Held at The Brewery conference centre in London, the Telegraph Festival of Business saw a number of the country's leading business minds come together to discuss the future for Britain's mid-sized firms. Not only did the event offer a vital chance to hear from speakers including Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, but attendees were also presented with iPads to enable the SME audience to vote in live polls and pose questions to panellists.
These interactive elements to the conference returned some revealing results, with 70 per cent suggesting the outlook has improved for their business over the past 12 months as the economy recovers. Thanks to this growing confidence, many of the UK's promising mid-sized businesses are also looking to explore overseas opportunities, with 70 per cent suggesting exports will be very important to success in a live poll. Despite this ambition, financial constraints may still be holding many SMEs back from achieving their goals, both internationally and in the home market.
A third of those present indicated they now rely more on retained profit to fund their business activity, 18 per cent had been turned down for finance and 14 had held back from seeking finance for fear of being turned down.
As these figures, and the comments of several eminent speakers throughout the day, illustrate, more must be done to create a more equitable banking system for the UK's SMEs, who contribute significantly to growth. In particular, as identified in the financial panel session, the UK's financial providers must return to a system of relationship banking, building honest relationships with businesses and putting lending decisions in the hands of experts, not algorithms.
As a bank, this approach has always been a key focus for Aldermore, and it is encouraging to see other prominent figures beginning to champion this message.
The Bank will continue to listen to the financial needs of inspiring SMEs like those present at the Telegraph's inaugural business event and hopes to support many more towards meeting their goals in 2013 and beyond.
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