplace, Unity has 24,000 clients across the country, with almost 3,000 in Birmingham and the surrounding areas.

The bank works with social sector organisations, charities and SMEs that share its values and philosophy, which it calls ‘firms with a social conscience’, offering current and deposit accounts, loans and corporate cards.

Following its successes it is now seeking to attract new clients and believes that its ethos and philosophy will appeal to a broad spectrum of customers, including Millennials which, research has found, will account for 75 per cent of the workforce in 2025.

Deloitte’s 2015 Millennial Survey also discovered that this age group are not motivated by money.

Unity Chief Executive Margaret Willis said: “The research shows that Millennials are aiming to make the world more compassionate, innovative and sustainable.

“More than 50 per cent say they would take a pay cut to find work that matches their values, while 90 per cent want to use their skills for good.”

“I feel very proud that we invest money responsibly.

“All of our funding comes from customer accounts and we benefit from a loyal and growing customer base.

“We use the deposits our customers entrust to us to fund lending which supports the communities we collectively serve.

“We help organisations to prosper and contribute to social change, we are not just about maximising profit.”

Margaret Willis, CEO of Unity Trust Bank

Margaret has worked for Unity since 2015 and has enjoyed an established career in banking, which has seen her work in retail and commercial sectors, across the UK, US, Canada and Europe.

Recently joining Margaret's team is Daryl Wilkinson Director, Customer Propositions and Strategic Marketing, who previously led Nationwide Building Society’s Group Innovation Lab and Digital Development team, and spent a morning with politics students at University of Birmingham ahead of our interview.

Deloitte’s survey further found that 7,800 future leaders from 29 different countries say the business world is getting it wrong.

“Some 75 per cent say they feel businesses are focused on their own agendas rather than improving society, while only 28 per cent say they feel their current organisation is making full use of their skills, “ said Margaret.

“An encouraging shift which supports our ambitions to grow and amplify our social impact.

“We believe that business banking can be better.”

From left: Head of HR Julia Tarpey and acting head of strategic marketing Harjit Sandhu, both Unity Trust Bank, and Midland Mencap's chief executive Dave Rogers
From left: Head of HR Julia Tarpey and Head of Brand and Insight Harjit Sandhu, both Unity Trust Bank, and Midland Mencap's chief executive Dave Rogers

Unity helps its customers to achieve success through its 91 employees, 77 of which are based in the West Midlands.

The bank employs sixteen Relationship Managers (RMs) across the country, with five in the West Midlands, who are all experienced bankers and sector specialists including care, social housing and charities.

These RMs are supported by a team of Customer Service Advisors, who clients can reach on the phone, and internet Banking.

As well as advising clients Unity staff also help out in the community themselves.

Margaret added: “We also support charities and communities through our employee-led ‘Unity in the Community’ (UitC) volunteering programme. Last year our staff volunteered 106 days and donated £6,542 to good causes.

“You can bank with us and bank on us.

“What do we mean when we say ‘A commercial bank with a social conscience?’ Put simply, we seek to help to create a better society.”

For more information about Unity Trust Bank click here

How Unity Trust Bank has helped its West Midlands clients

Age Concern Birmingham

A long-standing Unity customer was given a £630,000 loan to help them to bring their advice and information, befriending and day services together to proved the best possible service for older people and increase service provision. It had previously operated out of different rented sites.

Barnt Green Baptist Church

Unity has helped church to buy residential accommodation for its full time minister with a £140,000 loan last year.

Worcestershire YMCA

With a £1.1 million loan from Unity, the YMCA was able to purchase Frederick Eary House and create 34 flats to support young people with housing, helping them to get back on their feet.

The Springfield Project

A £350,000 Unity loan helped the project to renovate six empty homes across Birmingham to provide suitable rental property for families with at least one child under the age of five.

Sandwell Community Caring Trust

Unity worked with Big Issue Invest toward a deal in which SCCT benefitted from a £4.25 million finance package to enable it to purchase the newly built 62 bed Hall Green residential care home in West Bromwich.

For more information about Unity Trust Bank click here

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