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Ulster Bank aiming to support women entrepreneurs

'We want to ensure Northern Ireland develops strong, female-led businesses, both now and in the longer term'

By Shauna Burns, Ulster Bank

At Ulster Bank, we believe that we are the best placed bank in Northern Ireland to support female enterprise. We have the capacity, the culture and the credentials that mark us out - helping us build local businesses and remove some of the barriers that stop women from starting out as entrepreneurs.

First and foremost, we've seen many great businesses over the past number of months approach us with innovative ideas for the £1.5bn we've made available for lending. Having the right funding available means that we can provide sustainable and practical support through our dedicated teams of branch-based business development managers.

Secondly, we work hard to provide additional support for female entrepreneurs through our Business Women Can programme. This successful initiative provides online and local support, which aims to offer help and understanding on the specific challenges to women starting, running or managing businesses - for example, we recently hosted a digital and social masterclass for 15 early stage entrepreneurs helping them understand how social media can help their business and to get them ahead. The programme is run with the support of programme ambassadors throughout the bank. Ulster Bank's Business Women Can ambassadors are trained and focused on understanding the products, services and practical support tools needed when starting or running a business and are committed to supporting businesswomen across Ireland. As an ambassador myself, I know how rewarding it is to participate in a scheme that tackles barriers, both real and perceived, that hamper entrepreneurship. No matter what stage you are at in your career, business challenges will exist, so an informed and informative network of like-minded people can be a real benefit for entrepreneurs.

Thirdly, we also take the time to celebrate successes through our Business Achievers Awards, which provide recognition across eight different categories. They're a way for companies to market themselves, and highlight the fantastic contributions made by members of staff. The women-led business category was introduced as a way of recognising and rewarding the many talented local female entrepreneurs across Ireland. Last year, the judge's special recognition award in Ulster Bank Business Achievers Awards went to Janet McCollum, chief executive of Moy Park, one of our most prominent local firms. The women-led business award went to Helen Arnold from outside broadcast company TVM. Although female entrepreneurs are well represented across all the categories, specific rewards and recognition are a useful and effective means of encouraging those who feel held back from starting their own business. Seeing those who have secured success and understanding why they are successful provides an ambition for individuals (of any gender) at an earlier stage in their plans for business growth.

A bank that's serious about entrepreneurship goes beyond products - it adopts the mindset of its customers to build their trust. We think that trust enables us to serve our customers better, to advise them in more intuitive ways, to help them meet their goals. Ulster Bank, along with our colleagues in Royal Bank of Scotland and NatWest, is aiming to be the number one bank for customer service, trust and advocacy by 2020. We're aiming to build that trust every day through business banking activity, and through our staff who provide guidance and services to many women. We can help support ambition because we understand our customers. We want to ensure that Northern Ireland develops many strong, female-led businesses, both now and in the longer term.

For more information on what's available to female entrepreneurs, you can visit

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