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The Redwood story – becoming a leading challenger bank

19/03/2020 15:55:51
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Since its 2017 inception, Redwood Bank has gone from strength to strength, despite enduring stiff competition from within the challenger bank arena.
In the last two and a half years it has employed a total of 80 new members of highly experienced staff, lent more than £200m and just recently celebrated its largest ever draw down of £5.8m.

Not to mention the countless award wins the Hertfordshire based challenger bank has picked up along the way, including the coveted Challenger Bank of the Year title and the SME Bank of the Year, at the ACQ5 Global Awards 2019.


In a very small amount of time, Redwood Bank has made a huge impression within Britain’s financial services, with its fast growth, dynamic team and loyal customer base.


Redwood Bank was launched with a view to offering a real alternative for small and medium-sized businesses looking to either expand their organisations or simply save for future growth, putting the customer at the forefront of everything it does. With customer satisfaction consistently at over 90 per cent, it is certainly doing just what it set out to do.


Going back to the beginning, the birth of the Bank happened at a time when the High Street banks were still struggling to get fully back on track after the 2008 crisis.


Redwood Bank opened for business in August 2017, just four months after securing its initial banking licence, and has continued to set new standards in the industry.


It became the first UK business bank to be fully cloud-based, with an innovative collaboration with Microsoft, and was the first UK bank to have its headquarters in Hertfordshire.


The Bank was founded by Jonathan Rowland and Gary Wilkinson to offer secured SME lending products to owner-occupied businesses, as well as to experienced commercial and residential property investors. It also provides business deposit accounts.


Redwood has a unique ownership. It is wholly owned by Redwood Financial Partners Ltd, a company controlled by Jonathan and David Rowland, in which Warrington Borough Council also has a 33 per cent stake.


At the time of launch, CEO Gary Wilkinson said: “As many traditional banks are hampered by poor lending practices from their past and their legacy systems, we are perfectly positioned to help British SMEs take advantage of property opportunities by offering a highly tailored service for clients that is built around our very experienced regional managers.”


Based at its Letchworth Garden City HQ, Redwood Bank set about creating a business that was not only acclaimed by industry professionals, but also by its own staff.



In 2018, the Bank’s first year in business, it won an impressive haul of awards which included:


· Banking Launch of the Year – Retail Banker International

· Bank of the Year: Best for SMEs – Wealth and Finance Global Excellence Awards

· Most Outstanding Commercial Mortgages Bank of the Year – Global Business Insight Awards

· Best Use of Cloud – Banking Technology Awards


In the same year, a survey completed by the Banking Standards Board ranked the Bank first on seven characteristics which were accountability, competence, openness, reliability, respect, responsiveness and shared purpose. Across the board, Redwood's scores were considerably higher than average and has continued to lead from the front, in an industry that is becoming increasingly competitive.


It has also stepped in to help businesses that have drawn a blank from the traditional banking route, for example coming to the rescue when the Gibilaro family wanted to expand their operations at Villa Nursery in Essex.


The blossoming nursery has a history dating back 50 years, with the family the sole growers of sugar drop tomatoes in the UK. Having secured major deals for the popular tomatoes with leading supermarkets, the family knew they needed to expand.


But in spite of their signed contracts, no High Street bank was willing to support them. With their frustration growing, the family made an appointment with Redwood Bank, who spotted the company’s potential immediately.


Redwood secured a facility in excess of £3.1million over 20-years on an amortising basis. They repaid the facilities held with other banks, helped to restructure the business internally to provide more security for the Gibilaro family, and raised funds to erect more glass houses, fulfilling the customer’s requirements.


The Bank has also made it part of its culture to support community businesses and activities. Last year the Bank sponsored the main stage at Letchworth Festival’s Park Live event, helping the ever-popular event to be even bigger and better than previous years.


Additionally, the Bank has also thrown its backing behind British Padel, one of the fastest growing UK sports, which has also received support from the Lawn Tennis Association. Its financial support has helped enthusiasts to be able to compete in the Redwood Bank National Club League 2019 and The Redwood Bank British Open 2019.


After launching with just 25 staff, the ambitious business bank now employs more than 80 banking specialists. Keeping true to its core values of simplicity, certainty, integrity and tirelessness, the team has executed its plans successfully and continues to grow the business.


Business is booming for Redwood and there is no indication that its speed of growth will slow any time soon. The secret behind the Bank’s success is its strong focus on keeping each and every customer happy, and its eagerness to ensure all staff are equally treated with respect and that they are content. A lot of time and effort is put into employee training and wellbeing, which has helped cultivate a strong and positive internal culture that is healthy and thriving.


CEO Gary Wilkinson said: “We have enjoyed an amazing journey since launching in 2017. We knew we had a business model that would work, and we have been delighted to see that it has done just that, and to see how well received it has been.


“We offer SMEs very viable alternatives to the traditional banks, and we are proud to see how quickly we have become established as a market leader.