Three themes for you: growth, productivity and access to finance. Actually, it is same theme. You cannot have one, without the other two. SMEs know this instinctively. Thankfully, politicians and policy makers are waking up to this fact as well. Therefore, despite the SME business community facing an uncertain present, there is, perhaps, a more positive future on the horizon.
The headlines, some would argue the whole bulletin, has been Brexit, Brexit, Brexit. A soap opera of morbid fascination is a better way to express it. However, if you can see through the pea souper, you can glimpse what many feel is a more vital and fundamental debate taking place. In the last 18 months, the government has published an Industrial Strategy, concluded a review of the provision of Patient Capital, begun to consider the flows (or trickles) of finance that are available to SMEs and started to attempt to solve the “productivity puzzle” which blights the UK economy. It has been encouraging to see that SMEs have begun to become central to these initiatives.
Newable has been at the heart of these policy work streams. You can access our response to the various consultations at www.newable.co.uk/reports. We have engaged directly with Treasury officials helping to shape the revised EIS regulations and have been invited to give evidence to Select Committee hearings. Additionally, we have met with Paul Uppal, the Small Business Commissioner. Throughout we have been consistent and passionate about connecting the dots. That growth, productivity and access to finance are the holy trinity. That government must act to “turn the taps on” with regards to access to finance if growth and productivity is going to be generated at a micro level. Economic prosperity at the macro level being the clear collective dividend.
The message seems to be getting through. The most recent government document is the Treasury Select Committee’s report into SME Finance, published in October. The report does not pull any punches. The first two paragraphs recognise what we already know:
“Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) form a hugely important part of the UK economy, accounting for 99.9 per cent of all private sector businesses and 60 per cent of all private sector employment. The effective provision of finance to the UK’s SMEs is therefore crucial for boosting the country’s economic performance.
Yet 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. Restoring that trust will enable the UK’s SME sector to act as an even greater growth engine for our economy.”
The report then goes on to lay bare serial and sometimes shocking and scandalous market dysfunctions. In addition, Iwoca noted in their submission to the Select Committee that the value of annual total lending approved for micro - and small business plunged by 38.7 per cent between 2013 and 2017, down to £7.2 billion. As part of that, the annual value of loans approved to micro- and small business dropped by a massive 40.2 per cent over the 4 years.
The situation, as the Committee sees is it, is that the “Golliaths” are both too big to fail and too big to be told to do the right thing. “While the fact that bank lending remains below pre-crisis levels may be cause for concern, the Committee accepts that a bank’s risk appetite, and thus its willingness to lend to SMEs, is a legitimate commercial decision.”
Having written off the banks, the Select Committee recognises that the “supply side” solution therefore lies is enabling, developing and sustaining an ecosystem of alternative finance products, services and providers. There is encouraging reference to some changes in the regulatory framework that government can bring forward to enable this.
However, a “demand side” issue also needs addressing. The report notes: “It is naive to expect all business owners to possess a detailed understanding of the various financing options available to them. For many, the demands of running a business will leave little time for building financial expertise and searching the market. This points to a need for concise and easily accessible information targeted at the non-expert seeker of finance.”
Three cheers then to the Business Funding Show that plays an important role bringing together the demand and supply sides of the equation. Newable is committed to not only talking the talk, but walking the walk. We are delighted to be sponsoring the Business Funding Show this year, helping to raise awareness of the range of financing options that are available to SMEs. We have also published an extensive primer explaining the how these options work and for whom they might be best suited. This is available at www.newable.co.uk/reports.
Newable is proud to be advancing as one of the key players in creating this alternative finance ecosystem for ambitious, growth orientated SMEs. We can help companies secure grant funding, tax credits and EIS equity investment. We are one of the leading issuers of Responsible Finance loans. We work with our clients to access asset finance, unlock cash tied up in unpaid invoices, and improve working capital positions. We have a thriving property development financing business. We can even help SME directors secure mortgages. It is our own SME financing ecosystem.
Newable’s purpose is to help SMEs thrive. Because if we are successful, the UK economy will be vibrant and, yes, we will grow our own profits. It is this ecosystem of alternative finance products, which Newable and others are creating, that will help get the gears of faster growth and improved productivity turning. That has to be a good thing for UK plc.
Do you wish to meet Newable in person and learn more about the services they offer? Come along to EU & UK's only funding show, The Business Funding Show '19 being held on February 21st at East Wintergarden. Book your tickets here