Case Study

Silicon Valley Bank, serving innovation companies and their investors around the world

Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) is a global commercial bank serving innovation companies and their investors around the world. With its headquarters in California, SVB provides a broad suite of services from bank accounts and foreign exchange through to specialist lending facilities via its global network and platform.

We spoke to Erin Platts, head of EMEA and President of the UK Branch of Silicon Valley Bank, about the bank's global ambitions and the importance of the UK's thriving innovation sector.

What does your company do?

We are a commercial bank exclusively focused on the innovation economy from early stage start-ups through to public and private corporates and everything in between. The other part of our business is working with the venture capital and private funds that invest in innovation and outside of it. We are really at the centre of the innovation ecosystem offering a wide range of banking services from current accounts, foreign exchange, cash management and payments integration to a full suite of innovative lending facilities to both companies and funds. We are fortunate to work with some of the world’s most innovative companies and funds such as Collibra, Trustpilot, Graphcore, Mimecast, FarFetch, WorldRemit, Index Ventures, Accel and Atomico to name a few.

We are uniquely placed to understand the challenges and opportunities that our clients face but also add value along the way. We are often introducing our clients to sources of talent and capital, as well as to each other, where relevant, in order to help foster cross-innovation partnerships. Interestingly, we are connecting our later stage portfolio companies who are increasingly acquisitive to our earlier stage companies more and more frequently.

Tell us about your UK and global operations.

SVB was started in Silicon Valley in the early 1980s. We now have over 4,500 employees globally and are listed on Nasdaq. We now have Branches in the UK and Germany, smaller representative and business development offices in Israel, Ireland and Denmark and now around 400 people across EMEA. SVB also have a number of offices in Asia as well as a joint venture with Shanghai Pudong Development Bank, a nationwide commercial bank.”

The UK is our main hub in the EMEA region and was the first formal international outpost of Silicon Valley Bank. Back in 2005, we found an increasing amount of our clients were using the UK as a jumping off point to cover broader European expansion and several of our US venture capital and private equity clients were starting to do more investments in the region. Since then the activity across the board has increased substantially and the market is really going from strength to strength.

The quality of the universities in the UK are attracting talent globally and increasingly creating the environment to foster innovation. That is a really positive thing as we see so many start-ups spin out from British universities

Why is the UK an important market for you?

The systemic maturity that we have seen across the UK has just been tremendous. We've got amazing universities creating fantastic innovation. We're starting to see multiple repeat entrepreneurs. The exit environment is looking increasingly positive both on the M&A and the IPO fronts. The innovation fly wheel is really turning and firing on all cylinders.

The UK also has a great reputation from a regulatory perspective. The UK is seen as a robust, grown up, regulatory and governance environment. So if you have a successful fintech coming out of the UK that is seen as a badge of quality.

Access to talent globally is the number one issue that our clients raise with us every single year in our Start-up Outlook Survey. The UK currently is in a very strong position to attract and retain talent. The quality of the universities in the UK are attracting talent globally and increasingly creating the environment to foster innovation. That is a really positive thing as we see so many start-ups spin out from British universities. However we must continue to focus on ensuring that the UK remains a hub for talent to fuel innovation at every stage.

Finally, the last five years has seen quite a seismic shift in terms of the domestic capital available in the UK - not just from a venture capital and private equity point of view - but also from a corporate perspective and Limited Partner (LP) appetite. Having the ability to raise and deploy domestic capital has been hugely critical. While we have made great progress there still is more work to do in the later stage part of the market.

The UK is our main hub in the EMEA region and was the first formal international outpost of Silicon Valley Bank. We found an increasing amount of our clients were using the UK as a jumping off point to cover broader European expansion

What are your company's growth ambitions and how does the UK feature in these?

We have seen a tremendous resilience across tech and innovation through Covid-19. From our perspective, we want to continue to invest in our platform, people and our market presence to keep up with what will continue to be a growing market globally. This is not just about banking and lending. It's really about adding value beyond transactions so that we can continue to provide differentiated service to our clients and increase their probability of success.

We will continue to look at other geographies as they gain momentum and build out our product suite globally. The UK is an absolute core strategic market for SVB and we are investing heavily in our team on the ground in the UK. In the UK, we hired 65 people in 2020 and we are looking to continue to invest in our team this year. We will continue to use the UK as our core in EMEA but we definitely want to continue to expand our reach geographically over time.

Related content