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The Role of Asset Finance in the Future of UK SMEs

Small and medium enterprise (SME) businesses have faced their biggest ever challenge this year. With the online resources and depth of large business, there are ways in which asset finance can help them to continue to compete, both as asset vendors/suppliers and end-user clients.

Long-term supporter and promoter of small businesses, Mark Johnson, Managing Director of Business Finance broker Johnson Reed with over 20 years in the asset finance industry, emphasises and details the work that has and must continue to be done industry-wide to ensure these companies can continue to work, trade and provide jobs for years to come.

Mark has worked in the industry throughout his career, and has set about changing how lenders work, challenging banks and adopting a ‘common-sense lending’ approach which has proved popular with a variety of businesses for asset & loan facilities; from hospitality and leisure to hard asset/constructionand manufacturing, gaining support and plaudits from clients and suppliers across the UK. Here Mark details his thoughts on the work that can be done by the sector to improve its offering to businesses.

Mark Johnson, Managing Director of Johnson Reed

The role of the finance broker has grown in recent years, with increased responsibility and trust from lenders to deliver suitable matches and customers to meet their specific needs. However, it has also been a time where a common-sense approach has helped start, grow and develop a large number of businesses that perhaps aren’t of interest to the mainstream banks.

Although mainstream banks have supported small businesses with Bounce Back Loans, as usual, a majority of SMEs have found themselves financially stranded, especially this year with everything that has affected trade. This is where the responsibility falls to alternative lending. But this responsibility must be treated as such, and our industry must continue to do its due diligence in securing finance for our clients.

All too often I am hearing about businesses taking on loans, such as CBILS, to paper over cracks, clients that are forced to take it, and spend on existing debts, creating ‘bad debt’. Our industry has to ask the right questions to ensure financial products are suitable for clients, and encourage them to invest in the business to increase revenue or decrease costs, as such schemes and finance are intended.

This is the major difference and this is what creates good debt which allows companies to continue trading, working and doing what it is designed to do, help and support small businesses, and it is imperative that now more than ever we ensure we are on the correct side of this and keep the responsibility we have to our clients.

I recently read that alternative lending had reached £25bn in the UK alone since 2011, figures like that can’t go unnoticed and so many businesses and lenders can’t be wrong.

It is vital that as we move into 2021 companies consider alternative finance providers to support their businesses where banks are less open to support than ever, and there is a clear path for SME businesses to choose.

In a time where businesses have had their premises shut with no choice but to close, and then are faced with restricted and limited numbers when open, such as restaurants and gyms, these business owners must look to hold on to cash where possible and look to alternative funding to help deliver high standards of trading.

By financing assets, or re-financing assets, businesses can steady their cash flow stream and invest in the long-term revenue stream of the business, rather than being faced with overwhelming bills with no other option when forced to close or during tough periods.

Having cash saved and ready to use in these emergency situations is exactly an option that businesses must take advantage of in order to continue on working.

This means that suppliers must be aware of the impact and benefit of being able to provide this, as it is heading the way of becoming the new norm, and suppliers that adapt will find themselves better off in the long run, alongside businesses that see the benefits too.

Small business face longer waiting lists and time to access funds, with applications taking up to 25 hours of company time. Our industry should be looking to more efficient ways of creating applications using technology and working with lenders to ensure a fair and faster process.

There is an opportunity for businesses that want to invest, grow, keep hold of cash and ride this storm, it comes in the shape of alternative lending and it is a rigorous but rewarding process for all involved. Our commitment as brokers and lenders, including us at Johnson Reed, must be to protecting the best interests of these businesses, ensuring that any finance or schemes are going to generate revenue and decrease costs and if businesses can keep trading through products bought using asset, lease or equipment finance,
then SME companies have the opportunity to keep afloat and keep moving, rather than standing still or sinking.

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