2020: a year like no other

 

When we entered this new decade we knew that we would be leaving the European Union and UK SMEs were better able to plan and prepare for the year and beyond. But, 2020 has been a year like no other.

Aldermore was born out of an economic crisis and backing UK SMEs through times of difficulty is in our DNA. COVID-19 has been an unprecedented challenge for many of our customers, but the courage, adaptability and resilience we have witnessed has been truly impressive. We’ve never been prouder to support the nation’s small businesses.

It’s been a difficult few months, but my colleagues have worked tirelessly to help our SME customers and brokers through the effects of the crisis and the ongoing issues they face. From flexible forbearance, to guidance on government support available, to advice on common business challenges and of course continuing to be open and lending to them. We’ve done everything we can to stand shoulder to shoulder with brokers and their customers through a very challenging year.

Aldermore has been able to have a sure footing through the crisis and bring some stability to our markets and partners through what has been an anxious period for many. We aren’t out of the woods yet, but if we continue to work together and hold true to our values, then we can remain optimistic about the future.

Getting to know me:

In July I was appointed into the newly created position of commercial director, asset finance, which means I am now overseeing both the wholesale and asset finance broker market. I’ve been with Aldermore for over six years and have a long history in UK asset finance.

On the wholesale side we built a business from scratch that provides the means for independent finance companies to lend to Britain’s SMEs, often through vendors, manufacturers and specialist intermediaries. We’re able to stand behind these companies providing capital to back proven expertise in their fields, helping them toward achieving their growth ambitions. Since its launch in 2014, our wholesale business has lent more than £1.5bn.

Turning to the broker market, I’m proud of what has been built in partnership with our brokers over the past 11 years. Using our breadth of appetite, bespoke underwriting, asset expertise and strong commercial outlook and service, we’re continuing to back the expertise and relationships of our introducers. I believe the role for brokers in helping to guide their customers to suitable finance options is greater than ever, and we have developed exciting plans for how we can do more together to support the next chapter of growth in the asset finance market.

Strengthening our broker partnerships:

We have always strived to develop deep, close and more strategic introducer partnerships and this approach couldn’t be more important today. Aldermore’s SME research shows that access to funding has been a major barrier for SME growth and there continues to be a lack of awareness amongst business owners of the products and providers available to them1. Many SMEs solely rely on personal lines of credit instead of using a broker to unlock growth plans.

SMEs are experts in their field and the importance of tailoring our approach to the conditions and requirements of different industry sectors cannot be underestimated. When everyone in the supply chain understands the customer, sector and asset, the process of securing funding can be seamless. Authentic expertise is the key to building lasting customer relationships and better managing risk.

Our research also showed that SMEs who access funding through a broker are more likely to utilise a more diverse range of funding options, of which nearly half (49%) include asset finance. Many SMEs rated their experience as seamless when dealing with a broker and

felt their broker had tailored a product to suit their business’ requirements. As lenders there is more we can do to work closer with our broker partners to offer a compelling proposition that meets their customers’ needs.

We continue to focus on enhancing our service. Streamlining where possible, taking the necessary steps to better manage risk where it counts and speeding up our decision making process. We’re proud to have built a customer-centric culture and the positive feedback we’ve received has been testament to us backing brokers and SMEs through a period of great uncertainty.  

We have built great foundations and long term partnerships with our brokers, but there’s always plenty of opportunity to improve. Fundamental to this is keeping our brokers needs at the forefront of our minds and listening to feedback on how to improve is part of Aldermore’s DNA. We listen to our brokers on a regular basis to understand how each part of Aldermore’s service is viewed and we’re delighted that our asset finance Net Promotor Score (NPS) has improved to +323, but we aren’t stopping there. As a result of this ongoing feedback, we know exactly where to invest next and have plans in motion to elevate our service further.

Added value and customer excellence:

Despite the challenges that the pandemic has brought we’ve spent the last few months looking at ways in which we can improve the broker experience, which has led to the introduction of some new initiatives.

One of these key initiatives focuses on our broker support model, which has led to us significantly increasing resources in the sales support team allows for more dedicated contacts to own and look after every deal, for each broker, through the journey.

Secondly, we introduced Aldermore Connect – a series of regular webinars that are held live and on demand and allow us to keep our brokers informed in this rapidly changing environment. This new channel allows brokers to keep fully up to speed with Aldermore’s approach, appetite and terms, with direct access to our team of experts for immediate questions and answers. We have covered a range of topics such as Asset Backer – Aldermore’s online broker portal, credit guidance and fraud awareness. We’ve welcomed over 500 individuals so far from more than 150 brokerages, with over a third joining multiple sessions and we have an exciting schedule of future topics planned.

Investing in tomorrow:

Aldermore isn’t known as a company that stands still and we’ve been busy investing in tomorrow. We fast-tracked improvements to our online portal Asset Backer - our user-friendly, easily accessible online platform that simplifies and improves the efficiency of transactions between brokers, customers and us. Asset Backer boasts functionality such as simple work flows, Companies House connections, automatic document generation, electronic signatures and will soon provide instant decisions. This has fast become a critical tool for us and our brokers, particularly in a remote working environment.

Next, to accelerate customer onboarding, we’re developing a technology supported Know Your Customer process and integrating our systems with our larger broker partners, which will further enhance our speed and simplicity for brokers.

Outlook:

We are proud to have been amongst the first lenders to offer the asset finance variant of the British Business Bank’s Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), having previously been a distributor of the Enterprise Finance Guarantee (EFG). It’s been an important tool for us and our brokers to channel support to viable SMEs most affected by COVID-19, helping them on the road to recovery and we will continue to use this whilst it is available and appropriate.

Despite a global pandemic and continued Brexit uncertainty, our approach has been consistent - to provide customers with award-winning4 financial services and the support they need when it matters most. Aldermore continues to work closely with brokers and customers to help them prepare as best they can for changes in the path ahead. As one of the first to sign the British Business Council’s SME Finance Charter, we have pledged to proactively support SMEs through whatever Brexit scenario plays out.

Many SMEs still turn to a clearing bank as their only option, so we need to do more to ensure SMEs are aware of the wide variety of funding options and sources available and how a broker’s expertise and support can assist them in achieving their hopes and dreams.

Britain’s SMEs are the backbone of the UK economy; they drive growth and provide employment opportunities. Despite significant uncertainty ahead, Aldermore remains committed to supporting UK SMEs whatever the weather.

 

1 Research conducted by Opinium Research between 7 and 13 May 2020 with a sample of 503 senior decision makers in UK SMEs.

2 Research conducted by Opinium Research between 21 October and 4 November 2019 with a sample of 1128 senior decision makers in UK SMEs.

3 Based on survey carried out between December 2019 and January 2020.

4 Awards won https://www.aldermore.co.uk/about-us/our-awards/

 

 

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