A NEW drive to help local companies to become first-time exporters has been launched by Lloyds Banking Group.

It has pledged to support 5,000 new Yorkshire exporters during 2016 as part of an effort to support the growth of small and medium sized firms and to help reverse the country’s widening trade deficit.

Lloyds aims to support 25,000 first time exporting firms by 2020 as part of the Government’s goal of helping 100,000 businesses start trading overseas through the Exporting is GREAT campaign, by the end of the decade.

The new commitment is part of the bank's 2016 SME Charter, 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.

Leigh Taylor, Lloyds Bank Yorkshire SME banking director, 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 Yorkshire 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.”

Lloyds has committed to invest £450 million in digital technology and training over the next three years to back its commitment.

This includes a new International Trade Portal to enable businesses to learn how to identify trade opportunities and operate globally and an internet business banking portal .

Lloyds also has a network of export specialists who help develop overseas trade opportunities for customers, provide specialist banking support and advise on the countries that customers are hoping to target. In addition, the bank has trained more than 300 staff across the UK in international trade.

They are working with specialists from UK Trade & Investment and a range of other organisations coaching businesses in how to capitalise on overseas trade opportunities.

Leigh Taylor added: “Successful exporting is no mean feat and that is why we are investing in both on-the-ground expertise and digital technology, in order to ensure that businesses have the backing they need to succeed.”

Trade minister Lord Price welcomed the move as a boost to the Government's commitment to getting more companies to export.

He said: " 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.”