A NEW local bank for Hampshire has taken an important step forward.

Hampshire Community Bank has completed a crucial exercise with regulators and welcomed a new executive management board member.

Bernd Grund joined the board as a director, having arrived from Germany to settle in Winchester. Mr Grund has successfully managed and developed a number of SME lending focused cooperative banks as executive director for well over a decade. He will focus on taking care of SME customers and their financing needs.

Prof Richard Werner, chairman of the board, said: “This visible strengthening of the executive team occurs at a time of significant progress with the establishment and mobilisation of the Community Bank."

In June 2020, the four-year authorisation process reached its culmination with the so-called Challenge Session stage with officials from the Prudential Regulatory Authority and the Financial Conduct Authority.

The regulators have been examining the bank's business plans and are satisfied everything is in order.

The banking team can proceed to submit its formal application for full authorisation. It is preparing to move into new headquarters on Eastgate Street.

Andreas Neukirch, who has been actively developing the bank during its formative stage since November 2018, was also appointed chief executive and managing director in May.

Meanwhile, the existing corporate customers of the bank, namely SMEs from Hampshire, are being supported in the Covid 19 lockdown to be able to continue their businesses. Even before the government announced its measures to grant payment holidays for borrowers, the Hampshire Community Bank had contacted its borrowers and offered such payment holidays.

Mr Grund, director of corporate business, said: “The Hampshire Community Bank will support the local economy and focus on the financing and recovery of local companies and job creation in Hampshire."

A programme to significantly step up local lending has been presented to stakeholders and the Community Bank expects to increase staff and lending capacity in the coming months.

The next important steps concern the authorisation process and local lending. Concerning authorisation, the team continues to engage closely with the regulators and after receipt of Authorisation with Restrictions will proceed to the Mobilisation Phase.

The current effects of lockdown and the consequent economic recession reinforce the relevance and vital importance of timely, direct, and personally focused bank support for SMEs, as the Community Bank is designed to deliver.

“We are proceeding well with the implementation of the IT systems, the training of staff and also preparing for the move of our headquarters to the new Community Bank building – Eastgate House, in 80 Eastgate Street”, said Mr Neukirch.