Barclays to create unicorn breeding ground in North
The newly appointed Northern head of TMT at Barclays may only be eight weeks into the job but he’s already set his sights high.
With a serious vision to begin taking tech companies from start-up to unicorn – a business valued at £1 billion or more – in the region within the next three to five years, it’s lucky the bank has a history steeped in innovation.
Despite the UK being dubbed the tech unicorn capital of Europe, only one of our 13 billion-dollar companies – eCommerce giant The Hut Group – is based in the North. However, Greg Doran, 20 years a banker and 14 of those at Barclays, is on a mission to change that.
“You sit back, run the numbers and set out your stall in terms of where you want the business to be when you leave,” he told BusinessCloud.
“I would love in the next 3-5 years to have businesses come into a Barclays branch with an idea, we take them through a high-growth and TMT proposition, they lean into us for venture debt and five years later it’s a billion-pound-valued business or done an IPO – that’s the Holy Grail.”
Doran succeeded Richard Faulkner, who left Barclays for a role at Silicon Valley Bank (SVB).
Doran’s confidence is well-placed, as he has the backing of a bank with a record of doing things differently over the last 25 years. For starters, it’s the only bank with a Northern TMT division.
“We also lend to tech businesses at an earlier stage than conventional banks,” he said. “We recently reviewed our portfolio and it’s bang on target. We’re lending to the right businesses and seeing great success stories.”
This innovative spirit is baked into the DNA of the organisation, with Doran acknowledging that legacy banks are getting left behind, in the same breath as explaining how Barclays is ensuring it doesn’t happen to them.
"We’re all on the same page at Barclays,” he said. “We need to stay relevant and have conversations across the region and sector, so from the top down the message is ‘get out there, understand the market and innovate’.
"I see us in pole position in terms of openness and am pretty comfortable that we will continue to stay relevant and be at the forefront of innovation in the medium to long term."
Practically speaking this also translates into bringing smaller, innovative businesses into the fold as well as investing in them, to ensure the company is constantly adding new blood into its offering.
Thanks to this, Doran sees the bank doubling in size within the next five years.
"We’re very keen to meet and understand those smaller businesses and are starting to bring some of them into our supply chain," he said.
"Our global IT centre is in Cheshire and our tech and procurement guys are reaching out into the marketplace and having conversations with new local companies to see if we can use some of them to innovate our business."
Alongside this, Doran’s team is launching a new Eagle Lab in Manchester’s Albert Square on 3rd September, to bring together tech businesses of all shapes and sizes from across the city.
"The North West, and particularly Manchester, is the leading light outside of London and from a Barclays’ viewpoint the infrastructure we have around the North in terms of tech is really market-leading," he said.