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Financial Journalist of the Year: Runner-up

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Bounce-Back Loans and Boxing?

Aisha Ali, St Anne’s Catholic High School for Girls

The Apprentice is a British game-style show, where a group of businesspeople compete in a
series of business-related challenges in order to win investment from Alan Sugar. This year
marks the 17th series, and 18 candidates, from various areas of the UK took part.

Marnie Swindells, 28, is the winner of the Apprentice 2023. Over the last 12 weeks, she has
fought to secure a £250,000 cash injection into her business from Alan Sugar, (‘one of the
world’s best entrepreneurs’ – according to Karren Brady).

However, she now faces a potential investigation, after it became known, that her company
received a bounce-back loan, even though her business may not have fit the eligibility
criteria.

In 2020, the government introduced the bounce-back loan scheme to aid suffering
businesses during the COVID-19 lockdown. The scheme allowed small and medium-sized
businesses to borrow up to £50,000 at a low interest rate, with repayments starting 12
months after receiving the loan. The bounce-back loans were not to be used for personal
purposes; however, they could be used to purchase assets if this provided economic benefit
to the company.

The eligibility criteria for a bounce-back loan clearly states that the company/business must
be engaging in trading or commercial activity at the time of trading. However, Marnie
Swindells received a loan of £50,000 for her company Bronx Boxing Limited in July 2020,
though she had no financial turnover for that year, and the following year. Bronx Boxing
Limited officially opened in February of 2023 at its premises in South London. Therefore, the
question of whether Ms. Swindells provided false or misleading information in order to
obtain the loan remains.

At present, there has not been much communication regarding this from Marnie herself, but
a spokesperson for Ms. Swindells has said that “It is categorically untrue to imply there has
been any wrongdoing regarding a bounce back loan application. All the criteria required
were met, the loan was completed correctly and is being paid back in full as per the terms of
the agreement.”

There has been a lot of controversy surrounding the bounce-back loan scheme, and the
frequency of companies abusing it. Although the government did warn of the possibility of
being disqualified as a director for your company if it was found that there was misconduct
in the use of the loan, it does seem like it hasn’t been an effective threat.

According to MPs, the poor implementation of the scheme has resulted in 407 directors, as
of this moment, being disqualified. Furthermore, it is believed that the scheme could end up
costing taxpayers over £20 billion in fraud or credit losses.

So, while Marnie Swindells may have come out of the Apprentice ring as a winner, she may
not win this particular boxing match. But as she has showcased, whilst being on the show,
she is one heck of a fighter!

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