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New Research Confirms SME Funding Drought

Yet more research has been undertaken in an effort to expose the funding shortages faced by UK SMEs.

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According to the independent commercial finance broker – Hilton-Baird Financial Solutions – exactly half of the UK’s businesses deem the current level of funding support available to them to be insufficient. The annual SME Trends Index questions business owners and finance directors from across the country on all things funding related. We’ve summarized the key findings below:

  • 27% of businesses say that the backing available from lenders and government is sufficient to their needs.

  • 16% had seen a funding application rejected within the past 12 months.

  • That figure soars to 26% when questioning businesses with an annual turnover of less than £500k.

  • The most prevalent funding routes are not capable of providing enough working capital. 61% of those relying on bank overdrafts are also using business credit cards.

  • The use of business credit cards in general was found to have risen by 2% annually – up to 47%.

  • Personal credit cards are used by 12% of respondents – that figure rising to 20% among businesses with less than £500k in annual turnover.

  • 50% of respondents pointed to their bank manager as their first port of call when searching for funding. 26% rely on their “in-house expertise”, while 23% research online options – which of course includes alternative finance providers. Just 19% seek the advice of an accountant, and only 13% contact an independent finance broker.

  • Cost was by far the key concern when for businesses going in search of funding (57%).

  • Nearly a third of respondents stated that they were looking for extra funding, with 23% saying that greater flexibility among providers was required.

What do we make of these findings? All in all, nothing that followers of the alternative finance space won’t have heard before. The 27% figure – relating to business leaders that find funding availability to be suitable to their needs – will doubtless have risen substantially by the time that the next “SME Trends Index” rolls around.

The main driver of that spike will be the alternative finance providers. Public awareness of the alternative finance space remains frustratingly low – as several other surveys have confirmed over the past year. But P2P ISAs and a number of government initiatives, as well as globally significant events, will have upped the industry’s profile significantly by October 2015.

In the mean time, Evette Orams, Managing Director of Hilton-Baird Financial Solutions, commented on the survey’s results:

“It is worrying that SMEs aren’t accessing the funding support they need. As the lifeblood of the economy, they are key to its recovery.

“In addition to SMEs feeling that adequate support is not available, it would appear that they are resorting to using financing methods that are inflexible, potentially costly and only suited to the short term.

“Funding remains available to businesses of all sizes if they explore the right avenues, but it isn’t a one size fits all offering so care must be taken to ensure the right facility is secured.

“Solutions that provide the right level of service and support, plus the flexibility and headroom to grow in line with the business, can give SMEs the freedom to reach their potential. Whilst cost is of obvious importance, focusing instead on the value the facility would drive to the business is key.”

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