Why financiers should be ‘all ears’

New funding schemes may be improving access to finance for SMEs, but are financiers taking the time to listen to what businesses really want, asks Marcelino Castrillo, Santander’s Managing Director of SME Banking.

As the UK economy slowly recovers, all eyes will be on the SME sector to drive growth and motivate economic confidence. Such inspirational qualities are easy to justify. Santander’s latest annual growth survey found that SMEs are predicting average growth of 134% over the next five years. SMEs are also creating 75% of all new jobs in the UK*, but do these companies have the confidence to build on their undoubted potential? Do they realise that banks are ready to listen?
Banks, of course, play a vital – and very personal – role in the fight for funding. By maintaining close contact with their banking representative – whether that’s an adviser or a relationship manager – companies can provide a chance for the bank to listen and provide support where needed.
A growth relationship
If a company has a specific goal in mind – such as cracking a particular export market or developing a new range of products – the bank can take steps to help them achieve it by challenging their current growth strategy, suggesting contingency plans, and ensuring strong management teams have been established. The more information a customer provides, the more the bank will know how to deliver maximum value, and together build a solid relationship for growth.
A strong banking relationship can help drive growth in a variety of ways, providing ambitious businesses with a number of alternatives to traditional funding. For instance, our innovative Santander Breakthrough programme, aims to help Britain’s fastest growing SMEs. Selected businesses receive funding through our Growth Capital Programme, financial advice as well as the chance to visit successful companies and learn from entrepreneurs. One such company to have benefited from this programme is maternity-wear company Isabelle Oliver, which received £700,000 of Breakthrough Growth Capital, enabling them to fulfil their ambitious growth plans. Similarly, Santander’s International Trade Portal enables our customers to locate potential business partners and source vital market information.
If a business is unfamiliar with government funding schemes such as the Enterprise Finance Guarantee, how they work, or how they may or may not be appropriate, a responsive bank can provide invaluable advice and support.
Banks must be ready to listen
As economic growth accelerates, banks will need to be ‘all ears’, going beyond the call of duty by providing more than just products and becoming, in effect, a trusted partner as the business evolves. Banks will need to take the time to listen to the customer and understand exactly what businesses want. Those seeking finance are best placed to explain the issues they may be facing, and only by listening can financiers help those companies move forward and take full advantage of the oncoming recovery.
Santander is always prepared to lend an ear. So please don’t hesitate to call your local Relationship Director if you have any funding requirements or just want a sounding board for your business plans.
* According to a recent report by the National Audit Office (NAO).

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John Carroll - Helping businesses achieve International success. Head of Product Management & International Business, Santander UK