Finance · 7 November 2016

Banks fail to properly understand needs of small companies

Banks
A quarter of small company owners believed that banks failed to understand their business sector

Just a fifth of small business owners feel that banking advice from their lender consistently meets company needs, as new research showed the extent to which barriers to finance remain for small UK enterprise.

A survey undertaken by merchant bankers Close Brothers that took the views of 1,000 small business owners found that 46 per cent of the owners of small companies had encountered barriers finance and business support from mainstream banks.

Key problems highlighted by the study were that lenders failed to provide effective advice relevant to the specific industries of small businesses.

Over a fifth of respondents who had experienced barriers to finance believed that their individual needs were not understood by their lender, while a quarter believed that an understanding of their business sector was absent.

Commenting on the outlook of company owners, CEO of Close Brothers commercial division, Adrian Sainsbury, suggested that access to appropriate levels of finance and advice remained an issue for UK enterprise.

“Smaller businesses do not have the same options as larger companies. It’s clear that the traditional sources of advice for many are no longer sufficient,” he said in a statement.

Sainsbury added that banks had failed in understanding the “specific circumstances” of small firms, “meaning they are not receiving the level of support they need to secure the right products and funding for the future”.

He concluded by calling for a “specialist, rather than a generalist” approach to small business lending from banks.

“It is vital that these companies are properly understood by the mainstream funders they turn to for guidance, whether knowing the specific financial needs of that business in a particular sector, or identifying the type of lending that will best suit their business at any given time.”

A new bank referral scheme recently launched by the Treasury suggests that the so-called “advice gap” between mainstream lenders and small enterprise is being narrowed by alternative finance opportunities.

The terms of the scheme require major banks to pass the application details of small firms that have been rejected for finance onto three platforms that will in turn join-up the businesses with alternative lenders.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) collaborated with the government in the development of the initiative, and its national chairman, Mike Cherry, welcomed the introduction of greater finance options for small businesses.

He said in a statement: “Small firms struggling to access finance will now automatically have a new way to get the support they need to invest and grow.”

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Simon Caldwell is a reporter for Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and communications from the University of Liverpool, and previously worked as a content editor in the ecommerce industry.

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