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SVB contagion: British arm shuts down, government scrambles and startups brace for the worst

Late Thursday night and Friday morning, the fallout from the US Silicon Valley Bank shutdown had reached the shores of the UK and Europe. Yesterday afternoon, the Bank of England applied for an injunction to place Silicon Valley Bank UK Limited – the UK arm of the US institution – in insolvency proceedings.

In a statement, the BoE said: “SVB UK has a limited presence in the UK and no critical functions supporting the financial system. In the meantime, the company will stop making payments or accepting deposits.” SVB UK confirmed it would go bankrupt from Sunday evening (tomorrow).

The move could affect as many as 30% of UK tech startups, with a possible 10%, industry sources estimate.

As of today, australiabusinessblog.com understands an influential group of British entrepreneurs and investors, aided by an industry association Codecis now making hasty protests at HM Treasury this weekend over the implications of the closure of SVB UK.

In addition, a group of VCs released the following statement, which reads: “SVB-UK is a trusted and valued partner of the entire innovation ecosystem that powers founders and the venture capital industry. It plays a vital role in supporting and funding start-ups in the UK. In the event that SVP-UK were purchased and appropriately capitalised, we would strongly support and encourage our portfolio companies to resume their banking relationships with them.”

Joint statement from British investors on the closure of SVB and VK

Joint statement from British investors on the closure of SVB and VK

Clearly, the UK Prime Minister’s office, 10 Downing Street, is working over the weekend to assess the impact on the tech industry.

Separately, some 210 (and counting) CEOs and founders of UK technology (employing an estimated 10,000 people) have written to the chancellor on the matter.

And in a groundbreaking development, Sky News reported that The Bank of London (TBOL) (a clearing bank) is reportedly looking at a rescue bid for SVB UK.

The US bank’s collapse came after it attempted to raise $2.25 billion to offset losses on sales of (primarily) US Treasury bonds, leading to a 60% share price collapse, with customers and investors subsequently flocking raced to clear their accounts. .

Until Friday morning, there was no clear threat to the British operation from the fallout in the US. SVB UK was legally and operationally a separate entity from the US branch. (SVB UK was granted a UK banking license in 2012, but became a UK independent bank in August 2022 and has 700 full-time employees).

In addition, following the 2008 financial crisis, all UK banks were required by law to separate core retail banking services from their investment and international banking activities under what is known as “ring-fencing”.

However, on Friday morning the Financial Times reported that SVB UK had sought £1.8bn of liquidity from the BoE, which can provide emergency funding to a bank, as long as it has sufficient collateral, through the BoE’s discount window facility.

Also on Friday, CEO SVB UK Erin Platts held a Zoom call with hundreds of UK investors and founders in attendance and said the UK bank’s deposits were segregated from the US entity.

However, Platt’s pleas failed to prevent panic over the events in the US from spreading among British VCs and tech founders.

The news spread like wildfire among UK tech WhatsApp groups, as SVB UK account holders started withdrawing funds from Thursday evening following the news in the US.

Just hours after Platt’s call, the BoE stepped in to shut down the bank’s operations.

While some investors australiabusinessblog.com spoke to said they had told their portfolio companies to “diversify” the number of bank accounts used by their companies, it was clear Friday afternoon that the vast majority had simply told companies to simply “get out” of SVB UK.

Hussein Kanji, co-founder of Hoxton Ventures (which has raised a total of $355 million across three funds) tweeted confirmation that they had advised portfolio companies to pull money out of SVB “because it’s a bank run”. Echoing comments by US VC Mark Suster about how panic among VCs had fueled the SVB crisis (and in a possible reference to the effect of the Streisand effect), kanji tweeted: “The law firms and other VCs caused the panic imho. There was no crisis before that.”

On Friday afternoon, Mark Tluszcz, CEO of Mangrove Capital Partners in Luxembourg (which raised a total of $819.2 million across five funds) tweeted: “If you don’t advise your companies to get the money out, then you’re not doing your job as a board member or as a shareholder. Daily life in startups is risky enough, don’t play with your lifeline…”

Under UK insolvency law, depositors are eligible for compensation of up to £85,000 ($102,000) for lost deposits. But of course there are hundreds of millions of pounds on SVB UK’s balance sheet from British founders and investors. In addition, SVB UK is often used as a payroll facility by many startups, as australiabusinessblog.com in the US has reported regarding startups there.


The situation could have a huge impact on the UK startup industry.

Matthew Clifford, co-founder of Entrepreneur first, tweeted that “there could be 300 UK startups next week struggling to meet payroll.”

On Friday, australiabusinessblog.com understands that several VC firms in Europe have told LPs not to send money through SVB UK.

And in the last 24 hours HM Treasury has circulated a note to distribute to tech companies asking for information on the estimated amount deposited at SVB UK, their cash burn and whether they are with SVB UK only or have access to other UK banks . facilities.

As the panic (there’s no other way to describe it) spread across the UK and European tech startup community, australiabusinessblog.com understands that several startups still have millions of pounds locked up in SVB UK. By Friday, many found they could only get some of their money out of the bank before the BoE closed the facility. And Silicon Valley Bank’s famously old-fashioned and clunky online banking platform didn’t help.

australiabusinessblog.com is monitoring the chatter among UK tech entrepreneurs, many of whom are now faced with the irony of being on WhatsApp groups where some entrepreneurs have managed to get their money out of SVB UK, escalating the bank run, while others that slowed down did not .

The symbiotic and perhaps too close relationship to the tech ecosystem that SVB UK represented has not been lost on some observers.

An entrepreneur I spoke to did not mince words:

“It’s completely screwed up. Yesterday some of the founders said, ‘Holy fuck, we have £900k in the bank.’ And the thing is, SVB makes it mandatory that you have to bank with them in the first place if you have a venture loan. It’s like a mafia, like a protection racket.


Already opposition MPs weigh in, with Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves respond on Twitter:

“This will be a real concern for many companies, including startups, in our country. The Chancellor urgently needs to assess the magnitude of the risks to UK businesses from the collapse of the SVB, and work with businesses to manage those risks.

And Labor MP Darren Jones tweet: “The government might decide that a minor banking crisis in the US resulting in bankrupt British companies and redundant tech workers is just the free market. Or the Prime Minister could be serious about Britain being a science and technology superpower.”


Encouraged by many VCs to close UK SVB bank accounts to receive their venture capital backed funding, many UK startups are now in a precarious position, their bank accounts now in limbo and inaccessible. If the BoE chooses to let SVB UK go bankrupt, it could create a huge, long-term funding vacuum for years to come.

The events could not have come at a more important time for the Conservative-led UK government as it has sought to push back the UK’s status as a European tech giant in the wake of Brexit and the loss of access to the Horizon 2030- programs of the EU. One recently announced Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, may not be enough if 30% of UK tech start-ups are wiped out.

Shreya has been with australiabusinessblog.com for 3 years, writing copy for client websites, blog posts, EDMs and other mediums to engage readers and encourage action. By collaborating with clients, our SEO manager and the wider australiabusinessblog.com, Shreya seeks to understand an audience before creating memorable, persuasive copy.

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