Finance · 8 August 2017

British bank spotlight: What to expect from HSBC business banking

London,  United Kingdom - March 27,  2016: HSBC bank branch on Queensway West end in London with woman waiting outside to use cash mashine
Around one in five UK SMEs banks with HSBC?| Credit: HSBC
Helping readers decide which high street banking proposition best suits the needs of their company, we unpick HSBC’s offer for small UK business owners.

To identify the secrets to obtaining finance from HSBC, we spoke to the lender’s head of business banking, before one entrepreneurial customer explains what kind of service fellow founders can expect from the bank.

Finance opportunities

By the end of 2016, the bank’s official lending figure to SME customers reached 5.5bn, and HSBC claims to approve 91 per cent of its loan applications from small business owners.

Meanwhile, in June 2017, the bank announced a new 10bn fund, distributed across all UK regions, specifically to finance loans to entrepreneurs.

In particular, the bank has targeted financial restraints preventing would-be exporters from trading overseas, campaigning for greater government support in this area for small firms.

With a seemingly high lending rate, we spoke to James Cliffe, head of business banking at HSBC UK, to find out where the remaining nine per cent could be going wrong, and what it takes to demonstrate the potential of a company to an HSBC loans advisor.

What the bank says: James Cliffe, head of HSBC business banking UK

  1. Is the business plan the most important thing to an HSBC business banking advisor?

it’s part of what we look at, but we also look at the experience of the entrepreneur or the management team. We look at the external environment, and importantly, the cash generation of the business.

  1. Would you move forward with someone who hadnt presented their plan well?

absolutely. What’s important is the substance of the business proposition. Some people are very good at presenting that in a document, other people bring it to life verbally.

what’s crucial is that an entrepreneur can show theyve got a real handle on their business the market, the conditions, and the risks involved. There are a variety of ways they can get that across to us.

we are starting to see more entrepreneurs creating videos around their business. That’s very useful to us because it really brings to life what they are about and what they do. To see it in action, even in a video, is great.

  1. Should the business owner make a clear and convincing case for how the loan will be repaid?

yes. If we can’t see where the cash flow will come from and be confident the business can sustain the cash flow we can’t approve the loan. If the entrepreneur can’t evidence this, then it’s not something we can support. In that situation, we often advise the customer to get equity.

  1. Do you like to see applicants reduce risk by putting equity into the business themselves?

yes, for two reasons it reduces the risk for the bank, but it also evidences the entrepreneur’s commitment to the venture.

however, we do lend to business owners that don’t have the security to offer equity but do have a viable business. In that instance, we will use the Enterprise Finance Guarantee Scheme (EFGS), which is ideal for a business without many assets.



Praseeda Nair is an impassioned advocate for women in leadership, and likes to profile business owners, advisors and experts in the field of entrepreneurship and management.