Liverpool’s landmark Cunard Building provided an iconic venue for the latest Santander SME Summit. Organised by Santander and The Times as part of the International Festival for Business 2014 – this year’s largest concentration of business events anywhere in the world – the SME Summit welcomed almost 300 delegates from every corner of the British SME community. They came to hear from keynote speakers including Chancellor George Osborne and the CEO of Santander UK Ana Botín, who both explained what they are doing to help businesses innovate, grow, tap new markets and make the most of their talent.
A packed schedule for business
Ana Botín and Times Business Editor Richard Fletcher welcomed delegates with an address that covered the day’s key themes: encouraging greater entrepreneurship and calling for greater collaboration between those institutions that could offer help and support. “It is up to all of us – banks, governments, cities, local councils, universities – we all need to come together to help successful modern entrepreneurs grow and do more business both here in the UK and overseas,” said Ana.
“True collaboration between businesses will make them better able to overcome the challenges they face,” she added. “I once ran an SME and I remember how I felt my bank manager did not really understand my business. My experience taught me how important it is to have a long-lasting, traditional banking relationship.
Delegates challenge the Chancellor
Chancellor George Osborne praised Santander’s achievements in increasing funding to SMEs. He also outlined what the government was doing to encourage export via UK Trade & Investment and went on to explain the government’s current plans. “What I want to do now is make our export finance the most competitive in Europe, with low rates so that it works for you. I’ve funded new export promotion offices in China, South America and – that new emerging force in the global economy – Africa.”
During the Q&A session that followed his keynote speech, Mr Osborne fielded a question from the Chief Executive of Norton Motorcycles, who asked the Chancellor how the government could help Norton build its export sales. Mr Osborne replied: “If you are having a problem setting up a brilliant initiative to help get our manufacturing industry back on its feet, if you are having a problem bringing these agencies together, then I will sit down with you and we will make it happen.”
Lessons from Britain’s greatest
Mr Osborne’s positive response drew a round of applause from an appreciative audience of entrepreneurs, as did Alistair Lukies, founder of mobile banking and payment company Monetise, who gave a first-hand – and completely unvarnished – account of his experiences building a billion-pound business. Alistair started his company in 2003 and today provides Mobile Money services to over 350 financial institutions and global brands. Alistair owns only 2% of his business and explained why giving away equity at an early stage can often prove to be a shrewd strategic move in the long run. “Two per cent of a billion pounds is a lot better than one hundred per cent of nothing”, he said.
Delegates later heard from McLaren boss Ron Dennis, who impressed on the audience that growing businesses should always focus on producing first-class products. “Money is completely unimportant,” he said. “If you make the best products, if you are the best in the world, you’ll make money. But if you align your business solely to make money you’ll fail.”
A great deal for delegates
The unique benefit of attending an SME Summit is the chance to question such keynote speakers in person, as well as meet fellow entrepreneurs face to face. “Understanding entrepreneurship is about getting at the DNA of it, and you learn a lot of that from other people’s stories,” says delegate Dennis Kehoe, CEO of cloud services company AIMES Grid Services. Dennis, a former senior professor at the University of Liverpool, also believes that the sheer size of the event allows delegates to access an even greater wealth of information. “There is an ecosystem of different businesses here with things to learn, and Santander is acting as a linchpin that can bring it all together and provide the fulcrum for new experiences.”
Summit survey results
- 44.3% of business owners surveyed at the SME Summit stated that the biggest business challenge of 2014 would be finding and hiring the right staff.
- Over half of delegates surveyed felt the greatest barrier for British businesses looking to start international trade was the difficulty of knowing which market to explore.
This latter issue is one that Santander are already addressing with their Trade Portal Lite – a free online tool that allows them to identify the best overseas market for their business.
If you would like to attend the next SME Summit, where you’ll meet key industry figures and access a wealth of support that can take your business forward, email:email@example.com
Santander UK’s CEO Ana Botín announced a number of new innovations devised by the bank to provide practical business support where it is most needed.
- Santander’s exclusive Trade Portal and Trade Club, which connect entrepreneurs to export partners, sources of advice and up-to-the-minute economic and trade data, as well as other priceless contacts both online and in the real world.
- The Santander Entrepreneur Index, an in-depth review of how effectively entrepreneurship is being supported across the UK.
- The Santander Passport, which will grant companies engaging in international trade access to local support from the Santander Group’s unrivalled global network.
- The Santander Fin-Tech Fund, an investment fund aimed at companies in the financial technology
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