The accountancy profession can play a key role in helping businesses access the finance they need to secure their future beyond the pandemic, according to leading small business lender iwoca.
Small businesses need help from their accountants in applying for finance. iwoca is therefore aiming to make it easier for accountants to give their clients this much needed support by investing further in this critical channel.
The crisis has brought into sharp focus the vital role accountants play in helping small businesses make sense of the options available to them to survive the turbulent economic environment. This is most evident with applications for the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), of which iwoca is an accredited lender. Accountants are crucially needed to provide cash flow forecasts, financial statements and assistance, ensuring small businesses have the correct documentation to complete the application process.
Accountants need clear communication from lenders
Accountancy leaders at a recent iwoca event expressed frustration when supporting their SME clients through CBILS applications with larger lenders, alluding to delays in response times, getting stuck in call centre queues and banks not understanding the needs of businesses. These difficulties are more salient for smaller companies, who do not benefit from close ongoing relationships with their bank like larger enterprises do.
iwoca has designed its CBILS application process to address these concerns and meet the needs of small businesses and their accountants. In response to the increased demand for help, the lender expects to triple the number of accountant referrals, delivering ten times more lending through this channel than before Covid-19. Each business receives a dedicated iwoca Relationship Manager who gives regular updates to accountants and can provide a decision on the application within days. This speedy, personalised approach is particularly important for those businesses whose financial needs are too large for a Bounce Back Loan but too small to qualify for a relationship manager at their main bank, meaning they risk losing out on vital assistance to guide them through the application process.
CBILS can help businesses plan for the longer term
The role accountants can play in supporting businesses to apply for finance through CBILS is all the more important because these loans are long-term solutions to help companies recover and rebuild, rather than emergency short-term funding. As a government-backed scheme the terms of the loan are uniquely attractive for businesses, meaning that CBILS will be a key component in helping them adapt and grow in the future. Emergency finance measures such as Bounce Back Loans have been successful in keeping businesses solvent in the short-term, however CBILS provides support to allow companies to plan ahead and manage cash flow - this contrast highlights how important accountants are in helping businesses apply for CBILS to use the funding to secure their long-term stability.
Having already worked with over 1000 accountants, iwoca is now one of the first fintech lenders to reach out to accountants directly, illustrating the value that the company - which has lent over £1 billion to more than 50,000 small businesses - places on these essential operatives in the profession of supporting the future of SMEs. Accountants can sign up to become an iwoca CBILS introducer on iwoca’s portal.
Colin Goldstein, Commercial Growth Director, iwoca said: “The impact of Covid-19 means that small businesses need more financial support than ever to survive the crisis and rebuild their business. CBILS loans are a key part of the solution, and accountants are a key adviser and line of support for businesses applying for CBILS. iwoca has worked with more than 1,000 accountants nationwide to help them secure the right finance solutions for their clients, and we're now investing heavily to provide the support accountants need in securing CBILS loans for clients, in particular, small businesses who are struggling to get the support they need from the high street banks.”
Ben Johnson, Global Director of Financial Partnerships, Xero added: “If you’re a small business needing access to finance, you may find yourself being sent down a bit of a rabbit hole. Applying with a fintech can give you another option, and in many cases you will get a fast response and be able to share your financial information digitally. CBILS is a really powerful scheme that could set you up for the next couple of years of ramping your business back up, so while it’s still here I would urge businesses to explore it by speaking to an advisor, and if you do go ahead make sure you have a plan to serve the repayment of the loan.”
Della Hudson, Founder, Minerva Accountants added: “Automation is perfectly adequate when everything is going smoothly, but if there is a problem you need to be able to pick up the phone and speak to somebody. This is where a lot of banks are struggling - they are barely coping with the automation in place, and haven’t even thought about the backstop of a human being. It’s nicer dealing with fintechs and the more modern banks who are able to handle both the automation and the customer relations that really makes a difference.”