SMEs unsure about Hammond as Autumn Statement looms

By Ryan Weeks on Tuesday 22 November 2016

Alternative Lending

Lansons’ James Dowling says new Chancellor must improve his profile with nation’s small businesses.

New research by reputation management consultancy Lansons has found that a fifth of SMEs trust departed Chancellor George Osborne more than Philip Hammond (pictured right), while a further 34 per cent trust neither of them. The research was conducted by Opinium Research last week, and is based on the responses of 505 senior decision makers at UK SMEs.

The nervousness surrounding Mr. Hammond appears to stem from a lack of familiarity among the majority of small business owners. 57 per cent of respondents to the Lansons survey described themselves as “unfamiliar” with the new Chancellor, with 41 per cent saying that they were familiar with him “in some way”.

Mr. Hammond will deliver his first Autumn Statement tomorrow, offering a steer as to what kind of approach he will adopt to managing the economy post-Brexit. Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, Mr. Hammond said that he wants to ensure that the economy is “watertight”, that the country has enough headroom to handle “any unexpected challenges over the next couple of years”, and that Britain is “ready to seize the opportunities of leaving the European Union”.

Many within the alternative finance sector are anxious to see how the new Chancellor will act. OakNorth CEO Rishi Khosla has called for the Funding for Lending Scheme to be extended, while CoInvestor founder Charles Owen has commented on the need to preserve pensions freedoms. Small businesses account for a significant portion of the alternative finance sector’s customer base, so we’d expect both groups’ priorities to be fairly closely aligned.

Lansons’ research shows that the key priorities for small businesses in tomorrow’s statement relate to stabilising conditions post-Brexit. 35 per cent say that the most important issue in the medium term is economic certainty for the markets, with cost of living also standing out as a priority.

“In the wake of the Brexit vote, the highest profile concern cited by SMEs was medium term economic uncertainty,” said James Dowling, head of public policy at Lansons. “Our country’s small businesses are looking for a lead, yet 57% of them say they are unfamiliar with the Chancellor – the man charged with steering the economy. The Autumn Statement is an opportunity to change this. If he is to succeed, Hammond needs to use it dramatically to build his profile and confidence among SMEs.”

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