Many mainstream UK bank branches used to employ relationship managers. For large numbers of SMEs, the relationship they have with their bank is not a good one, to the point where many business owners have no one to talk to on the high street.
The main issues are a lack of flexibility, a too-narrow range of loan solutions and a general failure on the part of the banks to communicate effectively.
Rick Flay, director of Blue Bull Finance, points out, that, “SMEs could be forgiven for thinking that the big banks don’t want to lend to them. There have been signs that the relationship between retail banks and SMEs is weakening.”
If this is the case, what alternatives can SMEs turn to for funding?
A 2018 House of Commons Treasury Committee report on SME Finance states that:
The dark clouds of past misconduct still hang heavy over the SME finance market, undoubtedly weighing down on SMEs’ trust in the financial institutions that serve them.
At the same time, it notes that SMEs form an important part of the UK economy, accounting for 99.9% of all private sector businesses, and 60% of all employment in this sector.
“SMEs are the bedrock of the economy, and they need and deserve support to grow and thrive.”
“Despite many banks focusing on developing relationships with business customers, there is a persistent perception among SMEs that they are unlikely to get external finance should they apply for it”
“The report states that many businesses have an expectation that they would be turned down, and so don’t apply in the first place.”
“While there is a need to challenge this mindset, there is also evidence that banks are continuing to fail them, when it comes to funding.”
“Banks will often offer loans, but with enough strings attached to make it difficult for SMEs to carry their plans through. Since the financial crisis, banks have tried to cut costs and improve their balance sheets, but this can come into direct conflict with the concept of them putting relationships first.”
Exploring the Alternatives
The UK market for financing options for SMEs is, in fact, a strong one, with a wide range of funding solutions available.
“The issue is one of raising awareness among SMEs, so they don’t simply think the only solution is an overdraft or loan, and if they can’t get that through their bank, then they abandon their plans.”
The Treasury Committee report notes that this lack of understanding is especially prevalent with companies that are at a very early stage in their development.
Making Alternatives Accessible
SMEs may not have the time or resources to research their funding options, and even if they did, they may still not be clear which options would best suit them.
The solution that Blue Bull Finance offers is a kind of one-stop shop for funding solutions, advice and support.
“The idea is that you build a relationship with the client, the kind that they might not be getting from their bank, and then tailor solutions and suggestions to fit their specific requirements”
“Businesses can be very individual, and they need the flexibility of choice, and they need to be able to trust the advice they’re given.”
Blue Bull Finance has access to over 150 lenders, and can offer SMEs a wide range of alternative funding solutions, including:
- Invoice factoring
- Working capital
- Start-up and early stage finance
- Unsecured loans
- Asset based lending
- Import and export trade finance
- Peer to peer lending