Peer-to-peer lender steps up its comms

The UK's largest 'peer to peer' lender has brought in PR help as it bids for a chunk of government money to boost lending to small businesses.

Funding: The Treasury is helping to fund alternative lenders
Funding: The Treasury is helping to fund alternative lenders

Funding Circle has hired Portland after a multi-agency pitch to support the firm's key positioning as an alternative to banks for investors and business borrowers.

The firm, established in mid-2010, brands itself as an 'online marketplace' bringing together a range of private lenders to loan money to small and growing businesses.

Over ten heavyweight agencies are thought to have responded to the brief. It is understood that the company narrowed its search to a two-way shortlist of Portland and Blue Rubicon, before selecting the Omnicom-owned agency.

Funding Circle previously used PR firm Brazil.

David de Koning, head of comms at Funding Circle, confirmed Portland's appointment, saying the agency had the 'right expertise to support the business as it continues its rapid growth'. De Koning joined the firm late last year from Fishburn Hedges.

Portland associate partner Adrian Warr commented: ‘Banking, like lots of mega-industries, is well due an overhaul. Necessity is the mother of invention and the pain of the economic downturn triggered the creation of this innovative business model to give rapid and convenient access to finance to companies that need it most.’

The news comes as the firm is looking to step up both its media profile and loan generation activity. At the end of May Funding Circle applied for a chunk of £100m in funding that the Government has earmarked for alternative lenders.

Funding Circle is applying for £30m to create an account to allow the Government to join other potential lenders in issuing loans to small firms.

Investors have lent more than £36m to small businesses through Funding Circle to date, with lenders receiving a gross yield of 8.5 per cent.

The Government has previously stressed the importance to the UK economy of growing small and medium enterprise (SME) lending, but UK banks narrowly missed lending targets for 2011 set out under the Government's Project Merlin initiative.

In February 2011 Portland was hired to work with the Business Finance Taskforce, a drive by the UK's six largest banks to improve relations with the SME sector. The brief lasted for less than a year as banks moved away from collective efforts to concentrate on their own campaigns.

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