Our History

History

BCRS Business Loans Limited was established by the local Co-operative Development Agency as the Black Country Reinvestment Society on 26 April 2002 and registered with the then Financial Services Authority as an Industrial and Provident Society, Register Number 29393R. We are now a Registered Society under the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act 2014 and renamed BCRS Business Loans Limited.

We were established as one of a number of new Community Development Finance Institutions (CDFIs) across the country as a result of a government policy initiative – now known as Responsible Finance Providers.

Initially established as a social enterprise lender covering predominantly the Black Country sub region of the West Midlands, BCRS soon expanded our offer to include micro-enterprises and subsequently small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) across the West Midlands.

In our early years, BCRS saw modest growth based around the provision of loans to small businesses, social enterprises and other organisations in the Black Country unable to access finance from traditional sources such as banks.

This was just the beginning…

From 2007 – 2010, BCRS experienced substantial growth with annual lending increasing to £2.3m across nearly 100 small businesses and a handful of social enterprises within the Black Country and Staffordshire. Individual loan values ranged from between £10,000 – £50,000.

Although BCRS had been successful in obtaining capital for on-lending from a variety of sources including Local Authorities, RDA, ERDF and Bank Loans to match fund capital grants we made a step change in the scale of capital acquisition with a bid to the Government͛s Regional Growth Fund (RGF). The Community Development Finance Association (CDFA), now known as Responsible Finance, had made a successful bid for £60 million and BCRS secured 20% of the Fund, £12 million, making BCRS the largest recipient in the sector.

By 2013, as the issue of access to finance had intensified following the global financial crisis, BCRS made £4.3m of loans in that year alone to almost 150 businesses across the West Midlands with loans available up to £100,000. This placed BCRS as one of the largest Responsible Finance Providers in the country providing over 65% of Responsible Finance lending across the West Midlands.

Additionally, our work was recognised through the Small Co-op – Big Achiever Award from Co-operatives UK.

In 2015 BCRS had its most successful year to date by lending more than £6.5 million.

2017 was an excellent year for BCRS. It began with confirmation that we had been successful in our Tender for the Midlands Engine Investment Fund (MEIF), which secured an additional £17 million to deliver to small businesses in the West Midlands over a 5-year period.

In the same year, not only did we receive recognition for the way in which we lead, manage and support our people by being accredited as an Investor in People, but we also became the first lender in the UK to be awarded the European Code of Good Conduct for Microcredit Provision.

In November 2017, BCRS was announced as the winner of the prestigious ‘Small Business of the Year’ award at the Black Country Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Awards Dinner.

In June 2018, we were delighted to be crowned ‘Small Business of the Year’ at the Nachural Summer Business Ball.

Later that year, BCRS secured £7.5 million from the Community Investment Enterprise Facility (CIEF), which was part of our aim to extend our support and leave no viable business unsupported.

Financial year 18/19 was a record year for BCRS, in which our lending surpassed £7.2 million.

In addition to the £7.2 million secured from CIEF, we then secured match-funding from one of Europe’s leading sustainable banks Triodos, creating a total fund worth £15 million.

In June 2019, we also our team grew from 18 to 20 members of staff.

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