A former high yield boss at Barclays has launched a bank dedicated to lending cash to hard pressed farmers.
Frank Sekula, who was head of high yield capital markets at Barclays from 1998 to 2003, has teamed up with former BNP Paribas agricultural specialist Matthew Smart to launch the lender, named AgriBank.
The bank will lend exclusively to UK farmers and agribusinesses, offering 'competitive' tailored packages to finance agricultural machinery and equipment.
It will also target savers with a range of fixed-term, low-risk, guaranteed-rate bonds, offering interest rates that are currently up to 3.6%.
'UK agribusiness is at the centre of our activities because we know the sector well and it’s relatively low risk. We plan to operate a traditional banking model by taking deposits and lending them to farmers whom we know will pay them back, Sekula said in a statement.
'Our aim is to offer savers more competitive rates than are currently offered by banks by focussing solely on the sector that we know best and being very efficient at delivering our services.'
The bank will use specialist brokers in the UK to provide agricultural funding to farmers, while savings products will be distributed largely via online intermediaries.
Sekula (below), who also had a spell as head of recapitalisation and restructuring at Jefferies, has in insight into the difficulties facing farmers from his family's experience of running an arable farm in the Cotswolds.
Meanwhile, Smart has spent the last 12 years running Eastern Counties Finance, the broker and agricultural risk manager he founded which has lent more than £400 million to the agricultural community during its existence. His family run a mixed arable and livestock farm on the edge of the Cambridgeshire fens.
Sekula underlined the rationale for the launch: 'UK farm borrowing rose by almost 9% last year according to the latest Bank of England figures, but farmers face a number of issues financing the purchase of machinery and equipment because many banks have reduced their allocation of capital to the sector.
'Farming has always been an important component of British culture, preserving and cultivating rural communities. UK farmers need help to invest in mission-critical machinery and equipment to stay at the forefront of their industry, and demand for finance currently outstrips supply. AgriBank was created to help fill this void, enabling UK farmers to grow their businesses.'
AgriBank holds a European banking licence issued by the Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA) and has been approved to offer banking services in the UK by the FSA.
Malta will be the home for the bank's head office and will be run by former Central Bank of Malta member Roderick Psaila and ex KPMG employee Paul Grech, who will serve as chief financial officer.
AgriBank’s non-executive directors include the ex-director of the Central Bank of Malta Joe Borg, who will serve as chairman and Victor Rizzo Giusti, who has 35 years’ experience with Barclays, HSBC, Lombard and Volksbank.