An organisation to match investors to businesses in Wales seeking funding is being launched by the Wrexham-based Development Bank of Wales.
Neil Maguinness, the bank’s director of risk, compliance and legal development, revealed that Angels Invest Wales, a subsidiary of the bank, is going to be set up soon.
Mr Maguinness was giving an update of bank’s activities since it was launched last October at a meeting of Wrexham Business Professionals at the town’s Ramada Hotel.
The group is made up of successful businesses and highly skilled professional firms of solicitors, accountants and other business professionals working together to raise the profile of enterprise and expertise that exists in the region and beyond.
The other keynote speaker at the event was Chris Davies, a miner’s son from Wrexham who rose to become the boss of all the Disney stores across Europe, who gave an “inspirational” masterclass when he talked about his career and discussed the future of the retail sector in North Wales.
According to Mr Maguinness, the size of the North Wales team had doubled over the past year they were hoping to move into their new headquarters on Wrexham Technology Park in the summer, with the workforce increasing to 50 by 2023.
In the meantime, they had already increased the funds under their management to £130 million.
The next step was establishing the Angels Invest Wales and its network of investors.
Mr Maguinness said: “Angels Invest Wales will specialise in bringing Welsh businesses seeking funding together with high net worth individuals who themselves are seasoned and successful business people.
“Angels Invest Wales complements the equity funding the Development Bank already offers, helping to attract more investors both from within Wales and further afield.
“In addition to this, an exciting collaboration between Cardiff University, the Office for National Statistics and the Development Bank will see the launch of an independent research body in later this year.
“Economic Intelligence Wales will improve the supply and quality of Wales specific economic data through the publication of quarterly reports, the first of which will coincide with its launch.
“This will enable a better understanding of the dynamics of the Welsh economy and trends in the supply of and demand for finance by Welsh businesses.
“In turn, this will inform policy and funding initiatives so that the Development Bank’s activities remain centred around addressing the funding gap for businesses in Wales.”
Mr Maguinness also explained how the Development Bank of Wales had indirectly helped thousands of people own their own homes.
“As regards to the Help to Buy Scheme, we have 60 developers enrolled across North Wales and to date have helped 1,400 households purchase their homes.”
He said: “In terms of investment activity, in the last year the numbers of businesses we funded in North Wales nearly doubled compared to the year before.
“We pro-actively co-invest with the private sector so, our £16.9m was the catalyst for a total of £40m funding impact across North Wales last year, creating or safeguarding more than 1,000 jobs.
“The £100 million Wales Flexible Investment Fund is a generalist fund targeted at providing growth finance and was swiftly followed by an additional £30m for our Wales Property Fund.
“The Property Fund fills a gap in the market and provides funding, typically in the £500,000 to £2m range, to enable small and medium-sized property developers to undertake residential developments, supporting local trades in the process.
“Increasingly, these developers are enrolled on the Help to Buy scheme. So funds managed by the Development Bank are helping to unlock building plots for development, then helping home owners to purchase the houses built on them.
“The intention is that wherever possible our funds should be of an evergreen nature, where repayments can be recycled and support more businesses. The Property Fund is a fine example of this philosophy.
“The £30m additional funding here will be recycled at least nine times over its 15-year life, thereby providing around £300m of support to developers.”
Delegates also heard from Chris Davies, the former CEO of Disney Stores in Europe, Staples and HSS who is now an NSPCC ambassador.
Mr Davies gave his views on the current state of the retail sector in North Wales and emphasised that the rise of online shopping did not necessarily sound the death knell of the high street.
He said: “Indeed, the net brings huge opportunity to local businesses, who can now reach huge audiences at low cost.
If retail businesses put the right offer in the right place it will be successful. Retailers need to make their business a place where people really want to go to.
“It will be interesting to see how environmental issues play out. We have seen Iceland stores recently announce that they will no longer sell products using palm oil.
“Retailers need to understand that issues such as these now play a huge role with customers who want to see sustainability and ethical thinking. Retailers need to look ahead of the curve and turn these important issues into a virtue.”
Gill Kreft, chair of Wrexham Business Professionals thanked both Neil Maguinness and Chris Davies for their presentations.
She said: “When the Cabinet Secretary Ken Skates announced that there would be a Development Bank, he was very clear it would be a resource for all of Wales.
“We were all excited when he announced at a Wrexham Business Professionals meeting that the Bank would be headquartered in Wrexham and that our growing influence had given him the confidence to invest in the town.
“It’s wonderful to hear of the progress the bank has made in the past six months and the amount of money invested and the businesses helped. I have no doubt the bank is going to be a huge success and will support countless business across our region.
“Angels Invest Wales is a wonderful idea, and will no doubt add to the bank’s successes by plugging the investment gap between what the high street banks and the Development Bank can offer.”
She added: “It was also fascinating to hear Chris Davies’ views on the retail sector. Chris is passionate about listening to customers and that came across in his presentation.
“It was encouraging to hear that the inexorable rise of the internet can be embraced to bolster the fortunes of bricks and mortar retailers if they adopt an integrated clicks and bricks approach.
“After a business career spanning 40 years, 20 of which were as a MD or CEO, Chris is now devoting his time to voluntarily helping the NSPCC in North Wales which is a massive benefit to this important charity.
“His commitment is an example to us all and a reminder that business has a role to play in supporting our communities. Success in business is about so much more than the bottom line.”
To find out more about Wrexham Business Professionals visit www.wrexhambuisinessprofessionals.com