Its report released yesterday points to the most positive business sentiment since its inception, with 51% of SMEs looking to grow their businesses in the next 12 months.
As one of the first reports on business confidence in the second quarter of 2013, we hope that this optimism is set to increase as further evidence of positive economic activity becomes available.
Businesses are starting to grow in confidence and looking to borrow but it looks like, while they are growing in confidence to invest, they still remain unsure when it comes to the support they will get from the banks, turning to friends and alternatives such as asset finance.
All points to our fear that Monday’s Funding for Lending figures from the Bank of England will continue to show a fall in SME lending and our concern that the banking industry will potentially put a brake on growth rather than provide the necessary funds to support it.
Recent conversations I’ve had with the banks would suggest that they are open for lending and that they are making moves to actively promote this to their existing and potential members, but if this is simply a perception gap there is still a long way to go in closing it.
Banks need to do more in providing information about the current finance support schemes, more comprehensive advice on the alternatives available and easier access to the appeals process when an application fails. As a business support organisation we can and do help our members by providing advice on areas such as crowd and peer-to-peer funding and by putting them in touch with suitable funding partners. However, it is the high street banks that have the capability to power growth as businesses look to finance expansion and investment.
Focus on stimulating further economic activity and growth is vital. And my message to businesses is that if they are seeking finance is to go for it. Seek out a mixed portfolio of options and appeal if you feel you’ve been unfairly declined.
My message to the banks is that we can’t afford for progress to wither. Banks must be more proactive in providing the liquidity the economy needs and to promote awareness of, and access to, the financial mechanisms in place to support lending. We will look to the upcoming Funding for Lending figures to see if the banks are delivering in this respect.