Tom Thackray, Director of Competitive Markets at the CBI, is optimistic about the financing landscape for SMEs
Finding the finance your business needs
The great thing about the financing landscape at the moment is that there’s a lot of choice out there. We’ve seen an explosion in the fintech economy, in the sharing economy and there’s new platforms that businesses can exploit to make sure that they get the finance they need to grow. And actually that’s a really important thing because we know that businesses are much more likely to scale up if they have some kind of external finance. That’s debts they’ve taken on, so taking some risk or whether they’re seeking equity investment, that’s a real positive thing that we’ve seen in recent years.
One thing that we need to do is to make more businesses aware of the breadth of finance that is available in the economy because prior to the financial crisis most businesses were wholly dependent on all kinds of finance from their bank. Banks obviously will still play a big role in their future but there’s a whole swathe of different options which might be appropriate for a business at different times of their development.
If there’s one gap we see in the supply of finance for small and medium sized companies it is long term growth capital. We see some gaps both on the equity and the debt side there. In terms of equity obviously we need to raise awareness of equity options for small and medium sized businesses but also we need to look at expanding that market so there are more providers of equity finance on the terms that businesses feel positive about. Things like the Business Growth Fund which have been set up in the last few years have been a real filler for that industry, so the direction of travel is positive there.
On the debt sides, long term debt has been more hard to come by over the last few years. That’s because in part of the financial crisis and the regulatory response meaning banks are less able to lend over that term. So the CBI has been working out different solutions which will enable retail investors to actually invest in new funds which will be tax advantaged and provide that long term debt directly to small and medium sized businesses, and that’s something we’re working on at the moment.
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