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Banks introduce business mentoring scheme

The UK's five largest banks have organised mentoring schemes aimed at helping smaller businesses grow and develop.

The scheme, which is being run by HSBC, Barclays, Lloyds, Royal bank of Scotland and Santander, is intended to help both start-us and existing firms that are looking to expand.

The plan is that the banks will draw on the skills and expertise of some 200 current and former bank managers who have volunteered to provide help and advice in such areas as finance and marketing.

It is hoped that the network of managers will be the catalyst for a much larger mentoring system capable of taking over from the Business Link centres which are due to shut down in the autumn.

The ambition of the Government is to have as many as 35,000 advisers in place, drawn from both the financial sector and trade bodies.

Mark Prisk, the Business Minister, said: "The mentoring is really replacing the 1,500 currently state paid advisers we have under Business Link by recognising that most SMEs what they look for in advice is not necessarily something from government, what they are looking for is someone who has been there and done it; someone who has solved that problem and they are looking for that practical advice.

"So working with the British Bankers' Association, the CBI and a lot of other business organisations and companies we are establishing this new mentoring network to substantially expand the business to business mentoring programme.

"It is more informal. It is not going to be something that is state paid, with all the problems that comes with that. It is about harnessing what I find with most business people: their enthusiasm to help other small businesses come up behind them."

"We are aiming over the coming 12 months - we will not have it from day one - to get up to 35,000, maybe 40,000 business to business mentors. That's many people who are doing this already but it is real business people actually helping other business people."

Businesses that wish to find a mentor can visit www.mentorsme.co.uk