Accessing Mainstream Finance

Investigating the scale of the UK bank investment and lending to social sector organisations

About the project

‘Accessing Mainstream Finance’ is a Flip Finance project focussed on better understanding the availability of mainstream finance for social organisations and catalysing further opportunities. It is aimed at social enterprises and charities seeking finance, banks who want to serve the social sector better. It is needed because mainstream finance has the systems and scale to offer products and services that social investment, as it currently stands, cannot.


The story so far

‘Social investment’ continues to attract significant, and arguably disproportionate, rhetoric, policy focus, financial support and media coverage. Yet social investment is understood too inconsistently, narrowly and inaccurately.

In 2015, Flip team members David Floyd and Dan Gregory set out, using a ‘big data’ approach to establish more accurately the extent of bank lending to the social sector. We worked to give social sector organisations (including social enterprises and charities), policymakers, social investment experts and banks themselves a clearer picture of the role of banks in financing the UK’s social economy. We concluded, in a report for RBS – “Forest for the Trees: UK banks’ investment in a social purpose” (July 2016) – that total bank lending to social sector organisations could be around £3 billion.

Next steps

We hope this investigation into a too long forgotten area of activity data can provide greater clarity on the contribution which mainstream banks make to meeting demand for finance in the social sector.  We would like to see other banks publishing their data, and we would like to work further with banks and social sector organisations to help them do more to engage with each other about the relevance of ‘normal’ financial products and services.

Forest For The Trees in the press