Ex-chancellor Lord Hammond to chair UK fintech Railsr | BusinessNews

Lord Hammond of Runnymede, the former chancellor, is to take on the chairmanship of Railsr, a British-based fintech which was last year rescued from the brink of collapse.

Sky News has learned that Embedded Finance, Railsr’s parent company, will announce on Thursday that Lord Hammond will replace Rick Haythornthwaite, who is stepping down after being appointed chairman-designate of NatWest Group.

It will be the latest in a string of boardroom posts taken on by Lord Hammond since he left frontline politics.

He now chairs Copper Technologies, the cryptocurrency business, is a senior adviser at OakNorth Bank, and is a partner at the investment firm which owns Amey, the British outsourcer.

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A long-standing Conservative MP, he held several Cabinet posts, including foreign secretary, defense secretary and transport secretary.

Lord Hammond’s appointment at Railsr came months after it was saved by a consortium of investors following a swathe of regulatory difficulties.

Mr Haythornthwaite was himself parachuted in to stabilize the company’s finances and restore the confidence of regulators, a process which has now been largely completed.

Railsr provides banking-as-a-service and cards-as-a-service with offerings such as card issuing and virtual wallets, both

New business coalition aims to tackle poor UK productivity | BusinessNews

British Land, Microsoft and Vodafone are among the backers of a new business coalition that will launch this week with the aim of tackling the UK’s perennially weak productivity.

Sky News understands that the trio, along with Churchill Retirement Living, NHBC and Pension Insurance Corporation, are among the founding members of the Building Back Britain Commission (BBBC).

The group will be formally launched on Monday evening at an event attended by Labour’s shadow business secretary, Jonathan Reynolds.

It will be advised by Claire Ainsley, Sir Keir Starmer’s former policy chief.

People close to the group said it would seek to draw up a growth blueprint to be presented to the next government after this year’s general election.

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Its premise will be that a modern industrial strategy should target the eradication of Britain’s substantial regional disparities in economic growth and productivity.

Among the BBBC’s workstreams will be to identify barriers faced by local areas to attracting and retaining workers, and an examination of the range and quality of housing, transport and digital infrastructure across the country.

It will also assess the underlying drivers of productivity such as educational attainment, health

Debanking fears as over 140k business accounts closed | BusinessNews

MPs have raised concerns over the treatment of small businesses by major banks after figures showed more than 140,000 accounts were shut down by lenders over the past year.

As part of an inquiry into access to finance, the Treasury Committee gathered information from eight banks, including the so-called big four, on how many business accounts had been shut down.

The data showed that out of about 5.3 million accounts held by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), 141,620 were forcibly closed by banks – 2.7% of the total.

The banks – Barclays, HSBC, TSB, Lloyds, Santander, NatWest, Metro Bank and Handelsbanken – gave a variety of reasons.

Lloyds and NatWest were among those who cited concerns about financial crime and fraud while HSBC UK said that about two thirds of the more than 26,000 accounts it closed in the 12 months to the end of October were related to customers’ “financial viability”, or the accounts being dormant.

But the committee said it was concerned that banks were giving a range of reasons for readily closing down business accounts with little or no notice.

It highlighted that only three banks blamed “risk appetite” as a reason behind forced closures, with about