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11 October 2020 | Commercial Finance

The resilience and adaptability of SMEs in the current climate

2020 has brought about a clear struggle for many small, independent, local businesses who are trying to manoeuvre their way through the ‘new normal’. The introduction of financial aids from the Government to help those hard hit businesses - with schemes such as the CBILS (Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme), the BBLS (Bounce Back Loan Scheme) and the Future Fund for UK based start-ups and scale-ups - has been a huge helping hand for a multitude of businesses.

But, even with this financial aid, we are still seeing the breakdown of many small business across the country. Recent research conducted by Aldermore found that UK businesses had a 30 per cent loss in monthly income and nearly one in five small businesses have had a 70 per cent loss during the peak of lockdown. 

Despite this, there have been a lot of businesses who have, so far, managed to survive this crisis. As Goldman Sachs notes in ‘Small Business Britain: The Impact of COVID-19 To-Date’, for every two businesses that have made job cuts, another has increased its employment. The report also found that around 44 per cent of UK businesses have had to let at least one member of staff go, but it is encouraging that 62 per cent of businesses have continued trading without interruption.

The Christie Finance Unsecured and Asset Finance department has been imperative in assisting clients with obtaining a CBILS loan. At the beginning of the pandemic, it was a slow process for all involved as there are many intricacies to the CIBLS offering but, once this was overcome, the ability for both high street and alternative funders to offer these facilities enabled the delivery of vital capital to businesses.
 
Over the past few months, we have seen many businesses being forced to adapt to the new challenges of reduced revenue and, in some cases, this has been coupled with increased costs. Access to flexible funding, including the CBILS scheme, has enabled these changes to take place while maintaining quality of services and even an introduction of new service lines. Their agility has seen 45 per cent of SMEs adapt their business models, 67 per cent taking on external finance (such as CBILS funding), and 74 per cent accepting that these changes are not just short term, but permanent (Goldman Sachs, 2020).
 
The NACFB also shared research obtained by Santander that 60 per cent of SMEs have had to change the way they operate. The three key changes that many businesses have undertaken has been: introducing new technology, creating new products, and expanding their current product lines (Goldman Sachs, 2020).
 
Our Unsecured and Asset Finance division also found that businesses’ valuable client bases have meant that funding was key to enable them to remain agile in what has been a fast-paced and unpredictable market. One of the key challenges our team has faced is ensuring that deals are turned around within a reasonable timescale, by fully understanding each individual businesses’ position, how they have been impacted and what their future strategies are.
 
The key for survival is the Government’s next steps: Will there be further lockdowns? Will funding stop?
 
As Goldman Sachs notes, if we avoid another national lockdown, 99 per cent of businesses will survive. Heading into 2021, there is reason to be optimistic, with 78 per cent of business owners confident of their future. Even with the uncertainty of Brexit, there is still a resilience in the eyes of SMEs.
 
It is important that access to funding and other support is kept available, particularly in areas where businesses are forced to close, or trade has significantly reduced. The hospitality industry is an example of a sector which could be significantly impacted by local restrictions and it is vital that the right funding is made available to all affected sectors in a timely manner to keep businesses afloat and strong into the next year.
 
For further information on our unsecured offering, please contact Shaun Watts at shaun.watts@christiefinance.com