Friday 12 March 2021 10:43 am

Natwest winds down online lending platform Esme

Natwest’s foray into the fintech world has come to an abrupt end with the closure of its standalone SME lending platform Esme Loans. 

Esme launched in 2017 offering loans between £5,000 and £150,000 for small business customers. The terms were usually between between one and five years and backed by personal guarantees. 

Now the platform will close as first reported by AltFi News. In a statement on its website it said: “Esme Loans is being closed and is not accepting any new loan applications. Businesses that currently have a loan with us are not affected by this decision and are still able to log into their Dashboard as usual.” 

“The team will continue to service current clients and is always happy to speak to customers, brokers and partners to answer any questions.” 

Esme has been unable to withstand the impact of the pandemic as challengers like Funding Circle and Cashplus ramped up their capabilities during the crisis.

A spokesperson for Natwest said: “We are prioritising our investment spend across the bank on products and services that allow us to provide the best possible support for customers and colleagues.”

“After careful consideration, we have made the decision to wind down Esme Loans. The learnings that underpin Esme Loans will be integrated as we develop our ventures to better support our SME customers, who play such a crucial role in our economy.

As fintechs continue to lure customers away from the high street, the more established banks are closing their own digital offerings en masse. 

Last month Barclays quietly closed its mobile payments app Pingit a decade after its launch, according to Sifted. It followed the end of JP Morgan’s Finn, RBS’ Bo bank and Santander’s Asto.

Natwest’s digital account for the self-employed Mettle is still online and grew its customer base 120 per cent in the second half of 2020.

The bank recently reported it was pulling operations out of the Republic of Ireland after reporting a £351m loss. Despite the blow, the bank said it would pay out a dividend of 3p per share, after the Bank of England gave lenders the green light to resume investor pay-outs.