Coronavirus: Barclays sorry over emergency business loan 'issues'
7 May 2020, 11:28 | Updated: 7 May 2020, 16:42
Barclays has apologised to small businesses experiencing "issues" with applications for government-backed emergency loans.
The bank said it had approved more than 50,000 loans worth over £1.5bn since the "Bounce Back" scheme to support firms affected by the coronavirus crisis - 100% guaranteed by the government - was launched on Monday.
But it acknowledged concerns that the process was not working for some, after the Commons Treasury select committee wrote to the bank over continued reports of difficulties submitting applications.
Barclays said: "We're sorry that some customers are experiencing issues applying on our website and may be receiving an error message.
"We require additional information from these customers in order to complete their application and will shortly be updating our systems to give much clearer information on what we require from them in order to progress their application."
The apology came as the bank countered criticism on several fronts, including from protesters and investors challenging it on climate change, as it held its London AGM behind closed doors.
The government-backed Bounce Back scheme launched on Monday.
On that day, the bank said its portal had seen strong demand and that access was being limited to ensure safe delivery of the system, but denied there had been a technical failure.
Customers continued to complain of difficulties on Thursday.
One tweeted: "Struggling to log into my account to apply for the #bouncebackloan by #barclays. I have now been locked out. Is there any help with applying for the loan and the business call taking more than 2 hours wait!"
Barclays said most applications were straightforward and processed automatically but that in certain cases there would be a need for a manual check by a member of staff.
The wider banking sector has also been accused of dragging its feet on Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) payouts - announced by the chancellor in March.
The sums available are greater than under the Bounce Back scheme and lenders take 20% of the risk.
Industry body UK Finance reported on Thursday that over £5.5bn had gone out to small and medium-sized firms under CBILS - a rise of £1.4bn on the previous week.
Bank aid was one of several issues to emerge ahead of the Barclays AGM, which included a commitment to helping the fight against climate change.
Just hours earlier, the front of Barclays HQ in London's Canary Wharf was targeted by the Extinction Rebellion group, who sprayed what they called "fake oil" over windows.
They said it was in protest at the bank's financial support of energy and utility firms.
Chairman Nigel Higgins said in a statement ahead of the meeting: "The size and scale of our business means that we can really help accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy."
The AGM saw the board win overwhelming backing from investors for its commitments to tackle climate change while an alternative climate resolution put forward by campaign group Share Action was defeated - though still attracting a substantial 24% of votes.
Meanwhile, Mr Higgins expressed regret over the cancellation of the bank's dividend at the behest of the Bank of England.
He told investors the move had caused an "immediate and unwelcome" impact on shareholders, adding that the bank could have afforded the payout.
(c) Sky News 2020: Coronavirus: Barclays sorry over emergency business loan 'issues'