Manchester's finance community discuss funding for SMEs as part of Northern Powerhouse vision
Sue Souter

Well financed SMEs key to Northern Powerhouse vision

The Government’s plans to create a ‘Northern Powerhouse’ came firmly under the spotlight at a finance forum in Central Manchester today (4th June 2015) as business leaders, financial institutions and entrepreneurs discussed the challenge around better supporting the thousands of SME businesses that will be contributing to that vision.

High on the agenda for delegates at the Boosting Finance for Business Expansion Forum was the systematic change needed at a policy and practical level to empower SMEs to secure the appropriate finance for sustained growth, from both traditional lenders and alternative sources.

Hosted by KPMG, organised by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales (ICAEW) and its Corporate Finance Faculty, and chaired by MSCA President Colin Gillespie, the forum presented an important opportunity for companies, investors and advisors to meet Ron Emerson, Chairman of the British Business Bank, the UK’s first economic development bank.

British Business Bank is aiming to change the finance landscape for smaller businesses, and its programmes are currently supporting more than £1.8billion of finance to more than 43,000 smaller businesses, with a further £1.2 billion of finance to mid-cap businesses.

Speaking at the event, Ron Emerson said: “We are looking to listen to people who can make the Northern Powerhouse vision a reality and work in partnership with the financial community here in Manchester and other northern cities to ensure that SMEs get the investment and advice they need.”

“This is an important step in the right direction from the Government. Today I am looking for collaboration to ensure SMEs start up, scale up and stay ahead.”

David Petrie, Head of Corporate Finance at the ICAEW, said that the Corporate Finance Faculty at the institute would continue to focus on policy change and practical support to create a better investment environment.

“Our policy work with Government is helping to open up more imaginative lending solutions to SMEs which is so important to realising Northern Powerhouse ambitions for the region. And getting practical with advice. Our Business Finance Guide has reach over 750,000 SMEs in the last few months and has the endorsement of 17 other professional and business organisations including the CBI, FSB and IOD.”

Louise Beaumont, Head of Public Affairs at GLI Finance picked up on the theme of awareness. “While we strive to create products and services to empower business owners, we are also calling for the Government to back it up with a national business information campaign on a par with Tell Sid. If we can shift shares, we can surely drive finance take up among SMEs, but they need to know what’s on offer.”

She also added: “We also need to note that busy entrepreneurs want to focus more management time on their people and customers than with finance providers and are receptive to a different approach. That’s why an alternative lending platform like www.fundingoptions.com where you can scan choice and act quickly is doing well.

“This is a generation who are Googling a finance solution and getting speedy, accurate support without needing a traditional relationship at all.”

Ron Emerson concluded: “We have to focus on broadening sources of finance supply and developing new products, collaborating and innovating to get best results for individual businesses and the wider economy.”

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