Enterprise Ireland and banks swap staff 'to speed up lending'


OFFICIALS FROM Enterprise Ireland and other development agencies are to be sent into the commercial lending sections of the banks to ease and increase the flow of money to small and medium-sized businesses, Minister for Enterprise Mary Coughlan said at the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly yesterday.

An exchange of personnel would also see bankers spending time in Enterprise Ireland, and other grant-aiding bodies so they could gain an understanding of the needs of businesses and the mechanisms by which they are assessed for grants, the Tánaiste said.

It is hoped that bankers will then look more favourably on clients seeking money and that the three parties, the development agencies, the businesses and the banks, will sit down together to evaluate projects.

Ms Coughlan said she met the banks recently to discuss the new initiative as SMEs (small and medium enterprises) and the Taoiseach’s stabilisation fund were the way the country was going to trade itself out of the recession.

“We are going to transfer some of the people from Enterprise Ireland into banks and vice versa, so there will be an appreciation by both sides and that we can strategically focus on enterprise and how we can support business . . .

“We are also setting up a clearing house where business people, the agencies and the banks will now come together . . . and deal with the difficulties people are having in accessing working capital.”

One of the issues they were working on, the Tánaiste said, was that the talents of many of those working in banks has been on one side and there had been a slight attrition from the expertise they have had.

“I know some of the banks have reorientated their own staff but in order . . . to look at the new initiatives that we all have in intellectual property and in high potential start-ups and looking at where we are going to have high value and most importantly where we are going to create new opportunities, in order to complement that work . . . Frank Ryan [of Enterprise Ireland] has indicated that he will provide staff for that.”