Small and medium enterprises are the life blood of the local economy in a post-industrial world, according to Ian Rand, CEO of Barclays Business Banking.

Mr Rand was recently in Newport meeting local business people at a special event hosted by the bank at the Geraint Thomas National Velodrome for Wales.

He said: "Gwent, like many other areas in the UK, has seen a reduction in the large manufacturing industries. These have been replaced by an increasing rise of SMEs. The challenge we have found in helping these new businesses is making sure there is the infrastructure in place to support that growth."

Mr Rand said the bank's Eagle Labs made an ideal base for fledgling businesses as they were somewhere not only providing business accommodation and services, but also connections between the businesses based at the labs.

The nearest one to Gwent is in Cardiff, although Mr Rand did say that there were plans to open more Eagle Labs across the UK in the future.

Barclays has a £14.5bn fund for SMEs and is one of the largest business lenders to business in the UK.

Mr Rand said once someone had a business plan and started their business, the bank was keen to speak to them to find out if they could help by giving financial backing if it was appropriate.

He said: "We as a bank are in local communities and we have probably the largest network of relationship managers in England and Wales. We can work with the businesses to find out what problems they may be encountering.

"We've found that one of the many problems faced by businesses is that they can't find enough skilled people to work in their business."

That has led Barclays to starting a life skills programme which helps young people still in school understand what sort of skills they will need for the world outside of school.

Mr Rand said another thing the bank can help with is giving someone the confidence to take the plunge and start up a business.

"Nowadays, for example, you don't need to have a premises before you launch your business. You can do it online if your business idea is suited to that. We teach young people how to start a business through the life skills programme by bringing in people people who have done it."

Mr Rand's visit also culminated in a business banking panel event at the Celtic Manor Resort hosted by Barclays for more than 100 local SMEs to exchange views, share concerns and network over drinks and dinner.