Sky News has learnt that bankers at Rothschild have been engaged to explore a sale of Cambridge & Counties Bank (CCB), which specialises in secured lending and deposit products for small and medium-sized business customers.
The bank is jointly owned by Trinity Hall and Cambridgeshire Local Government Pension Fund, and has seen strong growth in its lending and deposit-taking activities.
Sources said that Rothschild was working on a review of strategic options for the shareholders, with a sale process next year a likely next step.
They added that CCB could be valued at between £250m and £300m.
An auction would deliver a substantial windfall to Trinity Hall, the history of which dates back to 1350, when it was founded by Bishop Bateman of Norwich – making it the university’s fifth-oldest surviving college.
The Cambridge college also benefited this year from CCB’s maiden dividend payment on the back of strong results.
CCB said in March that its balance sheet had grown from £746m to £879m and that pre-tax profit in 2017 had soared by 35% to £24.4m.
Mike Kirsopp, the bank’s chief executive, said at the time: “We have created a unique proposition in the niche markets we operate in that is based around elevated levels of personalised service combined with the speed, efficiency and know-how that is needed in today’s modern world.
“We enjoyed another year of impressive growth in 2017, and although there are clearly risks in the marketplace, we remain optimistic for the future.”
Mr Kirsopp added that the full implications of the UK’s departure from the EU would “not be known for around four years” but that CCB had not seen “any significant impact on our markets or business”.
Launched in 2012, CCB is one of smaller SME-focused banks which have launched in the decade since the financial crisis, with a number, such as Shawbrook, raising money by listing on the public markets.
In a statement issued to Sky News on Wednesday, a spokesman for CCB said:
“There are no immediate plans to sell the bank, but the board, as it has since its launch in 2012, continues to look at all strategic options for the bank’s long-term development.”