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September View from The Hub - Saqib Bhatti

Friday 6th September

I recently came across a rather interesting and disturbing report from the House of Commons Treasury Select Committee who had been discussing the availability of finance for SMEs.

This may not be everyone’s summertime reading but I am an accountant.

And as Chair of The Growth Hub some of the evidence it looked at was quite scary and a bit of an eye opener.

SMEs like those The Growth Hub supports are the life blood of the UK economy.

They represent 99.9% of all private sector businesses and 60% of all private sector employment.

And the effective provision of finance to these businesses is therefore crucial for boosting the country’s economic performance.

Yet for the past 10 years, bank lending to SMEs has declined and gross lending to this sector remains below where it was 10 years ago, before the financial crash, as banks have sought to reduce their risk appetite and their lending to this sector to re-capitalise their balance sheets.

Yet bank lending remains the first port of call for many businesses looking for additional funding to invest and to fund their cash flow.

More worringly, The Select Committee, also heard how there is an increasing perception gap among small business owners that they will not be granted the finance they need should they apply. And so they don’t.

John Glen, Economic Secretary to the Treasury, highlighted this perception gap and told the Committee that ‘in a recent survey, 41 per cent of them said that they did not think they would be accepted for a loan’.

The Committee also heard that while there were a large number and variety of funding and finance options now available, these were not always known about by those seeking finance.

This is a real worry.

Small business owners have enough to deal with- finding the funding they need to take their business forward should not be one of them.

This is why we have set up the Access To Finance programme.

And why we have worked with The British Business Bank to help establish the Midlands Engine Investment Fund to make sure that business owners in the region get the advice they need when it comes to finding a financing solution that might be right for them; that through our partners we can provide access to debt or equity financing as may be required; and all this advice and support is available for free, fully funded by The Growth Hub and the Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP.

Because we believe it’s important.

And this month we are calling Access to Finance Month and we are using social media and online marketing to bring this help and support to the attention of businesses like yours and the wider business community. Look for #Access2Finance.

And in the issue of The Hub you can find out more about how we are helping.

Here you will find useful and helpful articles that explain how we are helping businesses find the right finance and funding solution for them; we introduce you to the British Business Bank, the biggest bank that you might never have heard of; we hear from an innovative start up business and how we helped them find funding.

We know there is a finance solution out there for most businesses. And it is our mission to help you get it.  

If you want to find out more about our Access To Finance Programme check out our portal:

Finally to digress slightly, we also cover another important topic, Brexit, with more hints and tips and advice to make sure your business is prepared.

As always The Growth Hub is here to help.

Saqib Bhatti
Chair, Greater Birmingham and Solihull Growth Hub 

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