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More than £1.1bn in coronavirus loans given to 6,000 UK businesses

Over £1.1 billion has been handed to UK businesses through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), according to new figures.

However, less than a quarter of firms which have formally applied for the loans have secured cash support.

UK Finance said lending through the scheme has grown by £700 million over the past week, an increase of around 150%.

It said 6,020 loans have now been provided to businesses through the programme.

The pace of loan approvals has increased in recent days, rising from 240 loans on April 2 to 910 on April 8, with a further 1,800 loans worth over £300 million recorded over the bank holiday weekend.

It comes after calls from business groups, such as the British Chamber of Commerce (BCC), for the loan scheme to be accelerated to ensure small and medium-sized businesses can stay afloat.

UK Finance said lenders have received 28,460 formal applications from businesses, meaning that fewer than one in four applications have currently been approved.

However, it is understood that around 300,000 businesses have made inquiries regarding the loan scheme.

Shadow business secretary Ed Miliband said that the scheme “is simply not working well enough” after the figures were revealed.

He added: “We need change now. The Chancellor must move to a 100% guarantee of loans for smaller businesses as other countries have done.

“In this economic emergency, it is the right thing to do.

“Ministers must also accelerate the approval of new financial providers, do more to simplify the application process and provide support for good, future growth businesses not currently in profit. ”

UK Finance stressed that other applications are still being processed and are “expected to be approved over the coming days”.

Lower staffing levels at banks and other lenders mean they have come under significant pressure from increased demand for support from business customers.

Stephen Jones, chief executive of UK Finance, said: “Frontline staff in local branches and call centres are working incredibly hard to help firms access finance as quickly as possible amid unprecedented demand.

“Like all businesses they are working at reduced capacity as many staff are self-isolating or looking after family.”

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak said: “Getting finance to businesses is a key part of our plan to support jobs and the economy during this crisis – and we’re working with lenders to ensure support reaches those in need as soon as physically possible.

“Loan approvals have doubled in a week with more than 6,000 businesses benefiting from over £1.1 billion of loans – and it’s vital we continue this upward trajectory.”

Mike Cherry, national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), said: “This improvement marks a starting point, but while one in five formal CBILS applications are approved, the major banks claim their approval rates for standard commercial loans are many times higher than that.

“These loans are state-backed, so approvals should be higher still. There’s still a lot of work to do.

“Many members tell us it’s difficult to get to the formal application stage – banks are still slow to respond to CBILS enquiries.”

Source: Express & Star

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Coronavirus business loans hit £450m but doubts about scheme remain

UK banks have now lent £453m through the government’s coronavirus business loans scheme as it picks up following an overhaul, although a large number of firms are still struggling to access the cash they need.

The Treasury said today that more than 2,500 loans for business had been approved as of yesterday via the coronavirus business interruption loan scheme (CBILS). This was up from Monday’s 2,022 figure that was revealed yesterday by City A.M.

It also announced that industry body UK Finance will start to publish regular updates on the scheme from next Wednesday.

Yesterday’s CBILS figures mark a significant increase from last Wednesday’s, when only £90.5m had been lent out to 983 businesses.

Yet the number of loans handed out is still only a small proportion of the number of enquiries companies have made about the scheme, which range in the hundreds of thousands.

Those requests are coming from some of the almost 6m small and medium-sized firms in the UK. They have monthly payroll costs of roughly £41bn, according to economic consultancy Fideres.

The CBILS programme offers loans via banks to small businesses with turnover of up to £45m. It was launched as part of the government’s £330bn coronavirus lending pledge.

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Business owners criticised the stringent terms, however, leading chancellor Rishi Sunak to overhaul the scheme last Thursday. In particular, he got rid of the rule that said firms must have exhausted commercial options first.

The Treasury today said the revamp is working as intended. “We’re working with the banks to get this support out. We’re making good progress,” a Treasury spokesperson said.

Loans still too slow for many

Yet many firms report that the service is still not working properly. Some have said they have requested assistance but have not heard back from banks.

Adam Leon, managing director of recruitment firm Orlik Leon in Bath, said the slow pace of the CBILS application process meant he had to take out an overdraft from his bank Barclays to tide him over until he received his loan.

“When I approached the bank I was told the process would take two-to-three weeks,” he told City A.M.

“Today I was told I will be lucky if I get it in four-to-five weeks. As a result the bank has offered me an overdraft which I had to sign a personal guarantee for to get through the eight-week period.”

Leigh Bryant, the director of motorhome repair company LNB Towbars in Bristol told City A.M. he had applied online for CBILS through Natwest, Barclays and Hitachi Capital. But he said he was yet to hear back from any of them.

“There must be millions of small businesses like me that are so dependent on that money because we don’t have the cash flow to carry on for months at a time with nothing coming in,” he said.

Mike Cherry, national chair of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “We’re hearing reports that – despite these being ’emergency’ loans – the application process for securing them is still very demanding. Of course lending can only be made to viable businesses, but banks need to understand that time is of the essence.”

Banking industry body UK Finance, which compiles the figures, said lenders are “working hard to provide loans to all viable businesses who need it as quickly as possible”.

A spokesperson said banks are committed to helping the country “through this difficult period”.

By Harry Robertson

Source: City AM

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Government loans only appeal to half of business owners

  • Loans: Only half of businesses likely to take up government subsidised business loans
  • Cash: Two-thirds of businesses have less than £50k cash and are likely to run out of money before Easter
  • Revenues: 80% report falling revenues between 40-50% in March
  • Time: 45% of owners believe it will take at least a year, if not two, for the business environment to normalise
  • Crisis: 63% liken coronavirus pandemic to the global financial crisis in 2008

Business finance lender MarketFinance sought the views of business owners following the wide ranging measures announced by the Treasury recently. Despite the sizeable fiscal stimulus, more than two thirds (67%) believe funds will not reach them in time and they will run out of cash before Easter (12thApril).

Loans

Only half (52%) of UK businesses are considering taking advantage of the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS which offers up to £5m, interest free for the first year, over 6 years) to shore up their businesses. Because most businesses (67%) have a pre-existing loan, their biggest concern (36%) is making repayments for any additional loan. Invoice finance (borrowing against invoices on completed work) ranked highest as an alternative to taking a loan, with 48% considering this option over the next 12 months, to avoid the addition debt burden.

Cash flow

With revenue at companies across the country being hit hard, 80% reported a decrease this month of between 40-50%. They are seeking immediate measures to ease this pressure on cash flow. Business owners ranked a larger overdraft facility as first preference before seeking a business credit card and in third place, using invoice finance as a means to inject working capital into the business.

Anil Stocker, CEO at MarketFinance, commented: “Business owners are uncertain on revenue numbers for this year with a third expecting at least a 50% drop in sales and, rightly, weary of taking on more loans that they might not be able to pay back. It’s important to realise that in the fine print, many banks will ask for additional security and Personal Guarantees for loan amounts greater than £250,000 of borrowings.

“The number of businesses that believe they won’t make it to Easter has doubled from a third to two thirds despite the Treasury’s announcements. Time is of essence. It is imperative that businesses are made aware on how to access the measures they have announced but also to widen the range of finance options available to them”.

Advice

Most (35%) business owners are turning to their accountants for advice on what to do next before consulting their friends and family (21%). Only one in six are seeking advice from their bank manager on what to do. Business owners feel their accountants are the most accessible given the remote working environment.

Accountant Rashesh Joshi at Alexander Rosse commented: “The government headlines from last week covered numerous initiatives to be implemented such as the CBILS scheme, the job retention scheme and a new lending scheme facility for larger firms amongst a raft of other measures. The reality on the ground is unfortunately unlike the rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus.

“We have been touch with a number of the accredited lenders and our colleagues at larger accounting practices. Feedback, information and practicalities of the application process and lending criteria are decisively in slow motion. It seems large institutions with all their resources had no contingency plans in place. We are aware of challenger banks and other businesses who could act quicker but have been frustratingly left out of the original process (but now invited) thereby losing further critical time as highlighted in MarketFinance’s research.”

Rashesh added: We are partnering with our clients to help with their cashflow forecasts, rationale for the loan application, contingency plans, how they would cope with self-isolating staff and a whole raft of questions that the banks will ask before they will even consider lending. We are encouraging lenders to get with the reality on the ground which is frankly brutal. In our view the process needs to be simpler and quicker and bridging finance also made available to small to medium businesses”

Anil Stocker added: “Economies around the world are in a state of shock. In the UK, the government has poured billions in subsidies, grants and guaranteed loans for businesses, but nobody can be sure how well the rescue will work and how this money will be propagated around the small business community. It is critical that business owners have a prepared mindset for all scenarios. They will be heavily reliant on all their advisers – accountants, bankers and boards – to help them navigate the turbulence ahead.”

“The government needs to urgently implement and deploy their policy announcements. Business advisers will play a key role in guiding businesses on the best finance options for them. It’s imperative they are up to speed with all the necessary information and nuances of what is available”.

Since 2011, MarketFinance has advanced over £2.9 billion to companies across a range of sizes and sectors, providing working capital and finance for everything from paying staff and suppliers to launching new products or services and accelerating growth.

MarketFinance is backed by Barclays, Santander InnoVentures, European venture capital fund Northzone (invested in Klarna, iZettle and Trustpilot), private equity group MCI Capital (also invested in iZettle, Azimo and Gett) and Viola Credit.

Source: Business Mole

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Why don’t banks care about SMEs?

For a service sector dealing almost solely with numbers and structured data, the world of small business lending could not be better suited to disruption by digital machines.

But recently, Bank of England governor Mark Carney rightly pointed out that, despite small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) facing a £22bn funding gap, almost half don’t plan to use external finance, citing the hassle or time associated with applying.

The governor announced that the Bank would therefore champion a data platform to help SMEs have an easier time when applying for credit. The vision builds on Open Banking, bringing together data from a wide range of sources including Companies House, HMRC, utility companies, and telecommunications firms.

With a single “data passport”, SMEs could easily apply for finance at dozens of providers with the click of a button.

So how has it come to the humiliating point that the industry’s own regulator is proposing innovations that could accelerate growth and improve customer service? What are the banks’ armies of IT and product development staff doing?

The governor’s comments underscore a failure by banks to embrace the digital economy and invest to keep pace with the changes happening to their customers.

SME owners don’t just expect their bank’s lending process to be as seamless as their personal loan applications – they also expect banks to recognise how the financial makeup of firms has changed thanks to the digital revolution. Most SME financing from banks is centred around equipment or property assets, but digital services firms have neither.

Innovative finance providers, including my own company, have already embraced the data sources that the Bank of England will promote to open up access to finance.

Powered by new data connectors like DueDil, TrueLayer, and Codat, we automate the analysis of public data, bank transactions, and accounting records to make it faster and easier to provide credit to small businesses. Since launching, we have facilitated over £100m of lending to growing SMEs, and are rapidly expanding our operations to help more businesses across the country.

So why haven’t traditional banks made similar investments in order to price loans in the digital age? In my view, the reason is simple: it is not profitable for them to do so.

Under Basel III – the global rules governing how banks are regulated – banks are directed to hold almost double the amount of capital against an SME loan compared to a buy-to-let mortgage, for example. Holding more capital means making less profit, so all else being equal, banks naturally double down on loans that require lower amounts, such as mortgages.

And so we have seen banks close branches, sack business lending sales teams, and fail to innovate, while instead channeling more lending into the unproductive housing market, rather than the productive SME economy.

While challengers and fintechs are happy to lead the innovation in business lending, without structural reform of banking capital rules, we are unlikely to see strong competition from banks.

This is a challenge that Carney’s successor must tackle if the UK is to unleash the full potential of its SMEs.

By Greg Carter

Source: City AM

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Government provides £200m for small firms as Brexit threatens EU funding

The UK government has handed over £200m to help support smaller businesses in the 2019-20 financial year as the future of European Union funding remains uncertain.

The Treasury announced today that it has made the cash available to the British Business Bank, which provides loans to small companies looking to increase in size through investment and venture capital firms.

Chancellor Philip Hammond suggested in the 2018 Budget that £200m could be made available “to replace access to the European Investment Fund [EIF] if needed”.

The EIF is an EU agency that has been a significant source of funding for small UK businesses that struggle to get credit, but Brexit means British firms look likely to lose access to this money over the long term. The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) today voiced concerns over the loss of EU funding.

The Treasury said the money will be available from today and will cover this financial year. Further funding arrangements have yet to be made and will depend on Britain’s future relationship with the EU.

Venture capital and investment firms will be able to approach the British Business Bank, a public-private partnership, to bid for the extra £200m to invest in small UK firms.

Business minister Kelly Tolhurst said: “This funding, supported by the government-backed British Business Bank, will play a key role in supporting innovative firms access the finance they need to grow and thrive.”

British Business Bank chief executive Keith Morgan said: “We welcome HM Treasury’s confirmation today that this allocation of £200 million is now available to increase provision of much-needed scale-up capital for innovative businesses across the UK.”

The national chairman of the FSB, Mike Cherry, said: “The British Business Bank provides vital support for thousands of smaller firms – particularly in parts of the country where funding is hard to come by – so it’s good to see it receive another £200 million following the launch of the £2.5 billion patient capital programme last year.”

“However, with Brexit on the horizon, serious questions regarding future funding for a UK small business support network that’s heavily reliant on the EU remain unanswered.”

He said: “A promised consultation on the post-Brexit Shared Prosperity Fund that would replace EU funding streams is yet to materialise. The £200 million is welcome, but we need to start thinking much bigger about future investment in the small firms that make-up 99 per cent of the UK business community.”

By Harry Robertson

Source: City AM

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‘No deal’ Brexit prompts expectation of increase in demand for business loans

As predictions have emerged of an upsurge in borrowing demand from SMEs if a ‘no deal’ Brexit occurs, owners of small businesses are being urged to fully acquaint themselves with the terms of a personal guarantee backed loan, before signing on the dotted line.

Todd Davison, director of Purbeck Personal Guarantee Insurance said, “It is widely anticipated that there will be an increase in demand for loans as SMEs look to introduce additional working capital buffers in a bid to ride out any impact on business following a “no-deal” Brexit.

“Additional funding to aid cash flow may help to offset downturns in trade or disruption within the supply chain. But the reality is that most commercial funding will need a Personal Guarantee and this commitment should not be taken lightly.

“As the UK’s only provider of Personal Guarantee Insurance to SMEs, we would urge the Directors of SMEs to fully consider their options and the risks, particularly in the current uncertain economic climate.   It’s vital Directors seek independent advice, and ensure they have investigated what alternative funding may be available.  If a Personal Guarantee backed business loan is the right solution, they should ensure they’re comfortable with all the terms of the guarantee.”

Top facts to check before signing a personal guarantee for a business loan:

  • How will the lender enforce the guarantee?
  • Can the lender serve notice or seek payment on demand?
  • What exactly constitutes a default?
  • Do the terms allow for any remedy period upon default?
  • How will your net personal assets be assessed prior to the giving of the guarantee, and is this is likely to change?
  • Does the contract state that the lender must exhaust every other avenue before making demands on you?
  • Have you considered the cost of obtaining personal guarantee insurance?

Todd Davison concludes: “Personal Guarantees are likely to be requested by every business lender. Directors of small businesses should be clear on the terms of the guarantee, and should have contractual clarity on all eventualities. They should be as genuinely objective as they can about the financial prospects of their business and its commercial value too. It’s essential to remember that a Personal Guarantee is not a hypothetical assurance, creditors can and will enforce them.

“Because they significantly increase risk for the borrower, Personal Guarantees can cause enormous stress. It’s therefore advisable to get Personal Guarantee insurance against the risk that the Guarantee is called by a lender. It will offset any outstanding obligations called in under a Personal Guarantee. The level of cover is based on a fixed percentage of the Personal Guarantee the company director wishes to insure and this is dependent on whether the corresponding finance facility is secured or unsecured.”

Source: London Loves Business

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A Complete Guide to Financing Start-ups in the UK – Start-up Loans, Governments Grants & More

Financing a start-up can be challenging. In this post, we explore the various ways – from start-up loans to crowdfunding – in which you can go about overcoming this challenge.

The world has seen unprecedented innovation in the last 30 years. By many estimates, these years account for more path-breaking, paradigm-shift-inducing inventions, innovations and ideas than the rest of the human history combined.

It wouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that this culture of innovation has impacted the economy just as definitively as it has our everyday lives. The smartphones we use, the smart payments we make and the big data we routinely stand in awe of – these innovations have left few aspects of modern life untouched. Much the reason why, there has also been a remarkably noticeable upsurge in the number of people answering their entrepreneurial ‘calling’.

The numbers are telling in this regard. In the last five years, the business registration rate has steadily increased despite all the uncertainties around the impending Brexit. If your start-up is among these, it’s quite likely that you are looking for better ways than putting your life savings at stake to raise enough capital.

The Importance of Financing a Start-up Correctly

Choosing a right set of financing options is of utmost importance for any commercial activity.

For start-ups, however, this becomes an even more sensitive proposition. Unfortunately, many promising start-ups pay the price for indecisiveness, inaction and incorrect decision-making. We have seen that the start-up culture is booming in the UK – but there’s always a downside to every argument. The statistics released by the ONS suggest that 48% of new businesses do not survive their first four years of trading. In 40% of such cases, financing problems is the major reason.

By weighing the start-up financing options discussed below, you can avoid your start-up from meeting this grim fate.

1. Start-up Loans

When it comes to funding start-ups in the UK, start-up loans should be the first option you explore.

In the last few years, start-ups have managed to instil a good deal of confidence among lenders. More and more private lenders and banks have started looking at start-ups as huge opportunities, and not mindless, risk-filled adventures. This pattern means that getting a start-up loan is the most affordable and convenient funding option for start-ups across industries.

What is a Start-up Loan?

Start-up loans, even though granted exclusively to start-up businesses, are more like personal loans than commercial loans. This is primarily due to the fact that start-ups don’t have any history of trading to refer to. In most cases, start-ups are founded by a small group of partners and have no history of business credit for the lenders to go by, either.

In essence, a start-up loan is a small, unsecured loan that hinges entirely on the viability of the business model and the personal credit history of the proprietor or the partners.

With one or more start-up loans, you can expect to raise capital up to £25,000.

Why Choose Start-up Loans?

Start-ups, unlike established businesses, have very specific needs, and start-up loans address these needs better than any other financing alternative.

  • Easy to Secure

Start-up loans are much easier to secure when have a good-enough business plan and a blemish-free credit report.

  • Fast Processing

Start-up loans are processed just as quickly as personal loans. This saves you precious time and resources that can be directed towards a successful launch.

  • Little to No Collateral Required

Most lenders offer unsecured start-up loans, once they are convinced of your repayment potential. For higher loan amounts, some collateral may be required to offset the risk taken by the lender.

  • Industry Expertise

This is one feature few other start-up financing options can offer.

If you receive a start-up loan offer from an experienced lender specialising in your industry of operation, it can add immense passive value to your business.

How to Get a Start-up a Loan?

Although most mainstream lenders offer start-up loans, the eligibility criteria and repayment schedules differ wildly from one lender to another. The easiest and fastest way of securing a start-up loan that is tailored to meet your needs is to have a reputed broker like Commercial Finance Broker on your side. Whole of market brokers can approach UK-wide lenders on your behalf, increasing your chances of getting affordable and customised start-up loan quotes.

2. Government Grants for Start-ups

If you are familiar with the start-up culture in the UK, you’ve probably heard of government grants. Even though relying solely on government grants to finance your start-up is impractical, it’s equally unwise to dismiss this option altogether.

What is a Government Grant?

A government grant is essentially a reward granted to various businesses and charitable organisations under various schemes and from various public funds. The primary motive behind the establishment and distribution of government grants is to incentivise innovation, foster entrepreneurship and, in turn, create more employment in various business sectors.

Depending upon the objectives of the grant, your start-up can receive upfront cash rewards, tax incentives, equipment support, technical support and no-interest/low-interest loans. UK start-ups can receive grants from the local authorities, the UK Government and the European Union.

Government Grants for Start-ups: Types and Features

  • Direct Grant (Direct Finance)

This is the most popular type of government grant available for start-ups and young businesses. When you apply for a direct grant, most schemes and trusts will require you to match the grant reward 1:1. In other words, you can expect to raise up to 50% of the required capital using the grant, while the rest will need to be raised through private funding.

  • Available for start-ups
  • Grant size varies from £500 to £500,000 (subject to available schemes)
  • Non-repayable
  • No interest
  • Soft Loans (Subsidised Loans)

Soft loans or subsidised loans aim to strike a balance between direct grants and private or peer-to-peer start-up loans. These loans, available as government grants, are subsidised with public funds so that cash-strapped start-ups can afford them.

  • Loans up to £25,000 are available for start-ups
  • The interest rates (4 to 6% p.a.) are much lower than other loan alternatives.
  • The repayment terms are lenient and generous.
  • Equity Finance (Tax Incentives)

This is a lesser-used but extremely powerful government grant. Through such schemes, the government promotes investments in start-ups by offering up to 50% rebates in the income tax for the investors. The rebate percentage depends upon the size of the business and the business sector.

  • Income tax rebate up to £100,000 can be claimed.
  • Available for start-ups and young businesses with fewer than 25 employees

Government Grants: What Start-ups Should Know

  • Applying for and winning a government grant is often a time-consuming process. If your start-up requires an urgent finance package, grants may not always be useful.
  • The competition is fierce. In recent years, it has become nearly impossible to win government grants in business sectors that do not have a direct impact on the socio-economic policies of the government.
  • Even if you manage to win a government grant, you will still be required to secure an external loan to raise enough capital.

How to Apply for Government Grants

The application process is, in itself, a bottleneck. The slow processing times and ambiguous terms mean that you will need to prepare an extremely thoughtful grant application to qualify.

If you want to win a government grant for your start-up, a proven and systematic approach must be adopted.

  • Know What the Grant is Trying to Achieve

Many start-ups choose to send applications to any and every grant scheme that comes up. This approach usually results into a great deal of wasted time and resources. Instead, you should aim to apply for grants that have specific objectives relating to your business sector.

  • Communicate with the Grant Body/Organisation

It’s always advisable to have a clear communication with the grant body if any of its objectives or terms are unclear. This will help you understand whether you should invest your resources into preparing a grant application.

  • Prepare a Grant Application That Stands Out

Remember – dozens, if not hundreds, of businesses will be competing against you to win the grant in question. Preparing an outstanding grant application will improve your chances significantly. Your grant application should be able to convey how your start-up aligns well with the grant objectives.

  • Supplement Your Grant Application with a Business Plan

You will need a great business plan to bolster your grant application. In the business plan, emphasise the aspects of your business that directly concern the grant objectives. Additionally, you will be required to furnish any external funding commitments you may have received – especially if you are applying for a direct grant.

  • Keep Checking for New Grants

Dozens of new start-up grants are introduced each month. It’s widely believed that the early-bird applications have a higher chance of winning government grants. The definitive list of available grants can be found at the Business Finance Support Portal launched by the UK Government.

3. Investments

If there’s one thing that has added an extra touch of glamour to the very idea of entrepreneurship, it’s the awe-inspiring risk appetite shown by external investors. The stories of start-ups receiving outlandish investment deals regularly make the rounds in start-up circles – and not without their reasons.

Having an external investor on board can be the most cost-effective way of financing your start-up. There are many ways in which your start-up can bring in external investments. Some of these are:

  • Equity investments (selling a share of your equity in the business)
  • Capital investments (mortgaging a share of your equity in the business)
  • Credit lines (flexible credit lines on an as-needed basis in exchange for a fixed percentage of revenue/profits)
  • Custom investments (fully customised investment plans)

4. Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding is an effective way of raising small sums of money, especially for consumer-facing start-ups. It’s all about letting numerous people contribute in their personal capacities in exchange for a stake in your business.

Crowdfunding is a good way to raise money in order to address specific business objectives such as:  fuelling research, manufacturing prototypes, financing marketing campaigns and entering new markets.

Is Your Start-up the Next Big Thing? We’d Love to Hear from You!

There’s something innately attractive about dreaming of an idea, working hard to bring its seed to life and watching it grow into something significant. The unfortunate reality is that many such dreams are routinely cut short for the want of more funding.

At Commercial Finance Network, we’ve been living the entrepreneurial dream – with all its highs and lows – for over a decade. With the help of our UK-wide panel of specialist lenders, we’ve helped numerous start-ups overcome their financing problems. Customised to the highest degree, the start-up loans we broker are more than just loans – they are what the ambitious start-ups of today need to turn the corner and scale newer, higher peaks of success.

Don’t let the funding shortfall stifle your start-up even before it takes off. Call us on 03303 112 646 or fill in our contact form to request a free start-up loan quote.

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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!

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Pension funds, small businesses boost growth in UK alternative finance

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s alternative finance market grew by 43 percent in 2016, research showed on Friday, with interest from start-ups, small businesses and institutional investors helping to boost demand for services such as crowdfunding and peer-to-peer lending.

Last year, 4.6 billion pounds ($6.2 billion) was raised through alternative channels, up from 3.2 billion pounds in 2015, according to a survey of 8,300 investors and 77 crowdfunding or peer-to-peer platforms.

“Alternative finance has entered the mainstream and is likely here to stay,” said Byran Zhang, executive director of the Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance (CCAF) at the university’s Judge Business School, which conducted the survey.

Approximately 72 percent of the year’s market volume, or 3.3 billion pounds, was driven by demand from start-ups and small businesses. That was up from 50 percent the year before.

Major banks reined in their lending in the wake of the financial crisis, and many small businesses complain of poor treatment and difficulty accessing funds.

Several alternative finance providers have sprung up to try to fill the gap, such as peer-to-peer lender Funding Circle, which announced this week it had lent more than 3 billion pounds to almost 40,000 businesses since its launch in 2010.

Another, MarketInvoice, offers peer-to-peer loans secured against businesses’ invoices and has lent 1.7 billion pounds since 2011.

ATTRACTING ATTENTION

After peer-to-peer business lending, the biggest categories were peer-to-peer consumer lending, peer-to-peer property lending, invoice trading, equity-based crowdfunding, real-estate crowdfunding and reward-based crowdfunding.

Institutional investors including pension funds, asset managers and banks were also increasingly backing the platforms, the survey showed. Funding from these sources accounted for 34 percent of peer-to-peer property lending, 28 percent of peer-to-peer business lending and 32 percent of peer-to-peer consumer lending.

 Peer-to-peer lending can offer relatively high returns. Funding Circle, for example, currently boasts an all-time average annual return of 6.6 percent.

But the sector’s fast growth has also caught the attention of the Financial Conduct Authority, which is looking at introducing new regulation for the sector, highlighting concerns about past loan losses and due diligence.

This week, peer-to-peer lender RateSetter, the UK’s third-largest, reported a pretax loss of 23.7 million pounds after it took a hit from a bad loan.

Source: UK Reuters