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Lloyds Banking Group has announced a new drive to help thousands of UK businesses become ‘first time’ exporters, as part of an effort to help support the growth of small and medium sized firms, and to help reverse the country’s widening trade deficit.

The Group’s new and ambitious export pledge will see it support 5,000 first time exporters during 2016, and a total of 25,000 by 2020 – a target which will help contribute towards the UK Government’s goal of helping 100,000 businesses start trading overseas, as part of its Exporting is GREAT campaign, by the end of the decade.

The new commitment is part of the Group’s 2016 SME Charter, published today, which also includes pledges to continue growing lending to small businesses; help a new generation of start-up businesses; and support small firms on their next phase of growth.

Gareth Oakley, managing director, SME Banking, Lloyds Banking Group, said: “The future success of the UK economy hinges on small businesses looking to overseas markets for growth. Through this new pledge, we want to support a new legion of UK exporters, and ultimately to help the UK economy to prosper.

“We have been working in partnership with UKTI for the past year, looking at ways to boost UK exports, and through this commitment we hope to contribute towards its goal of supporting 100,000 new exporters by 2020.”

The Group has committed to invest a total of £450 million in digital technology and training, over the coming three years, which will help support the commitment. Key developments will be a new International Trade Portal, through which businesses across the UK will be able to learn how to identify opportunities and operate across the globe; as well as a new Internet Banking portal for businesses.

Minister of State for Trade and Investment, Lord Price, said: This government has committed to having 100,000 more UK companies exporting by 2020 and this pledge by Lloyds is a welcome contribution towards this target. It’s great to see the banks doing their bit to support small and medium sized businesses looking to invest and create jobs. By working together like this we can make sure British businesses up and down the country have the support they need to export their goods and services around the world, and that the UK remains a great trading nation.”