Katie Roberts has joined challenger business bank, Allica Bank, to spearhead the launch of its direct-to-SME offering in the Yorkshire region.

Her principal focus will be in supporting established SMEs in Yorkshire, where she has spent most of her 16 years’ banking and finance working life, and more specifically the cities and towns of Leeds, Sheffield, Rotherham, Barnsley and Wakefield.

The appointment is part of Allica’s Bank’s mission to ‘bring back the local relationship manager’ for established SMEs – those with around 10-100 employees, geared towards growth – a group that typically no longer meets the requirements of big banks to be offered a relationship manager with deep local knowledge and SME lending expertise. Alongside hiring local relationship managers, Allica has invested heavily in its technology to provide its SME customers with a quick and transparent banking experience.

“It is far from all doom and gloom out there for our region’s businesses,” says Katie. “In Sheffield, for instance, many SMEs in manufacturing, wholesale and distribution have adapted well and employment is buoyant.

“My immediate goal now is to embed myself back into our communities, talk to local businesses to understand the challenges they are facing right now, and explore how Allica can help them to thrive.”

According to data collated for Allica Bank by RFi Group, SMEs in Yorkshire are more positive than the national average about sales increases, improved cashflow, rental costs and the impact of legislative and regulatory changes.

“There are a good number of reasons for Yorkshire businesses to feel positive about the months and years to come, so it’s great to see this reflected in the recent data. Many are at a crossroads following the Covid crisis – but for a good proportion this is a positive crossroads, where expansion is a real possibility,” she says. “It is my job to ensure Yorkshire businesses have the finance and tailored expertise they need to achieve that growth, especially as government support begins to gradually be withdrawn.”

Allica Bank has seen strong growth in lending in the last year and plans to offer £500 million in committed SME loan offers this year.