Acorn Financial Partners (AFP) has applied for a banking licence from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA).

The bank will initially focus on SMEs based in Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire. It intends to offer business deposits and secured SME lending products to owner-occupied companies and experienced property investors.

The company expects to secure the banking license in early 2017. If authorised, it will be headed by Jonathan Rowland as chairman, and Gary Wilkinson as CEO.

 “This is an ideal time to apply for a full banking licence; the major banks have not returned to anywhere near their pre-crisis business lending levels and the uncertainty caused by Brexit is likely to worsen the situation. At the same time, SMEs have shown a strong appetite for new market entrants offering competitive rates and superior customer service. Against this backdrop, we have a compelling opportunity to build a secure, robust and profitable bank,” Rowland said.

The majority shareholder of AFP is Acorn Global Investments, a company controlled by David and Jonathan Rowland, which will continue to be the majority shareholder in Redwood Bank.

The bank will also be backed by investors including Wildcat Capital Management, Rick Gerson, and David “Tiger” Williams. Existing and new shareholders are expected to infuse £50m in the bank over the next five years.

“I am certain that Redwood’s relationship-driven, agile and traditional approach, combined with straightforward and transparent products, will resonate among ambitious business owners seeking to grow over the coming years,” Wilkinson said.