A West Midland business set up to take on the big banks has reached a major milestone by lending £150 million to SMEs.

ThinCats, established by two former Sutton Coldfield school friends, became only the second peer-to-peer business lender to launch in the UK when it was unveiled in 2011.

Founders Kevin Caley and Peter Brown pledged to challenge the banking sector's so-called "fat cat" mentality - hence the name - and bring back a "Captain Mainwaring" approach to lending.

ThinCats, based in a barn conversion near Tamworth, offers loans backed by a unique sponsorship network and bidding platform.

Chairman Mr Caley said: "ThinCats has had a stellar five years as a peer-to-peer pioneer.

"We were the first platform to provide loans through a SIPP (self-invested personal pensions), the first to vet loans through a sponsorship network and the first to use security to shore up loans while retaining high interest rates for lenders.

"Of course, there is plenty more on the horizon and we have big plans for 2016.

"The arrival of the new Innovative Finance ISA should more than double the volume of investment on peer-to-peer lending platforms while an increase in institutional investor interest will drive up deal flow. 2016 is the year the industry will finally come of age."

ThinCats gives SMEs the chance to look beyond banks and local lenders to reach a UK wide pool of investors.

Mr Caley said its streamlined process cut out bank charges and delivered average returns of nine per cent to lenders.

In December 2015, ESF Capital acquired a controlling 73.4 per cent equity stake in the business.

The deal provides valuable investment capital for the ThinCats platform, together with underwriting capital for loans.

John Mould, recently appointed chief executive of ThinCats, said, looking forward to 2016, this investment by ESF would help to take the ThinCats platform up a gear.

He added: "Surpassing the £150 million mark is a massive achievement and cements ThinCats' position as one of the top four peer-to-peer lenders.

"We're hugely excited about 2016 and, with ESF's acquisition of the company bringing fresh impetus and capital to the platform, we're hoping to drastically extend our reach to the benefit of British businesses."

Finance and insurance activities top the list of ThinCats loan recipients, with 14 per cent of borrowers coming from the sector.

Lenders have also flocked to invest in construction (12.9 per cent), real estate (12.4 per cent), manufacturing (11.7 per cent) and wholesale and retail (10.8 per cent), which together make up the top five loan recipients.