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Businesses turn to alternative money trees as big bank lending stalls

Smaller businesses are turning to alternative ways of financing in much larger numbers than five years ago, as traditional lending flatlines, according to a new report.

Marketplace business lending, which used to be called peer-to-peer, is now providing more than £2 billion a year to British small and medium sized businesses (SMEs), the British Business Bank said.

It is a 374% rise since 2014, the year the bank was set up by the government.

Meanwhile equity finance, providing money in exchange for a stake, has jumped by 131% over the same period.

Since it was set up the Business Bank has provided support to success stories such as cybersecurity outfit Mimecast, and fintech firms Transferwise and Revolut.

Earlier this week Revolut announced it had raised another 500 million US dollars (£387 million), giving the business a valuation of around £4.3 billion.

But while alternative financing has boomed in the last five years, gross lending from major banks to smaller businesses has remained largely flat, growing just 1.2% in real terms.

Gross bank lending reached £56.7 billion last year.

In 2014 it was £53 billion.

Last year 52% of smaller businesses that wanted financing looked beyond the Big Five banks, according to the research.

There is evidence that the flatline in traditional lending is due to demand from businesses drying up, British Business Bank chief executive Keith Morgan told the PA news agency.

More than 70% of them say that they would be willing to forego some future growth rather than take more loans.

Mr Morgan said that small business confidence seems to have rebounded in recent months.

“We are seeing some indication that confidence has rebounded given the additional clarity that is now present with the outcome of the general election and the increased understanding of the course with respect to Europe,” Mr Morgan said.

However it is too early to say whether that will increase demand for finance, he added.

Business Minister Paul Scully said: “Finance for small businesses is essential to our goal of making the UK the best place in the world to start and grow a business.

“This report will shape our support for business leaders across the country, so they can drive innovation and growth.”

By August Graham

Source: Yahoo Finance UK

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Fears for SME retailers as banks cut lending

Bank lending to small and medium-sized retailers has fallen by 6% since the 2016 Brexit vote, while large retailers have benefitted from a 20% increase in lending.

New figures show that funds lent to SME retailers has dropped from £15.6bn to £14.7bn in the three years, accountants and business advisors, Moore. Funds borrowed by large businesses has increased from £31.5bn to £37.8bn during the same period.

In a statement, accountancy firm Moore said: “The figures suggest that some banks are favouring big businesses, [which] are typically seen as more able to repay any funds borrowed… With big retailers increasing their borrowing so aggressively, that means less finance for smaller retailers.

“As well as needing finance to see them through the current volatile trading conditions, SME retailers also need to invest to ensure their stores and overall offering remain contemporary. Without that investment, smaller retailers risk losing more ground to bigger competitors and to e-commerce.”

It also said smaller-sized businesses need funding to help prevent them from going into administration, with the number of retail insolvencies up 31% from 951 in 2016 to 1,252 on 30 September 2019.

Bridget Culverwell, director at Moore, added: “It is a real worry for smaller retailers if banks are treating them less favourably than larger retailers.

“With the final outcome of Brexit still uncertain, it is expected that banks will continue to be apprehensive to lend to the sector in the months ahead.

“Small retailers are still big employers. They occupy space in high streets where larger retailers are not present and often not interested in being present. If too many small retailers fail, then that leaves those parts of town centres with the highest level of vacant shops even emptier.”

BY KATIE IMMS

Source: Drapers

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Personal guarantees are turning 50% of SME owners off business loans, weakening Brexit preparations

In recent years, many banks in the UK have offered increasing support to British businesses through access to finance. However, many SME owners are rightly concerned about the prospect of using personal guarantees when securing access to funding.

Taking a different viewpoint on the matter, Purbeck Insurance Services has suggested that small business owners should not be deterred by personal guarantees, and instead should seek out ways they could dampen the risk.

In a survey carried out earlier this year on 500 small business owners and directors, Purbeck found that while a staggering 49% had never taken out any business finance, 29% of respondents had typically called on their bank overdraft to fund their business.

What types of business finance have you ever taken out?

I have never taken out any business finance 49.00%
Overdraft 29.00%
Unsecured business loan 16.00%
Commercial mortgage 10.40%
Asset finance 9.00%
Invoice finance/factoring 7.60%
Other loan secured by debenture or charge 5.20%

Furthermore, a significant 12% of small business owners claimed to have decided against using business loans to fund their organisations as they included a personal guarantee.

Todd Davison, director of Purbeck Insurance Services, explained: “Our findings suggest that many small business owners could be looking at external finance for the first time in readiness for Brexit. It’s important they seek independent advice and consider Personal Guarantee backed finance as part of their options as they can seriously reduce the risk of these types of loans.

“As well as taking Personal Guarantee Insurance, they can also share a Personal Guarantee with fellow directors of the business, and negotiate which part of the loan is covered.”

The company’s personal guarantee insurance is an annual insurance policy that provides SME directors with insurance in the event their business lender calls in the personal guarantee, provided by the directors as part of raising business finance.

In an effort to help mitigate risk for small business owners considering opting for a business loan including a personal guarantee, Purbeck offered several tips including:

Negotiate a time limit for the Guarantee and a cap on the amount;

Educate yourself about the risks, whether you can afford to take them and always seek legal support;

Consider splitting the Guarantee between directors;

Know where your responsibilities for the Guarantee begin and end – is it loan specific or does it cover all future loans that the lender may provide?

Remember that if you have signed a Personal Guarantee for another business loan they are cumulative;

Agree terms so that the lender seeks settlement from company’s assets before enforcing the Guarantee

Confirm all points of agreement intention and expectation in writing with the lender.

Consider Personal Guarantee insurance to protect against the risk that the Guarantee is called by a lender. This will offset any outstanding obligations called in under a Personal Guarantee.

Written by Miles Rogerson

Source: Asset Finance International

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UK SMEs overcome Brexit fears to seek investment for growth

The growth and funding ambitions of SMEs have strengthened during 2019 despite the uncertainty caused by Brexit negotiations.

According to a new report from asset-based lender Independent Growth Finance (IGF), almost three quarters (73%) of small businesses expect to see their revenues climb in the next 12 months, compared to 69% at the start of the year.

Of those seeking to raise funds to support growth, the average amount has also increased by 22%, or £250,000.

Three-quarters of businesses are looking to secure funds in the next 12 months. On average, they are seeking £1.4 million.

Most of this spending is earmarked for innovation with investment being poured into technology (45%) and product development (27%).

The survey found that 85% of respondents were open to switching their funding provider in exchange for more flexibility (35%), sector-specific expertise (32%) and 48-hour decision-making (26%).

John Onslow (pictured), chief executive officer of Independent Growth Finance, said: “It’s incredibly encouraging to see so many SMEs focused on the future. Making decisions that are best for them and their employees in an unpredictable landscape. This includes a greater willingness to switch funding providers to get the flexible funding they need, when they need it. We’re not surprised that our research shows three of the top five funding sources are alternative finance.”

Written by Miles Rogerson

Source: Asset Finance International

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SMEs are shunning traditional banks

ThinCats, the leading fintech lender to mid-sized SMEs, has today published new research highlighting a growing lending divide as younger, modern businesses move away from traditional lenders towards alternative finance providers.

For businesses less than ten years old, 32% call on their bank as the lender of first choice compared to seven-in-ten (71%) businesses over 35-years old. The younger businesses were also more likely to pick an alternative finance platform with more than one-in-five (23%) compared to 4% of the oldest SMEs.

Likewise, in businesses where decision makers were aged under 35, two-thirds (65%) said a traditional bank was not their first port of call for funding. This is in contrast to businesses with decision makers aged 55 and over, where it was just under one-third (30%). For these groups (under 35 decision makers) 22% said they would choose an alternative finance platform, while only 6% (over 55) said they would consider the option.

Sectors such as IT, telecoms and marketing, which are traditionally knowledge or service-based are those leading the way in moving towards alternative finance providers.

Damon Walford, Chief Development Officer, ThinCats, “The SME lending ecosystem is complicated. Changes in the economy, technology and how people work mean that traditional lending models are not meeting the needs of the modern economy by excluding thousands of SMEs from potential funding. Thankfully, it’s encouraging to see that smart minded entrepreneurs are switching to the growing number of non-bank lending alternatives.”

Traditionally, high-street bank lending focuses on asset-backed financing that requires SMEs to provide a physical asset (such as equipment or property) as collateral for a bank loan. Yet, for thousands of service-based companies with few tangible assets, traditional banking credit models often overlook the wider value of a business including the cash being generated.

The research, which surveyed 512 UK SMEs with between 10 and 249 employees, also shows 30% of SMEs who were rejected by their first-choice lender, stopped searching for external funding altogether. This suggests that many businesses, of whom 55% said high street banks were the first lender approached, are potentially giving up when there are suitable alternatives available.

Positively, appetite for lending remains high with more than a quarter of businesses (27%) saying they applied for funding within the last year.

Walford added, “Cashflow lending is a solution for thousands of SMEs, where lenders look at the underlying cash flow generated by the business. For businesses who are service-focused like IT, telecoms and marketing companies it works perfectly. We’ve found that many of these businesses are also more willing to share their accounting data, opening them up to financial providers beyond their banks.

“I hope this message gets out to more SMEs and would encourage them to plug into the growing network of accountants and commercial finance advisers now advising on alternative finance options. It’s critical that UK entrepreneurs can access modern funding solutions for a modern economy.”

BY PETER SMYTH

Source: London Loves Business

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10 Common Finance Hurdles UK SMEs Face (And How To Overcome Them)

If you run an SME, you probably are familiar with these all too well. But it’s easier to overcome these finance hurdles than you think!

First of all, let us begin by admitting and acknowledging the harsh reality. The UK economy has been through a constant grind of speculation, debate and uncertainty over the past few years, all thanks to Brexit. Without commenting on the issue, we would just like to mention that not all SMEs are happy about the way things have been unfolding. Nearly 40% of UK SMEs think that Brexit – if and when it actually happens – will leave them worse off in terms of financing and sales. That’s a very serious trend.

However, that’s only a part of the finance riddle. There are quite a few non-seasonal hurdles that SMEs have to face while applying for and getting commercial finance. Here are our picks (and some advice from our experts on how you can easily overcome them).

1. The Personal Credit Vs Commercial Finance Conundrum

This is by far the most common confusion we’ve seen SMEs struggle with. Much of this has to do with the fact that most SMEs are built ground-up without any solid plan for expansion. This, however understandable, is not the right approach. When you start a business, it’s advisable to treat it like a business. Sure, you can use your personal credit cards or even mortgage your home – but you need to know where to draw the line.

Personal loans tend to reduce your creditworthiness, making things difficult for when you want to get a business loan. The best way to overcome this conundrum is to separate personal and business finances as strictly as you can. Your personal creditworthiness should be a credit to your business – not a burden.

2. Bad Credit

This is the most obvious hurdle. If you have bad credit, you’re going to struggle to get a good deal (or any deal, for that matter). It’s important to know what impacts your credit in addition to the usual do’s and don’ts.

We’d like to note here that having bad credit doesn’t spell the end of the road by any stretch of imagination. We, at Commercial Finance Network, regularly broker bad credit loans for many otherwise successful SMEs. You can read more about our adverse credit mortgage services here.

3. No Credit History

Not many SMEs take business credit seriously, thanks mainly to the fact that most operate as sole traders. Quite naturally, it’s not very common for SMEs in the UK to have business credit history.

The easiest way to establish business credit history (you’ll need it when you want to apply for high-end commercial finance products) is to register your business and start trading regularly. Most companies, just by trading actively, are able to establish various credit tracks that help towards their credit history. To speed up the process, you can also use easy-to-access finance products like credit lines, business credit cards, overdrafts and so forth. Short-term finance products like bridging loans and invoice finance can also be very helpful in building a good credit score.

4. Multiple Applications

As is the case with personal credit, your chances of getting approved for a commercial finance product may get severely hampered by multiple applications. If you overestimate your creditworthiness and have half a dozen applications turned down, it’s almost always going to leave a dent in your business credit history.

This, however, is easily avoidable. If you want to directly work with lenders, make sure you are familiar with the lender’s expertise, expectations and track record. If not, you can send your applications through a reputed whole of market broker like Commercial Finance Network to improve your chances of getting an affordable and customised finance deal.

5. Going After Incompatible/Unsuitable Products

Another easy to avoid problem.

If you’re in need of commercial finance, make sure you know what exactly it is that you need. Specialty finance products are always more affordable than blanket packages. For example, many SMEs apply for a generic business loan to cover all sorts of expenses, instead of going for specialty, focussed loans. This not only makes things more expensive; it also increases the chance of having their application rejected.

An easy fix is to know what commercial finance products are available out there, and how you can best customise them to your needs.

6. Not Making The Right Points

This shouldn’t be a point of discussion, but we’ve seen too many SMEs fail to paint themselves in good light.

If you want to work with specialty lenders (like the ones we have on our panel), you will need to make sure that you know your business inside out. And by business we don’t just mean your day to day operations. You need to be able to demonstrate how you are planning to fuel the growth and overcome the competition. A detailed business plan that touches on all these point (and more) will always be helpful in getting lenders on board.

7. Weak Cashflow

This doesn’t and shouldn’t apply to every SME out there. However, you need to ensure that the cashflow numbers are always as healthy as possible.

Lenders, by and large, look for affirmative signs that tell them that you’ll settle the dues. And there’s no better sign of surety than strong cashflow numbers month after month.

8. Short On Security

Many commercial finance products require you to attach a security. It could range from personal guarantees and shares to properties and even vehicles.

Some specialty products (a good example is that of invoice financing) may not work at all without an inherent security. So, before you apply, know how these products work and what sort of security might be needed to get your application through.

9. No Trading History

Many SMEs try to apply for commercial finance right after they start trading. This is a rather hasty approach, because at that point, no SME can show any sign of credibility – no credit history, no volume of transactions and no track record.

To avoid this, we advise our customers to establish a long-enough trading history (typically six months or longer).

10. Tie All The Loose Ends

If your business has availed any loans in the past – however small the amounts – make sure you pay them off at your earliest, before you apply for commercial finance. If you aren’t in a position to make these payments right away, make sure these loans are represented correctly on your credit file, so that lenders can understand why you needed them and how you’re going to pay those back.

Commercial finance can appear daunting – but trust us, it’s anything but. With specialist lenders who know what your business needs, we’ve got you covered. To request more information or to request a call back, please call us on 03303 112 646. You can also get in touch with us here.

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Thousands of UK SMEs seeking finance to improve cash flow

Thousands of UK companies plan to use finance to improve their cash flow in the future, according to new research.

Analysis by Purbeck Insurance Services found that 28% of SME executives interviewed said they were turning to external funders, including to cope with late payments.

Todd Davison, director at Purbeck Insurance Services, explained: “Cash flow is the life blood of any small business. But for a whole variety of reasons, not least the current economic uncertainty, an SME business owner may find themselves looking at unpaid customer invoices, bills from suppliers and wage rolls, and wonder where the money is going to come from.

“Small businesses are owed billions in late payments; whole supply chains are affected and end up borrowing to fill the gap while they wait to get paid.”

However, he warned that using finance to resolve cash flow problems is a “double-edged sword” and business owners should first consider operational changes that might deal with short-term problems.

Davison added: “It would be prudent for the business to take the time to review its financial situation as a whole. In doing so, the owner may find some changes can reduce the need for, or at least the amount of, additional finance.”

Strategies could include restructuring current finance arrangements, reviewing credit terms to suppliers, outsourcing the late payment debt, improvement stock control or looking at alternative sources of income such as renting office or warehouse space.

Other reasons for sourcing finance included acquiring equipment (27% of respondents), supporting a business acquisition (10%), R&D (9%) or recruitment (7%).

Davison recommended that if business owners are providing personal guarantees to secure loans, it is important to consider insurance to protect their personal assets should they encounter repayment problems.

Written by Miles Rogerson

Source: Asset Finance International

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Government scheme to help small businesses ‘at risk of failure’

The CEO of online lending company Iwoca has written to the UK Chancellor warning that a government scheme to help small businesses access funding is “at risk of failure.”

Christoph Rieche wrote to Chancellor Philip Hammond on Thursday calling for a new task force to help repair the flagging Bank Referral Scheme.

The Bank Referral Scheme (BRS) was set up in November 2016 to help small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) access to loans and other financing. It came in response to a decline in lending to smaller businesses after the 2008 financial crisis.

Under the scheme, a bank that rejects an SME loan application must refer the business to an online platform. These platforms connect the business to fintech companies that might be able to offer them money.

Over 19,000 SMEs have been referred since the scheme was set up. However, Treasury figures show that only around 900 loans have been written. Iwoca said it is responsible for 55% of them.

“I am writing to you today because one of the cornerstone initiatives designed to help make finance more available to small businesses is at risk of failure,” Rieche wrote in his letter to the Chancellor, which was seen by Yahoo Finance UK. “Launched in 2016, the Bank Referral Scheme (BRS) has failed to deliver any meaningful impact.”

Rieche calls for a new task force, staffed by industry representatives and government staffers, to help “unlock its full potential.” Suggestions include making small businesses more aware of the scheme and using technology to make it easier to access.

“The BRS scheme remains one of the government’s potentially most transformational initiatives when it comes to making finance available to businesses,” Rieche wrote. “However, as with many ambitious targets, it does not come without complexity and more needs to be done to overcome them.

“We strongly believe this problem can be solved if banks, FinTechs and policymakers join forces.”

Rieche set up Iwoca in 2011. It offers online loans of up to £200,000 to small businesses, as well as online overdraft facilities. Iwoca has lent to over 25,000 businesses to date and the company announced in February it had raised over £150m in debt and equity funding.

By Oscar Williams-Grut

Source: Yahoo

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6 ways to ensure your SME gets funding

Over half of SMEs do not obtain the funding they need to survive, says Giles Fuchs.

It’s estimated that more than 100,000 businesses in the UK are looking for funding at any one time. Yet only a small percentage will secure sufficient funding to enable them to grow and expand into credible businesses that have a real market impact.

Clearly, there’s a problem and it is contributing to the failure of as many as nine in 10 early-stage businesses.

For many young companies, securing the scale-up funding they need is still challenging. The UK has a great reputation for supporting start-ups, it’s ranked third by the OECD, but only 13th for its ability to help companies secure the funding they need to become viable.

Also, the prospect of Brexit currently casts a shadow over the UK economy. Even though the Government has recently pledged to provide up to £200m of additional investment in UK venture capital and growth finance in 2019-20 if the European Investment Bank withdraws its support after Brexit, it is still a small percentage of the funding needed. Recent research from small businesses finance provider Liberis, revealed that over half of UK SMEs are still unable to access the funding they need to grow.

UK SMEs contribute some £200bn to the UK economy, so ensuring they can access the funding they need is vital. In the current uncertain climate, to try and secure such backing, whether from private sources, such as high-net worth individuals or family offices, or institutions, it has never been more important for early-stage companies to plan properly and set out a compelling vision.

Develop a proper plan

One of the most common reasons that early-stage businesses fail to raise further funding is a lack of proper planning. Typically, they have grown with less regard for proper structure and process and more emphasis on entrepreneurial energy and drive. However, to secure serious funding from credible investors, management teams need to put together a comprehensive plan which identifies the type of investor they are targeting, best timing for the approach, the quantum of funding sought, and how the company will cope with the rigour of the questions that investors will ask.

Don’t be shy to show your passion

Investors are more likely to back a business if it’s something they’re inspired by, so be passionate about your company and others will buy into it. Remember, you will be one of hundreds if not thousands of businesses your potential investors will be considering, so bringing enthusiasm and excitement to your pitches and meetings will help you stand out. It will help engage investors and help persuade them that you are genuinely creating a business worth backing. Retaining the passion that first prompted you to set up your business could be key in unlocking the funding to help it grow.

Create a compelling narrative

Given young companies are at an early stage in their growth, they will most likely not have delivered substantial commercial success. So, it’s important that you create a compelling narrative for the company as that is what investors will buy in to and will persuade them to back a business. It’s important to have a clear, concise proposition, which outlines the market potential articulately – and why someone would want to invest in it.

Demonstrate the growth prospects

Showcasing your strategy and proposition is the starting point but practically demonstrating the growth potential of the business is crucial. Anchoring your vision in a clear business plan that outlines in workable, pragmatic steps how the company is going to secure its growth will be what investors are expecting.

Have a strong management team

Having a strong management team that investors can see is capable of delivering on the vision, strategy and business plan that you have put together is essential. Investors might be excited by your plans, but most are hard headed and want to know who will be responsible for delivering on these plans. If you can’t show that you have the management bandwidth in place, then you will struggle to secure funding.

Ensure the timing is right

This is the most intangible of all the factors outlined, but timing really is key. It’s important to only consider seeking investment when the business is in a strong enough position and is performing well enough to support this. It’s vital that your company has the structures in place, the systems, the human resources and IT support to provide a proper foundation for your fundraise. You can still go for funding without all this being in place, however, you will increase your chances of success immeasurably if this has all been thought through and implemented.

Seeking funding may seem daunting, the hurdles may seem high, even insurmountable, but treat this exercise with the same rigour and focus as you have to take your business this far, and it is more than likely that you will be rewarded.

Source: SME Web

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Get Your SME Finance-Ready – 5 Actions to Improve Your Business Loan Eligibility

Looking to get an SME loan? Avoid these common mistakes to immensely improve your chances!

Taking the entrepreneurial leap of faith might well turn out to be the most rewarding thing in your life. The sheer joy of seeing a plan, a concept – a dream, indeed – materialise is indescribable. But to get there, you’ll first need to take off the rose-tinted glasses.

The world of business is ruthless beyond measure. No industry, no sector, no niche is devoid of competition. Therefore, your business – like every other business – will need to withstand this competition day and night in order to survive, thrive and, eventually, succeed. And this process invariably involves scaling up your business – a point at which drawing strength from your personal savings or seeking help from friends or family just isn’t enough. This is when you, as an SME, are most likely to seek external funding and financing. This, also, is when you have every chance of seeing multiple business loan applications turned down.

How does a young SME go about securing a business loan that’s both substantial and fair?

That’s a question that needs to be discussed in multiple blogs. For now, we will take a look at the steps that you can take to give your business the best chance of getting business loans. Before that, however, it will be more prudent to understand how the lenders perceive SMEs.

SME Lending Is Changing

  • The lending landscape is fast changing.
  • Open Banking will make getting business loans less difficult for SMEs.
  • Banks’ isn’t the only voice that matters.

SME Lending in the UK – A Stat Check

  • Asset finance, general business loans, equity finance & most other commercial SME loans have grown in size since 2015.
  • As many as 7 in 10 small-business loan applications were approved by lenders in 2017-18.
  • 62% of all SME finance applications in 2017-18 stated business growth as the principal reason for the loan.

British Business Bank SME Finance Report 2017-18

UK Finance Quarterly Reports

Liberis Business Survey 2018

Regardless of the narrative or the wider picture, it’s safe to say that the lenders have always dictated the terms of the commercial finance game. They have had the absolute right – at times, an unfair proposition – to accept, modify or reject business loan applications from SMEs as they see fit. While this isn’t likely to change anytime soon, there are definitely some levellers being introduced by the government to make the playing field more even.

The first amongst this is the rather dramatic arrival of Open Banking (better known as PSD2 across mainland Europe) earlier this year. This purported game changer will not have as much of an impact on everyday banking as most thought. The lending game, however, has been forever changed since its introduction. Thanks to the absolute customer-side control of finance data, your business can now request – nay, compel – big banks in the UK to share your 12-month financials, credit history and other data with private, P2P or overseas lenders. While such data sharing isn’t a new concept, the edge lies in the fact that Open Banking will let the borrower have more control over their data. What this means, essentially, is that getting your SME finance-ready will be much, much easier now than it was five years ago. The lenders will be able to make better, more informed lending decision based on this data – just about as seamlessly as personal loan or credit card applications work.

This development is in perfect alignment with the Small Business Enterprise and Employment Act of 2015 that had made it mandatory for banks and institutionalised lenders to share finance data with alternate credit partners for SME loans.

The fact of the matter is – if you run an SME in the UK, you have a great chance of securing a business loan today than ever before.

What Does It Take for an SME to Get a Business Loan in the UK?

The lending criteria differ from one lender to another. They also depend upon the type of the loan you seek. Some of the most common and fundamental lending criteria for SMEs in the UK are:

  • The borrower should be a registered business entity (Sole Trader, LC, LLP or PLC).
  • The business should have a ‘demonstrable’ trading history of 18-24 months.
  • The director(s), owner(s) or proprietor(s) should be able to furnish personal guarantees if required.
  • The business financials should be able to demonstrate a certain minimum turnover (subject to the amount of the loan).

Understanding Why the Lenders Are Forced to Say ‘No’

Despite the lending atmosphere that’s gaining in positivity as far as SMEs are concerned, quite a few business loans are still routinely declined. In this light, it’s important to understand the common reasons why small-business loan applications fail to get approved. This will help you eliminate a major hurdle in getting finance for your business.

The Business Isn’t on Top of Their Credit Score(s)

Countless SME loan applications fail to pass the very first check that banks perform – the credit check. What’s more astounding is the fact that many SME owners aren’t even aware of the credit trail they leave while their business is trading.

The Business Has Problems

It’s a vicious cycle but that’s how it is.

Most businesses apply for loans when there’s a cash crisis. And lenders don’t like such situations. This Catch-22 is perhaps the biggest hurdles SMEs face in getting approved for a business loan. Along with cashflow problems, other problems such as a questionable business plan, a history of poor business decisions, lack of expertise at the helm and inability to prove the growth potential often lead to loan applications being turned down.

The Time Just Isn’t Right

You cannot apply for a regular SME business loan if your business is just starting up. Most lenders will want to see a trading history of no less than 2 full years. Similarly, if you’re applying for a business loan and your business has been trading for 20 years with little to show for it in terms of growth, the lenders won’t take a liking to your application.

There’s No Collateral Provided

Unsecured business loans attract closer scrutiny from lenders. So, for an SME that doesn’t have a great deal of creditworthiness, it becomes imperative to provide additional security. Business loan applications that aren’t backed by adequate collateral or guarantees usually get declined.

The Plate is Already Too Full

Just like personal loans and mortgages, you cannot expect to get a business loan for your SME if you already have a number of repayments to take care of. A business loan application from an SME dealing with a plate full of loans is almost certain to get rejected, leading to a soft credit enquiry mark that further worsens the situation.

Steps You Need to Take to Improve Your Business Loan Eligibility

There’s no telling what the lender will think of your business loan application. Perception is a strong phenomenon and is still relevant despite much of the work being handled by tried-and-tested credit algorithms. You can, however, take the following steps to make sure that your application stands a very good chance of finding takers.

1. Make Sure the Foundation of Your Business is Strong & Convincing

You want the foundation of your business to be sound, strong and stable. This is vital not just to secure a business loan but also to achieve profitability in the long run.

When you know that your business has a great shot at success, you should be able to convince other people of the same. To convince lenders, you will need a great business plan – especially when your business is relatively new. A good business plan should be accompanied by a cause-and-action plan. This will involve a good explanation of why your business needs a loan, how you plan on using the funds and what your repayment schedule will be like.

A fully customised proposal with all the relevant details shows the lender that you’re serious about the business. This always works in your favour as lenders perceive you as less of a risk and more of an opportunity.

2. Get Your Business Financials in Order Before You Apply

Many businesses get this wrong – but you shouldn’t. Never apply for a business loan if you don’t have an independently audited, tax-certified financials for at least two years in your possession. These financials typically include the tax returns, quarterly balance sheets, cashflow analysis and profit/loss statement.

It’s common for lenders to also request projections over the loan term. So, it’s a good idea to prepare revenue, profit/loss and assets/liabilities projections for up to 5 years before you approach a lender.

3. Know and Understand Your Credit Scores

Regardless of everything else, most lenders will eventually take a look at the credit history of your business before making a decision. Any obvious red flags on this report – from delayed payments and missing records to frequent enquiries and grave defaults – will hurt your application. So, it’s important to know and understand your credit scores before you apply. This includes building a solid credit history for your business as well as personal accounts.

Less than 20% of all SMEs in the UK proactively monitor and assess their credit scores – you don’t want to be a part of that group!

Some useful steps in this regard are:

  • Checking your business credit score once every quarter
  • Filing for corrections when you spot inadvertent mistakes or errors
  • Using a dedicated business account for your business activities
  • Utilising credit facilities such as overdrafts and credit lines judiciously
  • Making timely repayments
  • Not making ‘hard’ enquiries for credit unless you are ready to submit a full application

4. Let the Lenders Know That You Are Invested

A commonly ignored and often decisive mistake is the failure to demonstrate your involvement in your business. Many businesses – especially the ones not registered as Sole Traders – face this problem, just because there’s no ‘face’ attached to the business.

An easy way to avoid this is to make an offer for a collateral. This shows the lenders that you are willing to share the risk with them. Secured loans are always easier to go through.

5. The Time and Timing – Both Should Be on Your Side!

As a rule of thumb, you shouldn’t go searching for a business loan when your business finds itself cornered with nowhere to go. This will only lead to you ruining your credit history with multiple rejections. Having enough time at your disposal is the key. This is where good business intuition and experience will come in handy for you.

As far as getting the timing right goes, you should be well aware of the market situations before applying for a loan. Has the industry your business operates in been faring poorly of late? Have there been any major changes in the lending landscape recently? What has been the trend in the interest rates being offered over the last six months?

Answers to such questions will give you an idea about whether you should apply for a loan right away or it’ll be wiser to wait for a few weeks.

Getting a Business Loan is a Process and Should Be Treated as Such

Many loan applicants think that lenders are prone to making arbitrary decisions. While true in rare scenarios, this usually isn’t the case. The lenders are also in the business – the business of lending money. The more businesses they lend to, the more money they end up making. So, as long as you have taken care of the ‘risk’ factors discussed in this article, you will have little to worry about when you apply for an SME loan.

Applying Left, Right & Centre – A Big No!

The biggest – and unfortunately, the most common – mistake that SMEs make is to apply for credit with no plan of action. Applying at a dozen places will not only lead to simultaneous rejections that will do your credit score no good but also handicap your business from accessing finance when you need it the most. Before applying for any business loan, you should be aware of what your options are – without making hard credit enquiries.

That is exactly what we at Commercial Finance Network, a leading whole of market broker, do for you. Working with some of the best-known and specialist lenders across the UK, we make sure that you get a loan offer that’s fair, fast and flexible.

The days of blindly accepting the first offer that comes your way are long gone. Let our team of experts curate the best business loan quotes for you. Call us on 03303 112 646 or contact us to speak with one of our Business Loan Specialists today!