Did you miss the Great British Business Show? Do you need finance for your existing business or start-up? Look no further – we trawled the aisles at Olympia and spoke to some of the best finance companies in the UK about how they can help you access the funding you need.
Here are our top picks:
Launched in 2012, Funding Knight is a market-leading crowd-lender claiming to blend modern finance with traditional values.
Forging direct and tailored links between investors and UK businesses, the company prioritises sophisticated technology that enables investors to automate auction bids and withdraw funds with one click.
Funding Knight also knows the value of nurturing strong relationships – both with their individual clients and between investors the businesses they link them to.
We spoke to Founder, Chairman & Chief Executive of Funding Knight, Graeme Marshall, about his company. With over 25 years’ experience in financial services he is passionate about making life easier for business people:
‘Funding Knight started in 2012 when it made it’s first loan - we’ve made loans from as little as 25,000 up to £1 million. We provide quite a wide range of loans – some of them are unsecured. That’s really how we started – when banks insisted on seeing asset security before lending. Companies without assets like accountancy firms, IT companies etc. simply couldn’t get access to money.’
Funding Knight are happy to lend to these sorts of businesses, as long as their cash-flow is healthy:
‘We make loans of anything up to 5 years…and we want companies to have been active for at least two years - so we’re not lending to start-ups. But we can lend to slightly earlier stage businesses if they have property.’
The company’s portfolio of lenders is broad so there is a likely match for all interested parties:
‘People can join our platform and invest for as little as £25….all the way up to institutional lenders who are putting in several million and who might put £100,000 into an individual loan. It’s a wide range and really we want the crowd to come and support the loans we make.’
As well as being inclusive, Funding Knight also supports ethical business, involving themselves in green energy projects, helping fund wind turbine construction and enabling new solar projects to get off the ground. You can apply for a green energy loan directly from their site.
Integrity is at the heart of this company, so it’s little wonder that they won the Best Online Peer to Peer provider at the Your Money Direct awards in 2015.
Co-founded by Bill Morrow and Lois Cook in 2007, Angels Den is an award winning crowdfunding platform that does more than just facilitate financing for SMEs. Focusing on linking business owners with lenders that have the right expertise and contacts to drive growth – Angels Den is less of a platform and more of a springboard to success.
We caught up with a pumped-up Bill Morrow, in between his numerous talks at the Angels Den Theatre, who explained how his organisation has evolved and why it offers so much to business owners:
‘When we founded Angels Den in 2007, what we thought we were was a mechanism for giving small businesses money. It took us two and a half years to figure out what we were really about…which was getting small businesses money but also mentorship, contacts plus business experience.’
Morrow says they are offering a bespoke service and that is key to their clients’ continued growth:
‘We are about ensuring businesses are still in business – we are not just a mechanism to get you equity funding. In our 8 years, 94% of all the businesses that we’ve funded are still growing…and that has something to do with the fact that we are putting in experienced business people and that we understand what the entrepreneurs need. They come to us asking for money but what they really need is mentorship, guidance and business contacts.’
With a success rate well above the industry average, It’s little wonder that this year, Bill was named the most influential person in alternative finance by City AM.
An NACFB accredited commercial finance broker, Genie Lending are specialists in business loans, invoice discounting and alternative finance. Their experienced team are well equipped to guide SMEs looking for finance for any conceivable purpose.
There expertise covers any type of funding including alternative finance, cash flow funding, buy to let mortgages, bridging loans, agricultural finance, start-up finance and peer-to-peer lending to name a few.
Partnered with all major UK lenders, and many who function in alternative markets, Genie promise to find the right solution for every business that approaches them.
Genie’s William Tse took time out of his busy day at the business show to explain how they are changing the fortunes of SME owners across the country. With a focus on guidance in a confusing and sometimes overwhelming financing market, Tse advocates the Genie approach of tailored proposals:
‘There are so many different types of loan products out there…many business owners don’t really know where to start. The difference between an approved application and one that is declined really boils down to the initial proposal. If they don’t present it in the right way, it’s not going to go through. Where we come in is by helping that client package their proposal in a way that is attractive to a particular investor.’
Saving time, energy and business relationships is at the heart of Genie’s services. Tse explains:
‘You need to raise 25,000 pounds unsecured and you don’t want to use your own assets. How do you do it? You’ll probably go on the internet, type in ‘unsecured business loan’. There will be a list, you try the top three and you’ll find it’s really mind boggling and confusing. The lenders will all ask for different types of information and you don’t really know what you are doing. You are likely to get rejected, and will have exhausted three potentially lucrative options.’
Genie’s team of experts will know straight away if a customer’s circumstances will match a lender’s criteria.
‘It’s not like an automated quoting system – it doesn’t work like that in commercial finance. It’s far more bespoke. In terms of unsecured lending, there are so many different types of options we could propose for a business. It depends on how long they’ve been trading, what their turnover is… what their debtor book looks like. It really varies and we are in a position to provide more than one facility to that client.’
As well as addressing their clients’ financing needs Genie also provide advice on how to leverage that funding and focus on growth:
‘The biggest problem is for a lot of SME business owners is that they are experts in what they do but sometimes they sometimes take their eye off the ball financially. They may have taken on a lot of new contracts but they don’t have the finance in place to facilitate them. By the time they’ve realised – it’s too late. They approach us and say they need to raise a certain amount - yesterday. They need a bandage as they are bleeding. We will give them that bandage in terms of short-term finance but then we’ll sit back and have a hard look at their business… and we’ll put together a solution going forward so they don’t get themselves in that predicament again.’
This financing company claim to be offering the most user-friendly product on the market. CEO Tony Morgan was very keen to talk to us and reveal how Verus 360 is actively changing the funding landscape.
‘We started this business two years ago because there was a huge funding gap for SMEs, largely due to banks tightening their credit policy. So we set ourselves up to do two things: to provide finance to those businesses and to change how that business is generally provided in the market.’
In the current market, where it’s pretty difficult to get finance and rates are hard to understand, Verus 360 are making the whole process more simple and streamlined:
‘We’ve created the UKs first completely online platform to get business finance…that’s from Google search to money in the bank.’
The key selling points of this service are that it’s all manageable over the internet, there’s just one fixed price with a pay as you use facility, no lock-in periods or exit fees and no personal guarantees required.
‘It’s a revolving credit facility which means you can draw money as and when you want to…you don’t have to do it all at once. And there’s one single fee for the money you use, only for the time you use it. There’s no hidden fees and no non-utilisation charges and you don’t have to spend hours going to see a bank manager…you can do it online, at your convenience.’
Even the admin such as money laundering checks, underwriting and documentations can be done online with Verus 360 – all of which makes life a lot easier for a business person in need of funding.
Morgan is keen to spread the word about this game-changing service:
‘Now we’ve got do embark on a bit of education to change perceptions in the market. There are lots of headline rates that are lower but a lot of fees coming out of the back end. We don’t think that’s fair, so we’re trying to change things for the better.’
‘We are faster, fairer and actually competitive in terms of cost. We think we’ve got a great customer experience.’
And what about the rest of the show? Click here to find our round-up of the best of all the exhibitors and what they can do for your small business.