The 5.4 million SMEs that exist in UK are the drivers of UK economy. The past year has seen the continuation of steady UK growth alongside a degree of political stability after the re-election of the Conservative Party with a majority in May. The result is that business confidence in general is positive. But what of SMEs in particular and alternative finance? And what could 2016 bring?
Various important subjects are critical for SMEs. In one hand costs are undermining the SME sector’s ability to grow and provide the wider economic impetus that the government so keenly wants from them and the uncertainty regarding the Brexit will not help. There are industry calls for:
- Revision of business rates,
- VAT on small businesses and the pension auto enrolment timetable.
- Help with the cost and management of new emerging technology, from that relating to pensions to superfast broadband and cyber security systems.
- Better access to graduates.
- More workable apprenticeship scheme.
- Significant reduction in red tape and the removal of barriers to working more with public bodies such as councils and schools.
- Better access to SME Finance and clear regulation and information for alternative finance
There are a lot of things going on in the SME finance market, the fintech scene, with a lot of noise and innovation around alternative lenders, emergence of new alternative finance players and the government encouraging banks to lend more to SMEs. This is evidenced by the temporary reduction in capital weighting for lending into the SME segment, but also a realisation that there is no single solution to channelling sufficient funding into small companies.
On 16 March, George Osborn will deliver his 2016 budget https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/summer-budget-2015/summer-budget-2015 and in it will be a lot of areas critical for SMEs.
The UK economy and public finances have a steady ecosystem:
The UK’s economic recovery is well established. The UK was the fastest growing G7economy in 2014 growing by 3.0%, its best performance since 20061. The Organisation for Economic Co‑operation and Development (OECD) forecasts the UK to be the fastest growing G7 economy again in 2015, as shown in Chart 1.1.2 Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), said “when we look at the comparative growth rates delivered by various countries in Europe it’s obvious that what is happening in the U.K. has actually worked”.3
There are several disincentives that affect smooth operational growth of SMEs now, which are: auto enrolment or workplace pensions, the National Living Wage effective April 2016, HMRC more frequent reporting and changes to the taxation of dividends.
James Sherwin-Smith, CEO of Growth Street, comments ahead of the 2016 Budget on what the Chancellor must announce to improve the fortunes of SMEs in the UK,
“All the signs indicate that this will be a tax raising Budget but the Chancellor would be ill advised to increase the tax burden on SMEs at this time, especially when they have been one of the main drivers in the country’s continued economic recovery.
“It is vital that the Chancellor puts small businesses at the heart of his Budget on Wednesday to ensure they continue to flourish. Accessing appropriate finance on suitable terms continues to be a huge problem for SMEs and the Government can do more to remove unnecessarily bureaucratic hurdles. There has been some indication that the mandatory SBEEA (2015) bank referral scheme will be delayed until later this year. This, frankly is a huge mistake and will only deepen the misery of small business owners seeking suitable finance, especially when the CMA has also just announced that it is elongating the timetable to conclude its inquiry and proposed remedies to resolve the identified adverse effects on competition that prevail in SME banking markets.
“While the volume of available finance is extremely important to SMEs, Growth Street also calls on the Chancellor to remember that the quality of finance is as important, if not more so. Transparency in the SME finance sector remains low, meaning that many small firms have little clarity over the true cost of the financial solution they obtain. Growth Street has launched the #APR4SMEs campaign to combat this growing problem and have made a submission to the Treasury ahead of the Budget to ensure that all financial products targeted at SMEs carry an APR. This single measure would result in a fairer, lower cost, transparent and more competitive market for SMEs seeking commercial finance, with a positive impact on growth and job creation