OakNorth, the 'bank for entrepreneurs,' lent £300 million last year

OakNorth founders Rishi Kholsa, left, and Joel Perlman.OakNorthOakNorth founders Rishi Kholsa, left, and Joel Perlman.

LONDON — Entrepreneur-focused startup bank OakNorth lent £300 million to small businesses last year and is expecting to lend out at least £500 million in 2017.

OakNorth’s annual accounts, filed with Companies House this week, show the bank made net income from its lending of £7.1 million last year, up from £156,000 in 2015, its first year of operation.

Chairman Cyrus Adalan writes in the report: “In the six months following the Brexit vote, we were able to triple our loan book and increase our lending to strong businesses as larger banks retrenched from the markets.”

Notable deals include £19 million lent to healthy fast food chain LEON in August to fund expansion.

Adalan adds: “We continue to see strong demand from businesses across all sectors.” He says OakNorth has a “qualified pipeline” to lend a further £500 million. The bank had a gross loan book of £276 million at the end of December 2016 but OakNorth announced in April its loan book had already reached £450 million.

Pre-tax losses edged up slightly from £2.2 million to £2.4 million in 2016. However, the bank says it is already breaking even on a monthly basis and most of the losses come from investment into technology.

OakNorth became the first bank to host its systems entirely on the cloud last May and the company’s annual report details investment in machine learning and artificial intelligence projects to help with credit modelling and loan origination. The bank says it is working on a system to “better predict real estate selling and rental prices” and to “benchmark and predict performance of new borrowers in sectors such as restaurants and catering.”

Customer deposits, attracted through a savings account, jumped from £10.9 million to £202.3 million in 2016. The bank has raised £91.6 million in equity funding to date.

OakNorth’s cofounder and CEO Rishi Khosla writes in the company’s report that 2016 was a “phenomenal year” for the bank. “We have established ourselves as one of the the UK’s fastest growing financial services companies,” he writes.

Kholsa cofounded OakNorth in 2015 as a “bank for entrepreneurs, by entrepreneurs.” Kholsa and fellow cofounder Joel Perlman had previously cofounded Copal Amba, a research company for banks that was sold to Moody’s in 2014. Earlier this year tech-focused investment bank GP Bullhound named OakNorth as a fintech startup it believes could one day be worth over $US1 billion.

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