SVB applies to FSA for bank licence

SILICON Valley Bank (SVB), the US lender that backed the Twitter social networking phenomenon, has filed an application for a UK banking licence in an attempt to ramp up its operations on this side of the Atlantic.

SVB yesterday handed its official application to the Financial Services Authority, a month after it emerged that the bank was considering the move. The regulator usually takes around six months to deliver its verdict on such applications, though that can extend to a year under some circumstances.

SVB already has a small subsidiary in Mayfair, which is led by Phil Cox, responsible for the group’s operations in the Europe, Middle East and Africa region. Prior to joining SVB in August last year, Cox was head of commercial banking at Bank of Scotland in London.

If the group’s application meets with FSA approval, SVB plans to open its first branch in London next year, focusing on serving small to medium-sized businesses.

The bank, which specifically focuses on the technology and life sciences sector, is one of a clutch of firms aiming to break into the UK lending market following a pledge from ministers to open up the sector to more competition.

Other names in the fray include Walton & Co, set up by Panmure Gordon banking analyst Sandy Chen, and private equity firm Blackstone, which is thought to have applied for a licence at the start of the year as part of plans for a venture known as the Home and Savings Bank.

The SVB Financial Group is based in Santa Clara, California. It currently operates through 27 offices in the US and five internationally.