Small business growth forecasts hit two-year high

Nationally, 37% of small business owners predict growth for the next three months, the highest figure since the pandemic started more than two-years ago. The new quarterly data from Novuna Business Finance also reveals that the percentage of small businesses predicting contraction has also hit a two-year low (falling to just 7%).
Despite inflation rising to its highest level in 30 years – plus the impact of war in Ukraine on fuel prices – the new tracking data from Novuna Business Finance suggests we are beginning to see the bounce-back after Covid restrictions fell away in the UK earlier this year.
Around the country, the quarterly poll of 1,196 small business owners revealed that 5% of predicted significant expansion for the three-months to 30 June, with 32% predicting sustained organic growth. While 46% of respondents envisaged no change on the previous quarter, 7% of business owners predicted contraction and a further 7% feared collapse.
Significantly, small businesses that had been most affected by the pandemic were those that now see the biggest return in confidence for the future. For example:
  • Small business owners that had been forced to repurpose their enterprise during lockdown are now most likely to be those on the rise – with 41% of these business owners predicting growth for the next three months, a steep rise from 27% last quarter.
  • Those enterprises that had been forced to close during lockdown are also now bouncing back, with the proportion predicting growth up to 28% (rising from 20% last quarter).
  • In contrast, for businesses whose operating status was not impacted by Covid – or who continue to work from home – for these enterprises, growth forecasts remain unchanged on the previous quarter.
By sector, the latest Novuna Business Finance data suggests there was a significant rise in growth forecasts for small businesses in the hospitality sector (41%) – a welcome boost for a sector decimated by the pandemic and banking on a seasonal boom as summer approaches. There were also signs of growing confidence from enterprises in the agricultural sector (25%). For both these sectors, the percentage of business owners predicting growth has now fully returned to pre-pandemic levels.
For small businesses in finance and accounting, legal, transport and distribution – more small business owners predicted growth for the next three months than was the case last quarter.
Regionally, there were also signs the Government’s levelling up strategy could also be working. Across seven UK regions more small businesses were going into the spring and summer predicting growth and opportunity for their enterprises. The exception here was Scotland, where the percentage of businesses predicting growth has fallen.
Jo Morris, Head of Insight at Novuna Business Finance commented: “There is no question that many small businesses have been tangibly impacted by price rises, which directly impact the bottom line and supply chain. That said, it is important not to forget the seismic risks that enterprises had to cope with during the pandemic. Many had to close their doors, others had to fundamentally reinvent their business to survive – and we, at Novuna Business Finance helped many enterprises to adapt at this critical time. Those that experienced the most pain during lockdown are the small businesses that are forging ahead today. And it has taken six months since COVID restrictions fell away for us now to finally see the resilience of small businesses and their power to rebuild and recover.”

CSA receive Ofsted GOOD rating in first official inspection

The Credit Services Association (CSA), the voice of the UK debt collection and debt purchase industry, has received the highly sought-after Ofsted GOOD rating for its apprenticeship training provision.

The Ofsted report praises the CSA’s delivery to over 200 apprentices across seven apprenticeship programmes covering credit, collections, compliance, risk, counter fraud and debt advice.  Ofsted’s verdict on CSA Apprenticeships states, “a culture of high expectations, characterised by ambitious curriculum content, high standards of integrity and professional behaviour, and effective support for apprentices, staff and employers. Apprentices are prepared well for their whole careers, not just for their current jobs.”

Fiona Macaskill, Director of Learning and Development at the CSA said: “We are very proud of what we have achieved, in particular the feedback from the report which states our contribution to establishing a culture of high expectations, high standards of integrity, and professional behaviour. She continues, “It was also pleasing to receive overwhelming feedback and support from our member employers – the message very much that we tailor to our employers’ needs while sticking to the integrity of the standard. For our training provision to be externally regulated, and to receive this GOOD rating, reflects on the reputation and professionalism of our sector and our members – we are pleased that this result will reassure our stakeholders of the positive and high quality services delivered by the CSA.”

From October 2018, Ofsted undertook to carry out monitoring visits to all newly directly funded providers of apprenticeship training provision. The focus of the monitoring visits is to assess the progress made by providers against a series of targets and criteria including safeguarding and delivering high-quality training.

Harvey Watson, Senior Tutor at the CSA praised his tutors for their contribution to the rating received, “As a team of tutors we are very proud of what we have achieved but this is the end of the beginning – now we need to achieve that next level. We are experts in what we do so want to keep pushing on.”

Chris Leslie, CEO of the CSA commented on the significance of receiving a GOOD rating, “I’m absolutely delighted that the CSA has achieved this rating, which reflects the many benefits the apprentices gain from our courses and the skills and expertise of our team of experienced tutors. Our corner of the financial services sector can be proud of the access they have to specialist learning and development support from the Credit Services Association.”

New Customer Experience Debate Is Launched

A new round-table debate is set to allow senior professionals to share information and advice regarding customer experience in these changing times. The debate, which will be hosted by CCRMagazine, in association with LINK Mobility, will bring together key figures from the industry to discuss the challenges and fresh opportunities that they are all facing.

Stephen Kiely, editor of CCRMagazine, said: “We have found that these round-table debates are hugely popular and successful ways in which we can facilitate the sharing of knowledge, I am very proud to be working with LINK Mobility to build this debate.

“These are time of great change and it will be the professionals that have the ideas and insight to keep ahead of the pack who will thrive, and we hope to play our part in this process.”

Contact Stephen Kiely to request your place to attend this outstanding new event at stephen@ccrmagazine.co.uk.

www.linkmobility.com

Applications for personal guarantee backed small business loans up 50%

Demand for personal guarantee backed finance from small businesses doubled in March 2022, as firms grappled with rising costs according to Purbeck Personal Guarantee Insurance.  Applications for Personal Guarantee Insurance to support small business funding rose 50.5% Q1 2022 vs Q1 2021 and in March 2022 alone, applications rose 108% on March 2021.

This new analysis of small business finance underlines how Brexit, skills shortages, rising material and fuel costs are all depleting cash reserves with finance for ‘Working Capital’ the main reason for a small business loan.  Purbeck found that in the first Quarter of 2022, the biggest proportion (35%) of finance applications with a personal guarantee attached were for ‘Working Capital’, surpassing any other reason for new funding.  Applications for personal guarantee insurance to support funding for ‘Working Capital’ were up a huge 88% in Q1 2022 vs Q1 2021.

While ‘Working Capital’ is the main reason for funding, small businesses are also securing new finance to support ‘Development’ and for ‘Investment in Growth Initiatives’. Indeed, applications for finance for ‘Development’ grew 69% from Q1 2021 to Q1 2022.

The owners of small businesses are also borrowing more year on year. Purbeck’s analysis shows the average loan amount has risen from £142,718 in Q1 2021 to £174,104 in Q1 2022, a jump of 22%. In fact, one in five loan applications (19%) were for loans of £375-400K in Q1 2022 – a significant increase on Q1 2021, with application volumes for this value of loan rising 160%.

Unsecured loans have also risen in popularity and are the main type of finance secured by small businesses – 39% of all personal guarantee insurance backed loans were of this nature in Q1 2022 compared to 28% in Q1 2021.

Todd Davison, MD of Purbeck Personal Guarantee Insurance said: “While there is obviously a concern that small businesses are becoming more indebted, the fact that applications for personal guarantee insurance to support this finance have risen so substantially year on year must be seen as a positive.  These business owners are typically leading well-established businesses that have been in operation for 14 years on average and have in the region of 28 people working for them. They are being incredibly responsible by taking steps to protect their assets, should their business ultimately fail.

“Access to finance is increasingly reliant on the business owner signing a personal guarantee so it is vital small business leaders understand how they can mitigate the risks to give them the confidence to secure the new finance they need – whether that’s to sustain the business through this challenging economic period, or to grow.”

Taulia and EcoVadis partner to help build sustainable supply chains

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA – Taulia, a leading provider of working capital management solutions, has today announced its partnership with the business sustainability rating provider, EcoVadis. EcoVadis will provide ESG ratings for Taulia’s Sustainable Supplier Finance solution, allowing businesses in any industry globally to identify the most responsible and sustainable suppliers while encouraging suppliers to improve ESG performance with financial incentives.

Taulia’s Sustainable Supplier Finance solution with EcoVadis’ ESG ratings will support businesses in identifying and monitoring their suppliers’ ESG performance and qualifications across the entire supply chain. By connecting ESG ratings with low-cost early payments as a financial incentive, businesses can create alignment with suppliers to improve their ESG performance and behavior continuously.

EcoVadis’ methodology uses seven management indicators across 21 sustainable criteria in four themes: environment, labor & human risks, ethics, and sustainable procurement. EcoVadis follows international sustainability standards such as the Ten Principles of UN Global Compact, the International Labour Organization conventions, and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

Cedric Bru, Chief Executive Officer, Taulia, said: “Until now, lack of transparency in supply chain reporting and comparability has been responsible for a large number of ESG issues within businesses. However, now business leaders have the opportunity to build on their own proactive ESG efforts by encouraging suppliers and partners to report reliably, consistently and comparably against globally recognized benchmarks. Through this partnership we are committing to help customers more easily evaluate the ESG metrics and credentials of trading partners and ultimately create a more sustainable world for future generations.”

Pierre-François Thaler, Co-CEO and Co-Founder, EcoVadis, also commented: “The journey to sustainable resilience in value chains can be rapidly accelerated when motivations for trading partners are aligned to reliable performance benchmarks across the broadest possible range of companies. By connecting EcoVadis Sustainability Ratings to Taulia’s extensive financing offerings and global network, our collaboration brings tangible financial incentives to fruition to drive positive social and environmental impact at a global scale.”

Monument strengthens Lending team

Monument, the challenger bank and specialist buy-to-let lender, has strengthened its Lending team with the recruitment of Craig Middleton.

Craig, who joins as a Lending Relationship Manager, brings a wealth of more than 30 years’ experience across retail, private banking and building society lending, and has a history of developing new business in highly competitive markets by offering a blend of technical knowledge, cultivating client relations, and delivering a superior client experience at pace.

He joins Monument, following a spell within the building society sector, most recently including a role at Harpenden Building Society where he helped build out the distribution network and product proposition strategy.

Craig will help to grow Monument’s buy-to-let and bridging lending, working on delivering more solutions to a broader selection of property investors.

Conor McDermott, Head of Lending at Monument, said: “I’m pleased to welcome Craig to our growing team at Monument. He has a huge amount of experience in property lending and will be a great asset to our business as we continue to grow our specialist buy-to-let and bridging lending.”

Craig Middleton, Lending Relationship Manager at Monument, said: “It’s great to join Monument at such an exciting time for the challenger bank. I’m looking forward to helping place property investors with the right lending solutions for their circumstances and contributing to Monuments’ continued drive for success and growth.”

New ‘social hub’ opens in Castleford following major funding support

A Featherstone-based property developer has created a new social hub featuring an artisan coffee shop and sandwich bar, as well as a high-specification hair and beauty salon, in a project that has breathed new life into a redundant site in Castleford.

The new Livelihub on Methley Road, close to the town centre, is the brainchild of local entrepreneur Craig Mitchell, owner of Carter & Co. Property Solutions. The new venture, which has created four new jobs, was brought to fruition through funding of £100,000 arranged by Reward Finance Group.

The new business aims to provide a contemporary setting for eating, drinking and socialising through its carefully selected range of high quality freshly brewed coffee, food and other drinks. The extensive redevelopment project of the former workshop and storage space, which had been derelict for twenty years, also features a salon for Luxe Professional Hairdressing, with space for five barbers.

Reward Finance Group, who was introduced to Carter & Co. by Brian Snape, owner of Mighty Oak Business and Property Finance, enabled Craig to bring his development plans to fruition with a short-term bridging loan. This allowed the property conversion work to be completed in as short a timeframe as possible, preventing any delays in the opening of Livelihub.

Craig Mitchell, director of Carter & Co. Property Solutions, will manage the Livelihub business as part his growing business portfolio, said: “It is fantastic to be able to realise our ambitions for this prominent site in Castleford and create a social hub unlike anything else in the town. The new salon is an exciting venture too, offering a high specification space in a superb location that immediately attracted hairdressing professionals who loved the concept of working within Livelihub.

“Being able to access £100k on a short term basis through Reward has been really beneficial to the project. Their approach is refreshing and one that I haven’t previously experienced from the major banks, with a great dedication to getting to know my business and understand what we need to grow and thrive.”

Karen Paige, Reward Finance Group’s associate director, added: “Craig has identified an excellent business opportunity here with Livelihub given the growth in café culture and the demand for high quality commercial premises in smaller town communities like Castleford. We are delighted to be able to support the business through our Business Finance product, which is ideal for clients like Carter & Co. who require a short-term working capital facility to be able to progress with their growth plans whatever they may be.”

Quantuma continues to grow UK presence with new director hire

Business advisory firm, Quantuma, has appointed Lee Brocklehurst as director at its Nottingham office.

Lee is the latest in a series of appointments by Quantuma, as part of its ongoing growth plans. Earlier this year the firm announced a series of managing director appointments including Tim Sloggett, in Bristol, and Robert Beat and Dina Devalia joined the firm’s London office.

Joining from RSM, Lee has over 25 years’ experience in restructuring and insolvency, working across a diverse range of accountancy practices and insolvency boutiques. As well as advising SMEs and large corporates, Lee has extensive experience advising individuals facing personal financial issues.

Lee has led assignments for businesses in sectors which includes engineering, hospitality, and business services, including an accelerated merger and acquisition process in administration of a substantial PR firm and the administration of an engineering business.

Lee also volunteers as a mentor for young professionals looking to break into the advisory community. He acts as a professional mentor at Birmingham City University, giving industry insight to graduates. In February 2022, he joined the ACCA’s Leicestershire Members Network Panel to help ACCA create member communities, build connections, and promote the accountancy profession across all sectors and regions of the UK.

In his role as director, Lee will be based in Quantuma’s Nottingham office, providing restructuring advice to businesses in financially distressed situations. Lee will be working to enhance Quantuma’s position as the Midland’s market-leading, full-service business advisory firm.

Lee Brocklehurst, director at Quantuma, said: “Businesses across the Midlands are dealing with unprecedented economic pressures. As part of my new role at Quantuma, I’m already working with several businesses to advise on options to address their financial challenges. I am delighted to be working with a growing team here in the Midlands and look forward to playing my part in developing our presence in the region.”

Taz Rashid, managing director at Quantuma, said: “I am delighted to welcome Lee to our growing team here in Nottingham. Lee brings substantial additional experience and a skillset to the team which will strengthen our advisory offering to both the region’s professional advisory community and businesses in the Midlands.”

Gerasimov returns to Foundation Home Loans as Regional Account Manager

Foundation Home Loans, the intermediary-only specialist lender, has today announced the return of Jack Gerasimov as a Regional Account Manager.

Jack will cover a range of North and East London postcode areas as well as the wider South East region, working with advisory firms and practices based there covering Foundation’s specialist residential and buy-to-let product ranges.

He has close to 10 years’ experience working within Foundation, initially within internal teams, but latterly as a Regional Account Manager. He moved to West One Loans in May 2021 but now returns to Foundation with immediate effect, reporting to National Sales Manager, Nathan Goodridge.

Jack’s appointment follows the recent promotion of Keith Jones and Katie Quigley to Senior Regional Account Managers, and a number of other promotions within the business.

Grant Hendry, Director of Sales at Foundation Home Loans, said: “Jack was always a highly-valued member of the Foundation sales team before his brief move away, so we are very pleased to welcome him back as an experienced Regional Account Manager who I’m sure will provide real value and benefit to all advisory firms on his patch. There have been a number of changes recently to boost the sales team, both those who work out in the field and those who work internally, and we have developed a formidable array of experienced personnel to support intermediaries active in the specialist residential and buy-to-let sectors. Jack is another piece in that puzzle and will no doubt play a vital role in delivering for advisers and their clients going forward.”

HTB boosts Specialist Mortgages team with two senior appointments

Hampshire Trust Bank (HTB) has made two senior appointments – Head of Intermediary Distribution and Head of New Business.

Sally Wright has been promoted to the Head of Intermediary Distribution, while Andrea Glasgow joins HTB to take up the position of Head of New Business, Specialist Mortgages. Both will report into Louisa Sedgwick – HTB’s Managing Director, Specialist Mortgages.

Sally becomes Head of Intermediary Distribution, having previously held the role of Head of Propositions in the Specialist Mortgages division. Sally joined HTB in 2021 from Vida Homeloans, where she was formerly Head of Sales. Prior to that, she was a Corporate Sales Manager at the specialist lender.

She is tasked with widening the Bank’s distribution footprint and developing greater relationships with larger distributors across the specialist finance sector.

Meanwhile, Andrea takes up responsibility for heading-up new business, supporting existing and new brokers with the Bank’s specialist lending proposition, including buy-to-let, semi commercial and bridging finance solutions.

Louisa Sedgwick, Managing Director, Specialist Mortgages at Hampshire Trust Bank, commented: “I am absolutely delighted to announce these new appointments. Sally and Andrea have excellent track records and I’m confident they will flourish in their new roles, galvanising the teams to meet the Banks’ ambitious targets.

HTB’s Specialist Mortgages division is undergoing significant growth and looks set to maintain and exceed its current trajectory in lending over the coming months. These appointments will support our growth plans for 2022 and beyond.”

Sally Wright, Head of Intermediary Distribution, Specialist Mortgages at Hampshire Trust Bank, said: “We have been steadily growing HTB’s intermediary distribution over the past few years in a controlled and sustainable way. I’m delighted to take on this new opportunity, managing both existing relationships as well as bringing new distributors on board as we look to further expand our footprint.”

Andrea Glasgow, Head of New Business, Specialist Mortgages at Hampshire Trust Bank, added: “I can honestly say that HTB is one of the most dynamic, and exciting places to work in our industry. We have a fantastic proposition and team – all of whom are committed to supporting our ever-increasing broker base and providing excellent service. There’s a reason we’ve won the Business Moneyfacts Best Service award three years in a row!

“I know Louisa has big plans for the future and I look forward to playing my part in supporting the team in making them happen.”