Why European Small Businesses Are Concerned for Their Financial Future
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In a recent research study of small and medium-sized businesses in Europe, small-business owners revealed that one of the most pressing concerns for their businesses was their inability to access financing. The study also found that the banks were failing to provide the funding solutions so desperately needed. For those lucky enough to access financing from a bank, they reported that borrowing is often a cumbersome, inflexible and time-consuming process for small businesses which diverts their attention from their day-to-day responsibilities and removes their focus from their business. Most businesses also said that they thought there were very few options for business loans or credit beyond banks.
With 99 percent of businesses in the EU falling under the "small business" umbrella, it is often considered that small businesses are the backbone of the economy. As such businesses provide two-thirds of private sector jobs across the continent and contribute more than half of the total value created by businesses across the European Union, more needs to be done to overcome market deficiencies. More than just powering the economy, these businesses make important contributions to innovation, employment and accelerating economic growth.
However, despite the dominance of small businesses in the European business landscape, banks have continued to reduce or outright deny vital funding to many small businsesses -- a factor that has only worsened since the 2008 financial crisis. Unsurprisingly, this is causing firms to have serious concerns about their long-term prosperity. Ultimately, the current situation is unsustainable and small businesses are being forced to look for alternatives to banks for financing.
To find a much-needed solution, we need to provide more information to small businesses on alternative financing options. Although still very much under the radar for most businesses, alternative lenders are becoming the increasingly popular choice among small businesses. Whether it's term loans, credit cards or invoice factoring -- more of these services are being provided by non-bank lenders. These lenders rely on highly automated decision engines, transparency on pricing and excellent customer service. Unlike banks, which can take weeks or months to provide funds, alternative solutions tend to get customers funds within hours or days. Many of these lenders continue to innovate and offer a better product and service to their customer base and work on innovative and robust technology platforms which provide businesses with easier access to information and lower operating expenses. In my experience, once small businesses start using these alternative solutions, they tend to stick around much longer as they prefer it to their bank.
We are currently seeing a number of alternative lenders slowly starting to spread their wings across Europe, making themselves available to more and more businesses. This new wave of business lending will transform the way small businesses access funds, allowing them to do so more easily, quickly and often at a lower cost. Often, these solutions also offer more flexible repayment terms.
Over the last 10 years, banks have failed to meet the demand and requirements of small businesses with the lack of funding options made available impeding growth and causing cash-flow problems. For small businesses, it is very hard to make the economics of a small loan work. With the uncertainty of Brexit and other economic clouds gathering, small businesses need funding certainty now more than ever. Fortunately, the emergence of alternative small-business lenders, which offer solutions perfectly crafted for these businesses, are providing a glimmer of hope. As these alternative lenders continue to expand into Europe they could be just what is needed to allay small businesses' financial fears, help them overcome some of the economic challenges traditionally posed by bank funding and provide them with a more stable future.