Dr Steve Walker, co-founder of ART Business Loans (ART) and Chief Executive since before its launch in 1997, has been named Responsible Finance Leader of the Year at the 2018 Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards.
The UK-wide awards, delivered in partnership by the trade association Responsible Finance and the Citi Foundation, celebrate the valuable work of responsible finance providers from around the UK, covering areas from growth and sustainability to society impact and resilience as well as leadership.
Dr Walker was recognised for his contribution to the growth of ART and the Responsible Finance sector, his passionate championing of access to finance for enterprise, and the impact that has had on the economy of the West Midlands over more than 20 years.
Well known and respected throughout the business finance sector, Steve worked at Barclays for 29 years before helping to establish ART. Since then he has served on a number of committees and task forces informing local, regional and national government policy on access to business finance. He was made a Doctor of the University of Birmingham in 2007 in recognition of his work as a champion of enterprise in the City.
Jennifer Tankard, Chief Executive of Responsible Finance, says: “Steve is warm hearted, enthusiastic and extremely knowledgeable about the sector – and has always been willing to share his expertise and lessons learnt with others in the UK and from around the world.”
ART client Brian Donnelly, Managing Director of Synapse, comments: “Steve understands business and genuinely wants to help. His approach is like that of the best bank managers from 20 years ago.”
Colleague Roz Haque, one of ART’s four Loans Managers, adds: “Steve is totally committed to the development of the responsible finance sector and has been the driving force behind the growth of ART over the last 20 years. He lives and breathes ART and access to business finance.”
Since launch, ART has lent over £24m to more than 1,000 businesses, enabling them to create or protect in excess of 7,000 jobs. Now based at Innovation Birmingham Campus, ART lends between £10,000 and £150,000 to viable business across the West Midlands that are unable to access any or all of the finance they need from the banks.
The seven-strong ART Business Loans team focuses its cultural ethos around targeting those who have been traditionally deprived of opportunities, including under 25s, over 45s, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups, women and disabled individuals. At least 75% of the businesses that ART lends to fall into these categories.
Dr Walker accepted his accolade at the Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards 2018 Dinner, held at Glasgow’s City Chambers on 20th March, in front of senior staff from the finance, banking, microenterprise and responsible finance industries. The event also highlighted the boost to business and entrepreneurial endeavour that the breadth of financial support from the responsible finance sector facilitates.
Commenting on the award, Dr Walker said:
“I am delighted to receive this award, especially as the passion to support access to responsible finance and the passion of the entrepreneurs we look to support has been so evident during the evening. Any viable business should be able to obtain the finance it needs to survive and grow. It is deeply satisfying to us at ART to be able to play our part in stimulating the creation and growth of a wide variety of exciting and innovative ventures, helping our borrowers to create or protect jobs in the process.”
Bob Annibale, Global Director, Citi Inclusive Finance and Community Development, said:
“Dr Walker, ART and the other winners in this year’s Citi Microentrepreneurship Awards are offering vital products and services to their local communities.”