Dutch insurance business Aegon has joined p2p platform Funding Circle as an investor, committing £160m (€176m) worth of loans to small businesses over the next 12 months.

The p2p platform said the investment will provide finance to 2,600 UK businesses in its first year and intends to extend the deal to a four year programme.

Funding Circle’s other investors include 65,000 individuals, local councils, the British Business Bank, the European Investment Bank, and other financial institutions. The p2p lender says that since it began it has facilitated more than £2.5bn of loans to 26,000 businesses in the UK.

Mike de Boer, chief financial officer of Aegon Bank, said: “Funding Circle allows small businesses to access much needed funding.

“This partnership gives Aegon access to attractive small business loans over the next four years, which helps to further diversify our investment portfolio.”

Samir Desai, chief executive officer and co-founder of Funding Circle said: “This partnership is a validation of the attractive risk-adjusted returns that are being generated to investors by lending through Funding Circle.

“We hope our joint programme with Aegon will develop to deliver increased lending to UK small businesses over the coming years.”