Belfast Telegraph

Hampshire Trust could float on stock market 'when conditions right'

Hampshire Trust Bank is likely to join fellow challengers in embarking on a stock market flotation, but only when the time is right, chief executive Mark Sismey-Durrant has said.

The lender is 99% owned by private equity firm Alchemy, and Mr Sismey-Durrant said that the most likely exit route for the firm will be an initial public offering (IPO).

Speaking to the Press Association, he said: "Alchemy would consider an IPO when the business reaches the right scale and profitability, and when the market conditions are right.

"We've cracked it in terms of being profitable, where a lot of the other challengers haven't, so we're well positioned. All options will be considered, but an IPO would be the most likely root that Alchemy would take to exit."

A flotation would see Hampshire Trust join the likes of Metro Bank and Aldermore, which have also embarked on stock market listings as challenger banks continue to make inroads into a market dominated by Lloyds, HSBC, Barclays and RBS.

Hampshire Trust, which focuses on lending to small and medium-sized businesses, reported strong growth last year.

Its total assets increased fourfold to £243 million, compared to £57 million at the end of 2014. Customer deposits rocketed 800 per cent, from £23 million to £189 million.

The chief executive added: "This year, we'll continue to focus on the SME market, property development finance to housebuilders, and also do more commercial mortgage lending.

"Specialists and challengers position themselves differently to the big banks, and we don't expect to do things wrong, we do things properly. Big banks have de-skilled in their branches, whereas we have a very skilled team, and customers appreciate that."

Hampshire Trust also plans to launch an online savings platform and grow staff numbers from 100 to 150 by the end of the year.

On Brexit, Mr Sismey-Durrant said that leaving the EU would have an impact on the business.

"The uncertainty so far hasn't had an impact on our business, and I don't think we'll leave the EU, but if we do leave then it will have an impact," he said.

Referring to the possibility of a flotation, Mr Sismey-Durrant added that "there are no immediate plans for an IPO, and it is just one of the options open to us".