Former chief executive of RBS’s UK Corporate Bank, Mark Catton, has been appointed as the new group chief executive of Henry Howard Finance Group, following a record-breaking year for the independent lender.

Mr Catton will take over from the current group CEO and co-founder Mark Crook, who has steered the business from an ambitious start-up to become one of the UK’s largest SME lenders. Mr Crook will remain on the board of directors, with a specific remit of looking at new growth opportunities for the group.

Last year alone, Henry Howard Finance provided £104m of asset-based finance to more than 8,000 businesses, in addition to a further £100m lending through invoice discounting facilities. Sales origination grew by 25% and almost half of new lending agreements were funded on HHF’s own balance sheet.

Reflecting on the recent successes of the business, Mark Crook said: “The growth across both our asset-based lending and invoice discounting divisions reflects our ability to identify and convert opportunities in the finance sector. Last year saw accelerated lending on our own balance sheet and we plan to feed our appetite for own-book lending as we look ahead.

“The last few years have been an incredible journey for HHF, as we transitioned from a finance brokerage to a fully fledged lender. This latest announcement represents an exciting new chapter, both for myself and for the Group, as we plan for the next phase of growth and investment.”

Mr Catton has more than 25 years of experience in financial services, including seven years at the helm of RBS’s UK corporate bank, as a Non-Executive Director of Direct Line Group Plc, and Managing Director at Barclays.

Commenting on his appointment, Mr Catton said: “Henry Howard Finance is already a success story. We’re supporting UK companies of all shapes and sizes and I am incredibly excited about the opportunities that lie ahead.

“The SME finance market has been through a tumultuous few years, but with the backing of investors like Cabot Square Capital and the British Business Bank, HHF has emerged as a serious player.’”