Birmingham City Council’s lending arm Finance Birmingham has racked up £300 million under its management as work to balance out a tough funding climate continues.
The council patted itself on the back on its third anniversary at an event this week highlighting some of the success stories of firms who have been helped out.
Out of the ashes of the banking crisis, Finance Birmingham now manages £11 million of Birmingham City Council funds, £21 million of Greater Birmingham and Solihull Growing Places funding and £140 million nationally under the Government’s advanced manufacturing (AMSCI) fund, among others.
As part of a push to laud its efforts, the council pointed to start-up tech firm Droplet, which has developed an innovative mobile phone payment system, furniture retailer Lee Longlands and Contract Fire Security as success stories at a gathering of city dignitaries.
Darren Campo, financial director of Lee Longlands, said Finance Birmingham came to the firm’s rescue when a venture launched four years ago to branch out into furniture clearance stores went wrong.
Mr Campo, who joined Lee Longlands two years ago said: “Unfortunately for the business this didn’t work and ended up becoming a loss-making part of it. Joining on the back of losses I realised we needed a huge and fundamental restructure. But we also realised the strength of the Lee Longlands brand was huge – there was so much potential – but we had to do a restructure first of all.”
With the banks unwilling to help with the “extensive costs” involved Mr Campo said it was “a frustrating time,” but teaming up with Finance Birmingham proved a fruitful partnership.
He added: “We knew what we wanted and needed to do but needed funding to do that. For someone to look behind the balance sheet, see the potential of the brand and share our vision. We found that with Finance Birmingham they took time to understand our business, they realised the strength of the brand and shared our vision.”
Funding meant the firm was able to restructure and invest in a new IT system, store refurbishment and a new website.
Mr Campo added: “That was two years ago and two years down the line I am extremely proud to say we are profitable and making cash again.”
Contract Fire Security’s joint managing director Steve Quirke said his firm’s growth plans were hampered by a lack of support from its former banker. The firm, which designs, provides, installs and maintains fire control systems across 12,000 sites in the UK had ambitious expansion plans but was struggling to make headway.
He said: “About 18 months ago we got to the stage where we realised we were probably the largest independent fire and security company in the UK. We were sitting in a very favourable place but realised we needed to change the structure. We approached our bank but received the response that the capital we needed was not going to be forthcoming. Finance Birmingham said they could do something, we had a couple of meetings and produced a business plan. We got accepted and were delighted.”
Since then the firm has restructured its board, appointed a non-executive chairman and appointed a HR director and HR team.
Praise also came from Steffan Aquarone, CEO of Droplet, who said: “If Finance Birmingham hadn’t invested in us we wouldn’t be here today.”