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Coronavirus eating into SME cash

Over two-thirds of UK SMEs (69%) have reported significant pressures on their cash levels according to latest insights from business lender MarketFinance. This is in large part down to businesses paying for supplies earlier than anticipated because of Coronavirus-related stockpiling and fears of deeper disruptions to transport (road, air and rail) linkages.

Additionally, on orders and work that has been completed, payments are being delayed. Three-quarters (74%) of business owners reported invoices due to be settled at the end of February have not been paid yet (as of 10th March 2020) and that these were unlikely to be settled before the end of March 2020.

Over a third (36%) of business owners feared they won’t survive to Easter (6 weeks) if they were unable to secure some finance to bolster their business. Meanwhile, as economic conditions worsen, and with the possibility of widespread quarantine implemented across parts of the country, businesses will need to have financial and operational contingency plans in place to protect jobs, industry and communities.

Anil Stocker, CEO at MarketFinance, commented: “The impact of the Coronavirus spread is being felt by SMES across the UK as finance and supply chains are disrupted. At the best of times, only around half of these businesses are cashflow positive. Today, businesses are feeling a palpable sense of helplessness and isolation and there is a lack of specific information on how to cope with the crisis.”

“At the moment cash is king and if businesses are being starved of this cash, it will leave them stranded. Whilst policy efforts play out to contain the spread of Coronavirus, business owners should brace themselves for some turbulence and have a prepared mindset for the scenarios ahead.”

“Rishi Sunak has a golden opportunity to prove that he is a champion of UK SMEs. There is a role for government to work with businesses, banks and other lenders to ensure a resilient economy. It will be the smallest businesses that are most hit as they have the least bargaining power in global supply chains. They could, for example, give businesses VAT / tax ‘holidays’ to ensure that they have enough money to cover immediate costs.”

Source: Business Money

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Steepest fall in lending to UK businesses for almost two years

LENDING to UK businesses saw the biggest decline in almost two years in July, the Bank of England has reported.

Net lending to UK firms slid by £4.2 billion over the month, driven by a £2 billion net repayment by businesses to banks.

The significant amount of repayment saw the annual growth rate of bank lending to UK businesses fall to 3 per cent, down from 4.4 per cent in June.

Analysts have suggested the slump in borrowing could be another sign that firms are resisting investment which would need a loan and are hunkering down until there is greater clarity over Brexit.

The decline was most significant among large businesses, where the growth rate of borrowing fell to 4.2 per cent.

Growth of borrowing by small and medium-sized firms (SMEs) was unchanged at 0.8 per cent for the month.

Michael Biemann, chief executive of Selina Finance, said: “SME borrowing rates remained static at 0.8 per cent, which once again underlines the disconnect between the average UK business and the high street.

“These days, high street banks want businesses to jump through all kinds of hoops to secure finance, and so it’s no surprise the number of SMEs turning to alternative sources is on the increase.”

Meanwhile, the new Bank of England figures also revealed that British lenders approved the greatest number of mortgages for two years in July, appearing to highlight greater stability in the housing market following a Brexit slowdown.

The central bank said lenders approved 67,306 mortgages last month, up from 66,506 in June.

The UK housing market has been downbeat since the EU referendum in 2016 but has shown tentative improvements in recent months.

However, earlier on Friday, the latest Nationwide housing survey revealed that annual house price growth ran below 1 per cent for the ninth month in a row in August as consumer confidence remained low.

Source: Irish News

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Why UK Businesses Need to Trade Internationally – The Key Benefits of International Trade for UK SMEs

The Key Benefits of International Trade for UK SMEs – As a business, you’re always trying to find and break new grounds to gain that competitive edge. But, have you considered going global yet?

The history of the world as we know it has been shaped by a complex concoction of ideas, events and people.

But there has always been a strong, undeniable driving force behind much of the development we’ve seen in the post-industrial revolution era: natural resources. The quest for the very best of everything that our planet has to offer has built, transformed and even destroyed civilisations, and international trade is a vibrant reminder of that fact.

Today, no country can afford to sit back and not engage in international trade. Many of Western economic policies stem directly from trade-related reasons and thousands if not tens of thousands of companies in the UK keep the wheel of our international trade turning.

But while all this happens, what does international trade mean for you and your business?

In the more-connected-than-ever world, you can’t possibly afford to ignore the possibilities that exist around the world. If you’ve been apprehensive about the seemingly complex international trade puzzle, let us break some things down for you.

Before that, let’s take stock of where things stand from an SME point of view.

More and More SMEs Are Trading Internationally

Thanks to consistent efforts of successive governments, international trade has seen some promising numbers in the last few years.

Although there has been a marked drop in overall exports in the past two years due to puzzling developments and speculations around Brexit, the overall number of SMEs exporting internationally has increased. The latest figures released by the government indicate that the number of SMEs exporting products and services internationally rose in 2017 by 6.6%.

“With more and more SMEs engaging in international trade (especially exports), it’s clear that it’s indeed possible even for a small business without millions of pounds in cash reserves to expand their operations, customer base and influence around the world with success.”

At 235,000 and counting, the SMEs trading internationally account nearly for 10% of all SMEs in the UK.

Benefits of International Trade for UK SMEs

While there can be cited dozens of benefits of international trade, here are the important ones that UK SMEs need to know:

A. International Trade Allows for the Diversification of Operations

It’s probably the most apparent benefit of going global for SMEs.

As a business trading internationally, you can easily diversify many of your business operations. This includes the two end-points of business – paying customers and suppliers whom you pay. You can access diverse technologies, market opportunities, natural resources and human resources, and make them all work in your favour.

B. Diverse Operations = Better Risk Tolerance

Risk tolerance is a business metric that defines how much of a leeway a business can have against various risks – from market events to uncontrollables like natural calamities.

When you start trading globally, your business automatically spreads much of its risks over a wider geographic area. Of course, this comes with additional trading risks, but they usually offset themselves with associated rewards. Essentially, businesses that import/export can tolerate negative events without sustaining much damage, as opposed to domestic businesses that can suffer irreversible damage.

For example, an unfortunate event like an earthquake can bring your manufacturing operations and domestic demand to a standstill. But if you export the manufactured goods internationally, you can still move the surplus inventory off your warehouses, maintaining the incomings relatively unscathed.

C. Trading Internationally Opens Up New Channels of Revenue

It’s no secret that you can’t have every type of demand in a single market. If you trade only domestically, your operations will always be limited to a certain type of demand. Any fluctuations in those demand forces will have a direct impact on the revenue.

Alternatively, when you trade globally, you can add multiple, previously-untapped revenue channels to your operations. This is just an extension of the previous risk tolerance argument we made, but it’s definitely one of the highlights UK SMEs need to think about.

D. International Trade Isn’t Crippled By Finance Bottlenecks Anymore

The second half of the 20th century was marked by epochal turns. The World War II started a chain of events that was propagated further by the Cold War, followed by the oil-centric upheavals in the Middle East. All these events meant one thing – the money gradually dried up from all international trade that wasn’t related to oil.

Lenders were unwilling to deal with foreign suppliers or banks, making letters of credit an irrelevant option for businesses. Today, we are glad to report, this isn’t the case.

Even a small business with limited capital can easily have letters of credit issued to the supplier’s bank without any problems. Thanks to the good perception UK businesses have in foreign markets, there are fewer things to worry about today than ever. If you’re exporting goods or services, you can just as easily arrange for flexible finance packages that keep the operations running smoothly.

When it comes to trade finance, Commercial Finance Network is an automatic choice for hundreds of UK SMEs. Being an industry-leading whole of market broker, we help UK SMEs access a diverse panel of lenders who bring on board decades of global trade experience. High acceptance rates, customised loan terms and fast approvals are just some of the features that make our trade finance services popular among businesses across the UK.

E. You Can Easily Beat Domestic Competition

Trading internationally means trading on a bigger and wider canvas. By going global, you can make sure that your business has an edge over domestic competitors.

F. A New Lease of Life for the Service Industry

Service provider businesses are among the fastest growing businesses of the 21st century, thanks largely to the internet effect. Given that the UK is one of the most important financial markets of the world, it’s no wonder that UK service providers – especially in the technology, financial and education sectors – have been reaping the rewards of trading internationally.

If you run a service business, you can – at relatively lower cost spreads – access and seize foreign markets.

G. Trading Internationally Promotes Innovation

Innovations isn’t just a buzz word – it’s the primary catalyst for business growth today.

If your business operates in tech, manufacturing or financial sectors, you know this first-hand. Innovation in a far-away market can often have an tearaway effect on your local performance. In such times, it pays to be connected to the world at large – something trading internationally lets you do.

Explore the World of Opportunities With Commercial Finance Network

Whether it’s sourcing better, cheaper equipment from overseas suppliers or exporting goods/services to foreign customers, every well-thought-out international trade move can be a game changer for your business.

At Commercial Finance Network, we help UK SMEs realise their global trading goals with robust, flexible and customised trade finance solutions – from affordable import-export finance to universal letters of credit. Let us worry about mediating with foreign banks and suppliers while you focus on your business.

To request a quote or talk to our trade finance experts, click here.

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London is one of the top 15 cities in the UK to start a small business

Research by card payment solution’s provider Paymentsense reveal the top 15 best cities in the UK to start a business.

Starting a business can be an exciting endeavour, but getting through the first five years is challenging. The cost of rent, consumer demand, beating the competition, and keeping your cash flowing are often tricky things for SMEs to juggle.

Based on factors including business survival rates, weekly salary, average rent, population, and the number of employed adults in the area, they worked out which UK cities offer the best environment for prospective SMEs. If you’re thinking of embarking on a new venture this year, take a look at the below 15 places for starting a business.

15. London

It’s probably no surprise that the capital of the UK, which is often considered to be a leading global city, made the list. London accounts for roughly 30% of UK GDP and is a major location for finance, both nationally and internationally. As well as this, it thrives in the media, technology and tourism sectors.

5-year start-up survival rate: 39.3%
Average weekly pay for full-time workers: £713.20
Average monthly cost to rent a 1-bed city centre apartment: £1,705.35
Population: 7,556,900
Number of employed adults: 3,817,203
Money available per week: £2,722,429,179.60
Index score out of 5: 1.36

14. Glasgow

This city has Scotland’s largest economy and the third highest GDP per capita out of all the UK’s cities. Glasgow has seen growth in its communications, biosciences, healthcare, retail, finance, and creative industries. Tourism is also strong in Glasgow, as it’s one of the most popular holiday destinations in Scotland.

5-year start-up survival rate: 36.1%
Average weekly pay for full-time workers: £573.60
Average monthly cost to rent a 1-bed city centre apartment: £624.75
Population: 591,620
Number of employed adults: 280,700
Money available per week: £161,009,520
Index score out of 5: 1.54

13. Manchester

A textile manufacturing boom made Manchester the world’s first industrialised city – it’s also the revolutionary place where scientists first split the atom and graphene was produced. Nowadays, as well as its continued involvement in science and engineering, Manchester is known for its media, culture, music scene, and sports.

5-year start-up survival rate: 37.5%
Average weekly pay for full-time workers: £555.90
Average monthly cost to rent a 1-bed city centre apartment: £746.09
Population: 395,515
Number of employed adults: 194,093
Money available per week: £107,896,298.70
Index score out of 5: 1.66

12. Birmingham 

The UK’s so-called ‘second city’ has a long history as a centre for manufacturing and engineering, although the last few decades have seen the services sector take over the local economy. Public administration, health and education are major employers in the city and it’s the third biggest financial centre in the UK. Birmingham also attracts a lot of conference and exhibition trade, thanks to major facilities like the NEC and the ICC.

5-year start-up survival rate: 39.7%
Average weekly pay for full-time workers: £584.10
Average monthly cost to rent a 1-bed city centre apartment: £752.62
Population: 984,333
Number of employed adults: 400,679
Money available per week: £234,036,603.90
Index score out of 5: 1.83

11. Liverpool

Made famous as the birthplace of The Beatles and home of the Merseybeat genre, Liverpool is one of the most visited cities in the UK. Tourism and leisure are big contributors to the city’s economy, as is the services sector. The future looks promising for Liverpool, too, as the economy has been on the up since the mid-1990s.

5-year start-up survival rate: 38%
Average weekly pay for full-time workers: £544.30
Average monthly cost to rent a 1-bed city centre apartment: £656.02
Population: 864,122
Number of employed adults: 182,270
Money available per week: £99,209,561
Index score out of 5: 1.83

10. Edinburgh 

The history and culture of the Scottish capital, as well as the Edinburgh International Festival and the Fringe, have made it the UK’s second most popular city break. Scientific research, higher education, and financial services also account for a significant portion of Edinburgh’s local economy.

5-year start-up survival rate: 42.9%
Average weekly pay for full-time workers: £613.30
Average monthly cost to rent a 1-bed city centre apartment: £763.63
Population: 464,990
Number of employed adults: 272,000
Money available per week: £166,817,600
Index score out of 5: 2.02

9.Coventry 

Car manufacture and ribbon making are what Coventry is historically associated with. These days, although the automotive sector is still a big part of Coventry’s economy, the city has more involvement in areas such as finance, leisure, logistics, research, and the creative industries.

5-year start-up survival rate: 42.2%
Average weekly pay for full-time workers: £595.10
Average monthly cost to rent a 1-bed city centre apartment: £616.07
Population: 359,262
Number of employed adults: 128,764
Money available per week: £76,627,456.40
Index score out of 5: 2.1

8. Leeds 

As well as being one of the UK’s largest legal and financial centres, Leeds has one of the most mixed economies in the UK. Engineering, publishing, chemicals, medical technology, and food and drink are the most major sectors in the city. However, it also has strong retail, leisure, construction, creative, and digital industries.

5-year start-up survival rate: 41.9%
Average weekly pay for full-time workers: £551.90
Average monthly cost to rent a 1-bed city centre apartment: £659.21
Population: 455,123
Number of employed adults: 333,333
Money available per week: £183,966,482.70
Index score out of 5: 2.28

7. Cardiff 

The Welsh capital is a popular destination for visitors, which is why its retail, leisure, and tourism sectors account for a large portion of its economy. Cardiff is also Wales’s main business and financial services centre and it has a thriving media sector.

5-year start-up survival rate: 42%
Average weekly pay for full-time workers: £529.80
Average monthly cost to rent a 1-bed city centre apartment: £694.12
Population: 447,287
Number of employed adults: 147,955
Money available per week: £78,386,559
Index score out of 5: 2.31

6. Stoke on Trent 

Affectionately known as The Potteries, Stoke-on-Trent has a long history as the home of England’s ceramics industry. Although much of the production has moved out of the city, many pottery firms remain. Tours of the factories for these goods help to boost tourism in the city, as does the canal network.

5-year start-up survival rate: 39.3%
Average weekly pay for full-time workers: £497.10
Average monthly cost to rent a 1-bed city centre apartment: £427.78
Population: 372,775
Number of employed adults: 103,269
Money available per week: £51,335,019.90
Index score out of 5: 2.35

5. Bristol 

Creative media, electronics, and aerospace are the main industries that hold up Bristol’s economy. It’s a popular tourist destination, which is likely helped by its artistic and sporting influence. Plus, the government named it a science city in 2005 because of its contribution to innovation.

5-year start-up survival rate: 44.8%
Average weekly pay for full-time workers: £565.70
Average monthly cost to rent a 1-bed city centre apartment: £828.75
Population: 617,280
Number of employed adults: 197,915
Money available per week: £111,960,515.60
Index score out of 5: 2.38

4. Leicester 

Textiles and shoes were the bread and butter of Leicester’s economy in days gone by. Recent years have seen a resurgence in these areas, as some textile manufacturers have moved back to the city. Much of Leicester’s commerce also lies in the engineering, retail, and food and drink sectors.

5-year start-up survival rate: 40.5%
Average weekly pay for full-time workers: £487.90
Average monthly cost to rent a 1-bed city centre apartment: £568.75
Population: 508,916
Number of employed adults: 128,142
Money available per week: £62,520,481.80
Index score out of 5: 2.42

3. Sunderland 

With roots as a trading port, Sunderland is now a strong centre for the services, automotive, science, and technology sectors. Its success is largely helped by Nissan Motor Manufacturing UK, which is the biggest employer in the region.

5-year start-up survival rate: 41.9%
Average weekly pay for full-time workers: £517.20
Average monthly cost to rent a 1-bed city centre apartment: £550
Population: 335,415
Number of employed adults: 116,562
Money available per week: £60,285,866.40
Index score out of 5: 2.46

2. Nottingham 

Historically, Nottingham was known for its bicycle manufacturing and lace-making. These days, it’s home to many major companies, while other businesses could benefit from the Nottingham Enterprise Zone and Creative Quarter. Digital media, life sciences, low-carbon technologies, finance, retail, and leisure are major contributors to Nottingham’s economy.

5-year start-up survival rate: 43.4%
Average weekly pay for full-time workers: £506.40
Average monthly cost to rent a 1-bed city centre apartment: £579.41
Population: 729,977
Number of employed adults: 112,861
Money available per week: £57,152,810.40
Index score out of 5: 2.66

1. Sheffield 

In 2019, Sheffield is the best UK city where you could start a business. The Steel City is known for its rich, industrial heritage. Although steel production has been in decline since the 1980s, Sheffield still develops advanced manufacturing technologies through its two universities and other research organisations. It’s also a major centre for sport and its public sector is a major employer.

5-year start-up survival rate: 44.9%
Average weekly pay for full-time workers: £542.10
Average monthly cost to rent a 1-bed city centre apartment: £585
Population: 685,368
Number of employed adults: 227,822
Money available per week: £123,502,306.20
Index score out of 5: 2.7

Source: London Loves Business

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Alternative finance key to British business growth

Alternative finance holds the key to funding expansion for many British small businesses, as access to funds from traditional lenders remains restricted. According to a recent survey of 1,000 small business owners, almost one in three reported difficulties in securing business loans from banks, potentially halting their expansion plans.

To help address this issue, Worldpay has announced a three year extension of its popular Business Finance scheme, aimed at helping over 300,000 British small businesses access alternative financing by enabling access to a “cash advance” based on their future credit and debit card sales. The scheme, launched in 2015 in partnership with Liberis, a leading provider of cash advances to small businesses, has already provided funding in excess of £50 million to UK SMEs. Under the scheme, funds can be made available to businesses in as little as 72 hours.

Chris Andrews, proprietor of Blacks Cheese, is one business owner who has utilised Worldpay Business Finance to help address stock purchasing needs.

“Worldpay Business Finance became apparent as an alternative method of funding the business, at a time when we needed it instantly and it was delivered within a matter of hours. Worldpay is now part of our financial reckoning, and it’ll be one of our tools that we’ll always use and it’s not going to be something that we need to consider. We know how it works, we know how it funds us – it’s paid off for us.”

Alternative finance, while available to all types of small business, is proving particularly popular with start-ups. Worldpay’s research revealed that businesses under five years old are as likely to select alternative finance methods to secure capital as approaching banks. Analysis by Worldpay of how these funds are used reveals that in 2017, direct investment in businesses, including stock purchase, expansion & refurbishment funds and equipment purchases drove 87 per cent of the cash advances.

Despite its growing popularity, the research also revealed that business cash advances are among the least known forms of funding, with only 2 percent of businesses indicating an intention to use this form of finance in 2018. At the same time, business owners aged under 35 indicated they are more likely to place their confidence in alternative financing as a way to reduce their reliance on banks, with 40 percent stating its emergence will make things easier. With the extension of the Business Finance scheme, Worldpay and Liberis will work to address this lack of awareness.

“Steve Newton, Executive Vice President, UK and Europe Worldpay said: “Worldpay Business Finance has proven extremely popular with small businesses looking for alternative methods of finance. Worldpay Business Finance was created specifically with the unique needs and structure of small businesses in mind – it’s flexible and it’s fast.

“In 2017, we tripled funding for growth to UK SME businesses and have now advanced over £40million – but we know that this form of funding has the potential to help thousands more.  So over the next year, we’ll make it easier to access the scheme by increasing call centre and online support to enable Britain’s small businesses to thrive.”

Source: London Loves Business