Although Silicon Valley Bank has been lending in the UK since 2004, SVB launched its UK commercial banking branch more recently, just over a year ago. In a Q&A, Phil Cox, head of EMEA and India, and president of SVB’s UK branch, outlines the bank’s strategy within the UK and the innovation sector
Tell us a little bit about SVB, and its origins?
This year SVB is 30 years old and you can trace its origins from the days when early technology businesses were benefiting from the formation of specialist investor groups, many of whom went on to form the first venture capital firms. The founders of SVB had a plan that was simple – build a bank dedicated to technology businesses and their investors. From that point, the bank grew significantly, opening offices across the United States, covering the technology, life-science and cleantech space.
And more recently, you have expanded outside the US?
Our mission is to help entrepreneurs and innovative businesses succeed, no matter where they are in the world. The UK is an important geography for locally grown technology and life-science businesses, as well as those that are selling into, or managing, a part of their business in the UK. In addition, many of our US clients consider the UK is a gateway to Europe. The UK ticks many boxes for SVB – the ecosystem comprising of venture capital, private equity, technology, universities, entrepreneurs and, most importantly, government support for the sector is alive and well here.
How has the past year been in the UK for SVB?
It has been a terrific first year for the UK branch. We aim to differentiate ourselves on three key themes: niche, knowledge and network. We focus our efforts on building deep industry and technology knowledge, staying dedicated to the niche through the cycle and across markets, and we are able to bring to the UK ecosystem our global connections, relationships, and insights in order to help our clients succeed. We are attracting technology, life-science and cleantech businesses to switch their banking to SVB and, where possible, to work with us to help finance their businesses.
What is your target market in the UK?
Our approach in the UK is the same as in the US market. We seek to help businesses within our niche segments, from early stage right through to growth and large corporates. In terms of lending, we provide “venture” loans to early-stage businesses, through to growth capital, working capital, larger corporate facilities, buy-out financing and acquisitions for more established businesses. Over the years, we have been proud to have supported businesses such as Cisco, LinkedIn and, more recently, companies like MindCandy and Advanced Computer Software.
Do you have any plans beyond the UK for SVB in Europe?
Our lending model is very different from that of a traditional bank. We focus on the creation of enterprise value, stemming as it does from the underlying business model and/or technology, the management team, the investors and a deep understanding of the market in which the business operates. We see a broader European landscape as being attractive to SVB’s business model and plan to develop our business in that fashion and remain relevant to the pan-European investor base.
And finally, how does the UK shape up against the US? Can we build Silicon Valley here?
International markets tend to be dwarfed by the California market, by almost any measure. We say other markets need to embrace and learn from Silicon Valley, not seek to replicate it. That said, the UK and some other European centres are making exciting strides towards creating effective environments in which technology businesses can be formed, grow and be successful. We are here to help make that happen.