NatWest and RBS have announced the introduction of new initiatives they say will give small businesses added peace of mind while trading through the current economic downturn.

The announcement comes as banks are coming under huge pressure to free up money to lend to small businesses, and also comes soon after the bank’s recent announcement to guarantee small business customers’ overdraft agreements and pricing until at least the end of 2009.

The banks set up a specialist helpline to provide advice and support to small business customers. The free phone service will be manned by a dedicated team of specialist business bankers who are experienced in working closely with all types of enterprises.

The team will be on hand to give small business customers the opportunity to discuss any specific issues they may have, whether these relate to the availability of finance, pricing, or the general day-to day transactional matters that are so important to SMEs.

NatWest and RBS are also currently sending all their customers a practical guide which contains practical and impartial advice on issues such as managing cash flow, dealing with bad debts and managing risk.

Peter Ibbetson, chairman of Small Business for RBS and NatWest, said: “With over a quarter of the country’s small businesses banking with us, we genuinely understand the challenges they currently face and we are responding with measures we believe will offer further support and reassurance at a time when they need it most.

“We have responded to customers’ needs by setting up Business Lifeline.”