A finance body set up to help small businesses in Birmingham is celebrating its 20th birthday.

ART Business Loans (ART) was one of the UK's first so-called Community Development Finance Institutions when it launched in 1997 and its remit was to lend to businesses unable to access finance from the banks.

Banks were starting to move away from funding for small businesses, and particularly micro businesses with up to ten employees, 20 years when the body launched as Aston Reinvestment Trust.

Now based at Innovation Birmingham Campus, it was originally in Aston and lent across inner city Birmingham.

Chief executive Steve Walker said: "As a social enterprise established as a mutual society, ART's primary objective was, and remains, to support access to appropriate finance for business and the creation or preservation of local jobs for local people.

"We were set up as a result of a report from a commission chaired by the late Sir Adrian Cadbury who became ART's first chairman.

"One of the major areas the commission looked at was access to finance for people and communities who were finding it increasingly difficult to engage with the banks.

"Strictly speaking, we lend in addition to the banks - only if they can't help and often lending alongside them as part of a package of finance.

"However, we are now considered to be a part of the alternative finance market which has grown substantially over the past 20 years and includes peer-to-peer lenders and crowd funders."

He added: "Banks are no longer the first port of call for many small or start-up businesses.

"Our average loan size is £35,000 - a sum which it is particularly challenging to get elsewhere, even from the newer peer to peer lenders."

Since launching, ART has lent over £21 million to more than 900 local businesses which it said had created or preserved more than 7,000 jobs.

Mr Walker added: "We are looking ahead, seeking additional funding and considering how we can continue to best serve the local economy in the years to come."