First Trust Bank said it has handed back power to its branches to make decisions on lending to small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs). The move, which follows restructuring at the bank, comes as it launches a £50m Business Support Fund which it said will \'offer SMEs the support to meet viable business lending proposals\'. \"Our experienced branch teams will advise businesses on the various finance options that they can apply for, and guide them through the application process,\" Gerry McGinn, managing director of First Trust Bank said. \"This way we can ensure that local, timely and transparent decisions are made.\" The bank said the new fund is open to existing and new First Trust Bank customers and can be used for various purposes including the purchase of new machinery or business premises, working capital requirements or business expansion. \"Our Business Support Fund has been designed for local SMEs and aims to help them access the finance they need,\" Mr McGinn said. \"The future of the local economy depends on the growth of SMEs to generate employment opportunities and sustain growth. \"The newly opened Il Pirata restaurant in Ballyhackamore is a great example of how proprietor, Sam Spain, accessed the funding he required to develop his business through First Trust Bank. \"Sam is one of four SME customers that we\'re featuring in our new advertising campaign,\" Mr McGinn added.