"It’s positive to see that the vast majority of SMEs are confident they can continue to boost their business activity now that Covid restrictions are being eased"
Business confidence remains high among the UK’s SMEs as they continue to recover from the impact of Covid, according to new research by Recognise Bank.
78% of all respondents said they were either ‘confident’ or ‘very confident’ their business would experience a boost in trade over the next three months now that most restrictions have been eased.
The research also found that companies are looking at their funding options as they invest for growth in their businesses over the coming months. The research also found that while the biggest proportion of SMEs will turn to their own bank for business lending, a significant number will rely on potentially expensive overdrafts and credit cards for borrowing.
This comes as Recognise Bank’s research also found that 14% of SMEs said their main bank can’t support their borrowing needs.
When it comes to funding their business investment plans, the number of companies turning to their bank for a loan increased slightly, at 16% compared with 15% in May when the research was last carried out. Recognise Bank also found that 15% of SMEs said they would use cash from their business surplus, a fall from 20% in May.
SMEs are now also less likely to fund their activities using government loan schemes, dropping to 11% of those surveyed, compared with 17% in May.
However, the use of an overdraft by SMEs to fund investment in the business rose significantly to 12% in the latest research, compared with 7% in May, while the use of credit cards by SMEs also increased, up to 11% compared with 8% in May.
Borrowing from an alternative lender, rather than their own bank, was the preferred choice for 6% of SMEs surveyed, pointing to a sense of dissatisfaction among a significant number of respondents. When asked about the support they receive from their own business bank for their borrowing needs, while a third (33%) of SMEs said their bank was always able to support them, a third (33%) said they were only able to support them sometimes.
In comparison, 14% of SMEs told Recognise that their main bank was never able to provide the support they required for their borrowing needs. This rose to 20% for SME businesses within the retail sector. Just over one in ten (11%) of SMEs said they would always use an alternative lender rather than their own bank for their borrowing needs.
Angela Norman, head of corporate development at Recognise Bank, said: “It’s positive to see that the vast majority of SMEs are confident they can continue to boost their business activity now that Covid restrictions are being eased, because it has undoubtedly been a tough year and a half for many firms. That positivity is manifesting itself in terms of strong growth plans among SMEs.
“However, the number of firms turning to overdrafts and credit cards to fund this business investment is worrying as this route is likely to be much more expensive than other forms of borrowing. The fact that 14% of SMEs feel their main business bank cannot support their borrowing needs suggests there are a lot of firms out there who need advisers to help them find a better funding solution for their business.”