11/11/2011

Stormont Fillip Helps Bankers Aid NI Economy

Recessionary times are being addressed on many fronts by local banks - with Stormont also taking a leading role in encouraging bankers to be pro-active in aiding NI's economic recovery.

Increased activities by banks are happening in parallel with regular meetings between representatives of Northern Ireland's four main banks, the British Bankers' Association and Stormont's Finance Committee.

These are part of a continuing series of meetings with local politicians to discuss the global economic downturn's effects on Northern Ireland that first began in 2009.

Speaking after the first meeting, Eric Leenders, Executive Director, British Bankers' Association said: "We believe banks, politicians and business leaders in Northern Ireland are all committed to working together to steer the economy through this global downturn.

"Northern Ireland's banks are committed to supporting their customers, whether personal customers or businesses, throughout the downturn and sheltering the economy as far as possible from the global financial pressures coming to bear on us all."

He said that they had a constructive and helpful meeting with the Finance Committee, and with the First Minister and Deputy First Minister.

"We are committed to continuing this dialogue," he said, with many more such meetings taking place in the intervening period.

In terms of mortgages and in boosting smaller businesses and start-ups, the Ulster Bank - for example - has already accounted for the significant proportion of Co-Ownership mortgages in recent years taking over 80% of the market share with the aim being to allow customers to get a footing on the increasingly steep property ladder.

Derek Wilson, Ulster Bank's Head of Lending Products said: "Ulster Bank accounted for a significant proportion of new mortgage business in Northern Ireland in the past year, and we are reaffirming our commitment to the mortgage market by making our products more affordable," adding that it had completed almost 700 Co-Ownership mortgages since 2009.

"Uniquely, we offer the full range of mortgage products to Co-Ownership customers and until the end of November these are also available without mortgage arrangement fees," said Mr Wilson.

"Co-Ownership is a popular and important route into homeownership. It will also help the economy by supporting the wider housing sector and the many areas that benefit from increased housing market activity."

SMEs

The bank is also active on the business front, specifically in aiding small and medium enterprises, (SMEs) to utilise the Government's Enterprise Finance Guarantee scheme, which was set up to help small businesses.

Ulster Bank now accounts for over 80% of all lending in Northern Ireland through the scheme since its inception in November 2008.

One example is support for an 18th century pub in picturesque Donaghmore that has been converted into an impressive restaurant and gastro pub with support from Ulster Bank.

Four new full-time and ten part-time posts are being created as part of the investment near Dungannon, with further new jobs expected to follow in the months ahead.

Local couple Ciaran and Vicki McCausland have converted the former licensed premises in Co Tyrone into the new establishment, The Brewer's House with the help of funding from Ulster Bank's small and medium sized enterprise (SME) support package.

Ulster Bank Business Manager Mary O'Neill said: "Our SME package is focused on supporting entrepreneurs and business owners with good ideas and plans to invest for now and into the future, as well as to manage their cash flow needs.

"The Brewer's House is a unique offering, which we are confident will attract a wide range of clientele, including diners travelling from outside the local area. We are pleased to support this investment, and expect it to be a successful local business well into the future," she said.

Enterprise

Other banks are aiding economic growth in several different ways too, with initiatives, such as the Northern Bank's backing for the Northern Young Entrepreneur of the Year Awards 2011.

The winner, Ryan Daly was recently praised by both Kevin Kingston, the Northern's Managing Director of Business & Corporate Banking and the Stormont Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster who praised the creativity, flair and determination of Northern Ireland's young entrepreneurs.

The Minister was speaking at finals as Ryan Daly, 29, fought off stiff competition from seven other finalists to win the coveted award, sponsored by the Northern Bank.

Ryan started his company Daly Renewables, which designs, installs, commissions and provides maintenance for bespoke under floor heating and renewable energy systems, in August 2010.

(BMcC)

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