UK’s tech startups given lifeline as Silicon Valley Bank inks HSBC deal
The collapse of the bank hit thousands of tech startups, many of them in the advertising industry.
Silicon Valley Bank collapsed in March 2023 / Adobe Stock
Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) has been a mainstay of tech investment since 1983. By focusing specifically on tech, it grew to be the 16th-largest bank in the US, with businesses such as Google, Meta, Roku, Roblox, Airbnb, Cisco, Fitbit, Pinterest and Square among its customers.
But last Friday, a run on the lender was sparked by fears over a multibillion-dollar shortfall on its balance sheet. The bank was subsequently closed and its assets seized by authorities. Since then, thousands of startups globally have been left unable to access accounts.
In order to quell market panic, the US government has stepped in to assure that companies with deposits SVB and Signature Bank would be made whole.
In the UK, the government struck a deal for HSBC to buy SVB’s UK operations for just £1. It is a lifeline for the tech sector after the Bank of England’s initial decision to place SVB UK into insolvency.
By some accounts, SVB had invested in up to half of the UK’s startup sector, with almost $7bn in deposits as of Friday and partnerships with 3,000 UK companies including StrideVC and Universal Quantum.
HSBC chief executive Noel Quinn said: “This acquisition makes excellent strategic sense for our business in the UK. It strengthens our commercial banking franchise and enhances our ability to serve innovative and fast-growing firms, including in the technology and life-science sectors, in the UK and internationally.”
The news was broadly welcomed by the startup community. UK and EU adtech and marketing adjacent companies, including Trustpilot, Zephyr and Kovai, have been breathing a sigh of relief this morning.
Rob Cossins, CEO of AI-powered data platform Scribe, says that HSBC acquiring SVB UK was an ”excellent outcome” for the UK tech ecosystem. ”Many UK technology companies were faced with existential risk, so I’m glad that all the relevant stakeholders appreciated the importance of protecting deposit-holders in the UK’s most innovative sector. Founders that were looking unable to pay wage bills this week are now protected and thousands of jobs have been saved.”
Thanks to @Jeremy_Hunt and your teams for safeguarding the startup and technology ecosystem in the UK when it mattered most.
I’d even argue that the UK’s solution is better than the US, where there’s limbo around who owns SVB and how it’ll continue.
Major moment to remember. https://t.co/mJiOb5Xykx— Nathan Benaich (@nathanbenaich) March 13, 2023
Some, however, have flagged that HSBC has made investments in fossil fuels since the Paris agreement that run counter to those startups’ own values.
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For the UK startup sector, the immediate danger has been resolved. However, many analysts now expect interest rates to rise on the collapse of SVB and Signature Bank and broader concerns about the resilience of other portfolios.
Insider Intelligence’s principal banking analyst Tiffani Montez comments: “Many tech startups are out of runway. SVB’s collapse will make additional funding even scarcer: VCs will become hyper-aware of startups’ cash burn and banks will raise lending costs. Without cash infusion through loans or investment, we expect more failures and acquisitions of startups that are already on life support.“