RBS
Esme, which is developed by RBS’s in-house innovation lab will processes every step of the loan applicationReuters

Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) is launching "Esme", a digital site under its NatWest brand that will offer business loans within hours. The service will cater to small and medium-sized businesses, which will be able to avail loans even outside working hours.

As part of the initiative, RBS will provide up to £150,000 ($186,981) for small businesses, even to those that are not its customers. The loan will be given for a maximum period of five years, according to Financial Times.

Esme, which is developed by RBS's in-house innovation lab, will process every step of the loan application. This will include various stages such as credit scoring, "know your customer" and "anti-money laundering" requirements.

The move by the state-owned bank is said to be part of its efforts to digitise its operations and comes at a time when the bank is planning to cut costs in order to improve profits.

According to reports, the bank plans to reduce £800m in costs through job cuts and branch closures.

RBS is also trying to improve its relationship with small businesses following alleged wrongdoing in its restructuring division.

Commenting on the latest move, Alison Rose, CEO of RBS's corporate, commercial & private banking business said the launch of such a digital service was in response to the rise of similar "peer-to-peer" and other direct lending sites seen in the country.

"The last thing SMEs want is to spend hours filling in paper work, so this allows them to quickly complete a digital process. [SME lending] is a really big part of our engine of growth," she added.

Rose clarified that despite the bank's digitisation move, it will continue to give importance to its managers whose role is to support these SME businesses. "We know a relationship banker is so important if a company does get into distress. The relationship banker stays with them the whole way through," she was quoted as saying by the Financial Times.