With over £2.2bn of qualified SME loans in the pipeline, OakNorth Bank expands debt finance team and opens Birmingham office to support businesses in the Midlands

  • Despite the general election being less than a week away and ongoing Brexit uncertainty, British businesses are clearly still keen to borrow and pursue their growth plans;
  • In response to this and its over £2bn lending pipeline, the bank is once again expanding its debt finance team with four new hires;
  • Steve Mitchell and Marcus Hook will be based out of the bank’s newly-opened Birmingham office (WeWork, 55 Colmore Row) aimed at supporting SMEs in the Midlands;
  • Martin Williams will be based out of London and Chris Mears will join Tom Windett in the bank’s Bristol hub which was launched in April.


OakNorth Bank – the UK bank powered by OakNorth – is continuing to expand its regional footprint with four new senior hires and the opening of an office in Birmingham. The news follows an announcement earlier this year which saw the bank appoint a handful of debt finance directors, including Dave Rowlinson and Chris Swarbrick to oversee lending operations out of its Manchester office. Since then, the Manchester lending team has grown to five people, with several transactions being led by the team, including loans to Casa Italia, the Italian family-run restaurant in Liverpool, and Security Plus, Europe’s largest independent and family owned volume cash carrier.

With market punters predicting an impending economic downturn, the expectation from many is that business demand for borrowing is drying up. However, with over £2bn of qualified deals in the pipeline and more than £70m of transactions completed in November, OakNorth Bank still sees reason to be optimistic.

Steve Mitchell who spent more than six years at Santander will be accompanied by his former colleague, Marcus Hook, to spearhead lending operations out of the newly-opened Birmingham office. Meanwhile, Martin Williams, who has more than 35 years’ banking experience, will join the bank’s HQ in London, while Chris Mears will join Tom Windett in Bristol to help cover the South West. Chris has more than 16 years’ experience working across Clydesdale Bank, Barclays, HSBC and most recently, Santander.

Ben Barbanel, Head of Debt Finance at OakNorth Bank, said: “The launch of our Birmingham office and senior-level hires come at a pivotal moment for OakNorth Bank as we look ahead to 2020 and the future lending pipeline. While we are of course being more cautious when it comes to assessing credit risk, we see the next six months as a key opportunity to not only prove the strength of our proposition, but to also gain market share at a time when many of the high-street lenders will be pulling back. As the second largest city in England and home to almost 23,000 SMEs[1], Birmingham is an ideal place for us to expand our regional footprint. There are so many brilliant businesses across the Midlands who, just like us, will find opportunity at a time when many of their peers will be putting growth plans on hold. With the help of Marcus, Chris, Steve and Martin, we can take advantage of this further push into the regions and support even more businesses across the UK.”

[1] https://www.business-live.co.uk/enterprise/smes-thriving-west-midlands-says-16994075

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