The European Commission’s Annual Report on European SMEs 2014/15 found that, access to finance for SMEs across the EU has decreased in importance with only 13% (down from 15% in 2013) citing it as the most pressing problem in 2014 behind a number of other issues. The UK’s SME Finance Monitor also found that 79% of SME loan and overdraft applications were successful in the 18 months to 2015 Q2, up from 67% in Q4 2013.
The Government continues to take steps to improve access to finance. The British Business Bank, for example, is supporting £2.4 billion of finance to over 40,000 smaller businesses, and participating in a further £3.3 billion of finance to small mid-sized businesses, as of the end of June. In addition, the implementation of measures in the Small Business and Employment Act 2015 will require the largest banks to refer customers who have been declined finance to alternative providers via designated platforms.
The report also highlights that finding customers remains a problem for SMEs but that this is relatively less problematic than in previous years. We are supporting SMEs by providing advice on a range of issues through Growth Hubs, which join up local resources; the My Business Support Tool which helps businesses find the support they need quickly; and the Business Support Helpline.
Government has made public contract opportunities easier to find by making them all accessible on an improved single online portal. The Contracts Finder contains current public sector contracts (above £10,000 in Central Government and £25,000 in the wider public sector) and a forwardpipelineof potential contract opportunities up to 2020.
Of the 50,000 plus businesses that make up the customer base of UK Trade & Investment, some 90% are SMEs.
UKTI provides tailored help for SMEs, including: working out which markets suit their business; identifying export opportunities; introducing them to key contacts and setting up business meetings; and helping firms exhibit their goods and services at trade fairs.