Nucleus Commercial Finance hits £2bn lending milestone

Nucleus Commercial Finance, the fintech revolutionising how UK SMEs access finance, has today announced that it has reached £2 billion in lending to SMEs.

This milestone has been reached following a year of record growth for the fintech which saw it lend over £450 million to UK businesses in 2020. This growth has been driven by Nucleus’ vital role in the roll out of the government’s Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) and its application of technology to transform the lending experience for brokers and businesses.

The launch of its automated underwriting solution and the implementation of Open Banking has resulted in the fintech making 90% of application decisions within one hour. These growth drivers have enabled Nucleus to rapidly scale lending across its full product suite and bring new solutions to market, such as Business Growth Loans – a first-of-its-kind product to help businesses with flexible funding post-CBILS.

Chirag Shah, CEO, Nucleus Commercial Finance, said: “We’re delighted to have broken the £2 billion milestone just two years after reaching £1 billion in lending. This is a testament to the Nucleus team’s hard work and ambition to innovate and create the unique solutions that SMEs need.

“SMEs have faced a challenging 18 months, but we have demonstrated the crucial role fintech lenders play in providing the vital support businesses need to survive and thrive. SMEs and brokers have experienced the benefits of our automated underwriting and Open Banking solutions, and we are extremely excited to take them on the next stage of our journey as we continue to build and evolve our technology to deliver what the industry needs for the future.”

Technology helps three in four small businesses to become more efficient

New research from Hitachi Capital Business Finance reveals that more than three quarters of small businesses across the UK (76%) have used technology in the last year to improve their business operations and become more efficient. This rises to 84% of small businesses that have expected modest growth – and 91% for those enterprises that predict significant expansion.

At a time of unprecedented disruption, Hitachi Capital’s Business Barometer study suggests small business owners have become increasingly more comfortable using technology to support company growth and give them a competitive advantage. This contrasts starkly to the eve of the pandemic, when almost a third of small businesses said their tech capabilities were holding them back (30%).

Whilst, small businesses used the lockdown era to modernise, the research suggests a north-south divide may be opening up when it comes to technology. Small companies operating from the Capital were those most likely to have enhanced their digital capabilities in the last year (86%), followed by enterprises in the South East (80%) and the South West (79%). This compares to just 64% in the North West – with business owners in Wales also lagging behind on technology updates (68%).

Hitachi Capital asked a nationally representative sample of 1,232 small business decision makers how if, at all, new technology had impacted their business in the last year. Streamlining customer service, boosting productivity as well as cutting down on costs were major areas where new technology has helped small organisations over the last year.

  • Investing in new technology has helped more than two fifths of small businesses (43%) to introduce efficient home-working for staff and 38% said that they were now able to provide faster and better customer service.
  • Improved tech capabilities also helped 37% of business owners to cut down travel time to-and-from meetings, to achieve greater productivity (32%) as well as providing a smarter and safer way to store and manage sensitive information (24%).
  • Almost, one in four respondents (23%) said that updated tech had made the company more environmentally friendly, whereas one fifth of decision makers believed tech had reduced the amount of time spent in meetings (20%).
  • Technology had also been widely used to help small businesses to better manage their cashflow and costs. Overall, 27% of respondents had used technology tools to reduce overheads, 19% had saved money on the cost of new business, and 17% had been able to reduce staff costs. The introduction of new tech also better enabled small businesses to compete with other organisations on price (13%).

Joanna Morris Head of Insight at Hitachi Capital Business Finance commented: “Over the course of the pandemic, more and more businesses have been forced to innovate and adapt – and technology has had a key role to play. Before the pandemic, many smaller companies said their technology maturity held them back but 18 months on, technology is now at the heart of operations and business planning. Our research also shows that embracing tech innovations also correlates with small business owners predicting growth for the months ahead.

“Whilst the pandemic era has been painful for some, many small businesses re-emerge from lockdown as more digitised and efficient enterprises. This gives them a solid foundation and, at Hitachi Capital Business Finance, we offer a wide range of resources and tools to enable business owners to build on this and financially plan for the future, helping them to reach their full potential”.

First 4 Bridging appoints Key Account Manager and bolsters underwriting team

First 4 Bridging (F4B) has announced the appointment of Drena Gashi as a Key Account Manager to cover London and the surrounding areas, plus the addition of Katie Dawes to bolster its underwriting team.

Drena has wealth of sales and finance experience, with a strong focus on specialist lending and private client relationships. Her past experience includes a Corporate Sales Director and Business Development role in the UK specialist lending market and as a lending specialist for private clients at JP Morgan Chase Bank in the North American high net worth property market. Her wealth of experience in building and maintaining key relationships will allow the F4B brand to strengthen and broaden the support it provides to intermediaries and introducers.

Katie joins F4B from the Legal Hub Group. She will be responsible for ensuring that cases progress smoothly and ensure that all SLAs are achieved. Previous to this role, Katie has worked in the finance industry for nine years, including positions as a case owner at Affirmative Finance and as a case officer at TFC Homeloans.

F4B’s presence across the UK has grown in recent years and the packager has established close working relationships with intermediaries, introducers, service providers and private lenders around the country to bolster its already extensive range of specialist lending solutions.

In February 2021, F4B expanded its intermediary proposition with the launch of the F4B Network. This came on the back of demand from advisers who have utilised the packagers vast expertise across the specialist lending markets.

Donna Wells, Director at F4B, commented: “The recruitment process is never easy and we are delighted to have attracted two outstanding talents to help accelerate our ambitious growth plans and provide an even stronger level of expertise and support for new and existing intermediary partners.”

“Drena brings her own unique style of transatlantic enthusiasm, aptitude and extensive market experience which will allow her to establish a number of key relationships and help support a range of complex transactions. In addition, Katie prides herself on delivering the highest service standards and her determination to meet case deadlines, whilst working hard to deliver the best client outcomes, will help bolster an already strong underwriting team.

“Further additions are expected to the F4B team as we continue to expand the business to accommodate growing demand across all areas of the specialist lending marketplace.”

United Trust Bank Bridging team appoints Head of Sales and announces new BDM hire

United Trust Bank (UTB) is continuing to develop its Bridging finance sales team with the promotion of Owen Bentley to Head of Sales and the appointment of Scott Apps as a Business Development Manager (BDM) working with brokers across London and the South East.

The changes come during a period of unprecedented growth in the Bank’s bridging business following a record year for new lending in 2020 with higher volumes of enquiries and completions being sustained in 2021.

Owen Bentley joined UTB in 2019 as a BDM and was later promoted to Key Account Manager. In his new role as Head of Sales he will assume responsibility for the Bridging Sales team comprising Paul Delmonte, Nick Warren, Paul Mansell and new appointment Scott Apps as they deliver bridging finance support to brokers across England, Wales and Scotland. In addition he will support Director of Bridging, Gavin Diamond, and Sales Director –Property Intermediaries, Mike Walters, in continuing to develop the Bank’s Bridging product, process and service proposition.

Scott Apps is an experienced BDM who has worked in specialist property finance for over seven years, most recently with Castle Trust. He will be assisting brokers across London and the South East with all of UTB’s bridging portfolio, and is particularly knowledgeable in unregulated loans.

Gavin Diamond, Director – Bridging, United Trust Bank, commented: “We’re seeing exceptional demand for UTB’s flexible and competitive short-term funding from brokers up and down the country and we’re continuing to develop our sales team to ensure we can support brokers who are embracing bridging as a versatile part of their specialist property finance tool-kit.

I’m delighted to welcome Scott Apps to the team and congratulate Owen on his promotion to this key role in the Bridging division. We have exciting plans for the future and I know Owen and the BDM team will continue to build on our recent strong performance and provide support to even more brokers across England, Wales and Scotland.”

The opportunities and risks in the Vietnamese market

Vietnam will remain attractive as an export market despite short-term risks from a new wave of coronavirus cases, reports trade credit insurer Atradius.

The new Vietnam Country Report by Atradius warns a major surge of Covid-19 cases, coupled with a slow vaccination rollout, pose an acute risk to Vietnam’s economic short-term recovery. If unchecked, the pandemic’s spread could seriously affect domestic demand, lead to increased disruptions of manufacturing output and drag Vietnam’s economic performance downward.

Export expert Atradius reports that, until now, Vietnam has been a global outlier during the pandemic, being one of the few worldwide economies to avoid economic contraction last year. After annual growth rates of around 7% over the past five years, Vietnam’s GDP growth slowed to 2.9% in 2020 but gained momentum in the first half of 2021, increasing 6.6% year-on-year in Q2. Exports from Vietnam grew by 28% as the country benefited from robust demand for electronics and garments from its key export markets China, US and the EU. Supported by strong export growth, industrial production increased by 9.3% in H1 of 2021.

Vietnam’s financial resilience to date has been driven by its successful containment of coronavirus with contact tracing, isolation and quarantining. However, since May, daily cases have significantly increased and vaccination rates are still very low while new lockdowns and restrictions have been imposed. Consequently, Atradius reports industrial production has slowed significantly and the Purchasing Managers Index has contracted due to social distancing measures, temporary factory closures and supply-chain disruptions. Positively, industrial production and private consumption are both still expected to grow by 8% and 6% respectively in 2021 with GDP growth forecast to increase by 6.6% in 2021 and 7.8% in 2022. Nevertheless, Atradius warns these figures could fall should the surge in cases continue with a marked acceleration of the vaccine rollout key to sustaining envisaged robust growth rates.

In the long run, Atradius expects Vietnam will continue to be one of the fastest-growing economies in the Asia-Pacific region and an attractive market for exporters.

James Burgess, Head of UK Commercial at Atradius, commented: “Despite short-term challenges created by the pandemic, Vietnam is a key potential market for UK exporters with strong fundamentals. It benefits from a large, skilled labour force, relatively low wage costs and is the main low-cost regional alternative to China for export-orientated manufacturing. The shift of export manufacturing from China to Vietnam accelerated as a result of the Sino-UK trade dispute and increased further due to coronavirus-related supply-chain disruptions. As well as lower production costs, Vietnam is already part of several value chains, has good road, rail and port infrastructures as well as strong investment promotion and special economic zones which make it attractive to businesses.

“With the right approach, firms can seize the opportunity to do business in Vietnam and navigate the ever-changing risks and uncertainty posed by the pandemic. Key to this is awareness of the risks, comprehensive knowledge on individual buyers and the wider market, real-time monitoring, the ability to adapt and non-payment protection should the worst happen.”

New option cements Pertemps financial strength

Pertemps Network Group (PNG) has signed a new invoice finance facility of up to £100 million to help promote growth over the coming years.

The new agreement demonstrates the stability of the Midlands-based specialist recruitment company as it seeks to move into a new phase of expansion and investment as its turnover approaches the £1 billion mark.

The new facility has been signed with RBS Invoice Finance Limited, and ABN AMRO Asset Based Finance.

PNG Chief Finance Officer Spencer Jones said: “Against the backdrop of market uncertainty and some very challenging economic times, this new arrangement demonstrates just how strong PNG is as a group financially and we are delighted to be moving up to this level.

“We have made the move as we look to further develop the business in the future.”

The new facility is for a three-year period, and the group continues to be subject to no financial covenants. It has been secured on very competitive terms which reflects RBS/ABN’s confidence in the future stability of the group.

Newly appointed Group Chief Executive Officer Steve West said: “This new facility sends out a strong message about PNG, its impressive track record, and demonstrates the external confidence in the leadership and strategy the Group has for the future.

“This arrangement will allow the company to continue its strategy of organic and acquisitional growth as Pertemps Network Group continues to take the lead in the UK’s recruitment sector.”

Andy Barraclough, Head of Regional Asset Based Lending, NatWest, commented: “We are delighted that we could help PNG achieve cash flow security with this new invoice finance facility. NatWest is the biggest supporter of businesses in the UK, and this transaction demonstrates our commitment for key ‘UK PLC’ projects and our ability to analyse, structure and transact at a tricky juncture for the UK and industry due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Jeremy Smith, Director, Corporate Client Origination at ABN AMRO Commercial Finance, added: “Pertemps Network Group are one of the largest players in the UK Recruitment sector and we are delighted to have partnered with RBSIF and NatWest in delivering an enlarged working capital facility to support their continued growth.”

MotoNovo Finance MD Joins the Automotive 30% Club

MotoNovo Finance MD Karl Werner is the latest business leader to join the Automotive 30% Club the voluntary network of MDs and CEOs from UK based automotive manufacturing, retailing and supplier companies. For Karl, the move represents an important signal of his personal commitment to support and encourage diversity and inclusion across the business and to promote the value of such an approach, as he notes; “Having worked in Automotive retailing and Motor Finance all my working life, I’m hugely pleased that one of my first actions as Managing Director of MotoNovo is to join the Automotive 30% Club. This is an organisation that not only truly understands our market but also provides inspirational leadership and energy that will make a positive difference to our industry. I eagerly look forward to playing an active part to ensure I meet the objectives of the Club.”

The Automotive 30% Club was founded by Julia Muir to encourage inclusive leadership and achieve a better gender balance within the automotive industry. A central aim is to see at least 30% of key leadership positions in member organisations filled with women from diverse backgrounds by 2030 through a “30 by 30” strategy. Karl’s desire to join the Club reflects the commitments already made by MotoNovo to supporting diversity and inclusion, as Julia observes in welcoming Karl to the Club; “It’s my pleasure to announce that Karl Werner MD of MotoNovo Finance Ltd, one of the largest lenders in the UK used car finance market, has joined the Automotive 30% Club and becomes our third member from the finance and leasing part of the sector. It is evident that MotoNovo has already made great progress in terms of female representation and so will be a valuable voice in the Club, and we will be able to support them further on their journey to wider diversity and inclusion.”

As part of his commitment to the Automotive 30% Club, Karl has nominated MotoNovo’s Head of Motor Major Accounts at MotoNovo Finance Debbie McKay as the business’ ’30 by 30′ strategy leader. Working alongside Karl and other colleagues, Debbie will be responsible for implementing a ’30 by 30′ strategy and supporting metrics within the business, building upon the positive steps that have already been undertaken.

 

Asset finance market grew by 3% in July 2021

New figures released today by the Finance & Leasing Association (FLA) show that total asset finance new business (primarily leasing and hire purchase) grew by 3% in July 2021 compared with the same month in 2020. In the first seven months of 2021, new business was 24% higher than in the same period in 2020.

The business equipment finance and plant and machinery finance sectors reported new business up in July by 47% and 10% respectively, compared with the same month in 2020. Over the same period, new business in the IT equipment finance sector fell by 51%.

Commenting on the figures, Geraldine Kilkelly, Director of Research and Chief Economist at the FLA, said: “Overall growth in the asset finance market slowed in July, but many asset sectors and new business channels continued to report robust recoveries. New finance provided for agriculture and construction equipment each grew by 24% in July and annual new business in the broker and vendor finance channels has almost reached pre-pandemic levels.

“The current shortage of assets available to finance – particularly in the automotive, machinery and electronic sectors – is weighing on the recovery of the industry and the wider economy. Nevertheless, the rebound of the asset finance market so far this year demonstrates its underlying strength and points to further growth in the year ahead.

“FLA members want to do even more to support businesses invest in the cleanest and most efficient plant and machinery. We therefore continue to urge the Government to extend the super-deduction allowance for expenditure on qualifying plant and machinery to include leasing.”

SME confidence on the rise as projected investment in their business more than doubles in six months

New research from Aldermore bank shows small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are more confident in growing their business since lockdown restrictions have eased, as they reveal the amount they plan to invest in their business has risen 190% to £283,500, up from £97,719 in February.

Tim Boag, group managing director of business finance at Aldermore, said: “Over the last year, businesses across the country have had to navigate uncharted waters, and as we emerge from the lockdown restrictions, we take invaluable learnings that will help move businesses forward to the next stage of growth. It’s encouraging to see SMEs committed to getting back on the front foot. Not only are they planning ahead to withstand future crises but they’re also prioritising investment and innovation to secure their futures.

“At Aldermore, we’ve supported SMEs throughout the pandemic, we were an accredited lender under the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme and more recently the Recovery Loan Scheme. We remain committed to backing businesses to achieve their goals and ambitions and can offer a variety of funding solutions to meet their needs.”

Key focus areas for SMEs over the next year

Over the next 12 months two out of five SMEs plan to invest in new equipment (44%) and new technology (42%) as they seek to meet the digital expectations of their customers.. Evolving customer habits and the constraints of lockdown have all highlighted that an online presence is essential for the survival of businesses as over a third (38%) of SMEs now plan to invest in strengthening their business’ online presence.

Sustainability is becoming increasingly important for SMEs

Investing in greener and more sustainable activities is becoming increasingly important for a growing number of SMEs as over a third (36%) now plan to invest in this area, up from just one in ten (10%) six months ago.

Reward Finance Group breaks through £100m lending milestone as it plans further growth

Reward Finance Group has broken through the £100m loan book milestone for the first time, keeping it on track to record its eleventh year of continuous growth.

The alternative finance company, which recently added a presence in Birmingham to its Leeds and Manchester offices, has had an exceptional 12 months, growing the loan book by 27 percent, and adding ten more people to its team.

It is now planning to expand its team further and increase its regional presence to build on its impressive growth.

Commenting on the achievement, group managing director, Nick Smith, said,“The last 12 months proved a challenge for some of our customers, and it was therefore vitally important that we were there to support those who were adversely affected by being flexible and pragmatic.

“However, there were many companies who were changing and adapting their businesses who quickly needed working capital to help them succeed. We therefore put out a clear message that we were open for business and keen to lend, which resulted in us breaking through the £100m mark. Indeed, we recorded our biggest deal during this time of £4.8m.

“The past 12 months have certainly shown the true value of alternative finance providers and helped put us firmly alongside traditional lenders. Companies have been impressed with the flexibility we provide to find a solution to their funding needs and the speed we deliver the funds.”

“We therefore expect the loan book to continue to rise as the market opens back up, which will lead to further recruitment of experienced personnel. In addition, having successfully launched our presence in the Midlands with Steph Brown, we are planning to open additional regional offices to build on the increased business we are now attracting from across the UK.”