SME Lending: How To Stand Out In the Crowd?

HSBC has based its MSME lending across three broad pillars i.e. SME, Service and Banking

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Pick up any report on fintech trends in India, and you will find mention of SME lending as one of the more popular, and clearly ‘in vogue’ business model. Yes, the sector that has been traditionally underserved is now getting its much deserved attention from various types and strata of financial institutions, be it banks, NBFCs, MFIs, fintechs or aggregators. With the space getting increasingly crowded and technology getting democratised, it is imperative for each player to differentiate itself within its risk acceptance framework, and go beyond traditional SME lending, through innovations in assessment methodology, products, processes and delivery mechanism.

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HSBC, is a global MNC bank with 150-plus years of presence in India. If we look back at the past few years, HSBC has based its MSME lending across three broad pillars i.e. SME, Service and Banking, and continues to leverage this approach, to reach out to new segments and new customers in the SME space.

Let’s look at each of these three pillars:

SME

HSBC treats its SME segment customer with as much care, respect and rigour as it does for any corporate banking segment customer. The bank has a clear vision that ‘SMEs of today are large corporates or global entities of tomorrow’. Hence the discussions with the SME clients, and products/solutions offered to them, are at par with those offered to large corporate customers. A few of them include:

  1. Comprehensive lending options: HSBC offers majority of the suite of products and services available with the bank, to the SME sector. It is a holistic full-service bank operating in the MSME space for last many years.
  2. International banking: With presence in 60+ countries, HSBC offers a truly global banking experience. It works with its SME clients who have global expansion ambitions whether on buy or sell side, and provide them a one stop platform for:
  • Performing digital banking across all global subsidiaries
  • Access to HSBC global network, and mentors.
  • Comprehensive Trade finance, Treasury and Cash management solutions
  • Support on FEMA guidelines, FIRC, local regulations

Says Kailesh Shah, MD, All Time Plastics Private Limited, “HSBC is one bank which we found to be very swift in delivering the need of our organisation in timeliest manner with range of product offerings. What I like the most is their technology platform which makes the process so efficient and lean not only for me but our entire team The capability to understand the business model and then focus on the client is super. I am sure we will keep growing with HSBC and it will be a catalyst in our growth story.”

The global environment is more dynamic than ever before. HSBC is poised to take its SME clients to the next level of growth and expansion through differentiated, best in class offerings.

Service

HSBC considers its customers as its partners, and lives by the mantra ‘A friend in need, is a friend indeed’. Covid was one such instance when banks really had to raise the bar to support the SME sector, which was understandably one of the most severely impacted sectors. Over the few months when the impact was very pronounced, the banks’ relationship team actively engaged with the clients, not for any document submission or other operational matters, but for enquiring about the well-being of the clients’ teams and how the bank could help them with their business needs at the time of crisis. New Business development took a back seat and the human face of the Bank was amplified. Sectors such as pharma, medical equipment, relief material, FMCG and food processors which needed finance urgently, were provided credit lines pro-actively. Digitisation was the key enabler here. With a combination of digital signatures, digital platforms and dedicated customer service, the HSBC team tried to minimise the pain for their clients to the extent possible.

One such beneficiary was Karmen, a tier 1 manufacturer of machined cast, forged and precision machined components for industries such as aerospace, defence, fluid handling, locomotive and rail, off highway, oil and gas and power. Says Ramesh Venkatesan, CEO & MD, Karmen, “Earlier we used to resist shifting towards digital. HSBC changed our mindset. This shift helped us, especially during covid period. The entire process of financing was smooth. As a result, my team’s bandwidth was freed for doing our core business work.”

The bank also took a conscious call of not being selective at this time, and extended ECLGS facility to ease the working capital tightening for all eligible clients’ who requested for the same.

Banking

Today, a lot of young force/new age companies have entered the SME space. They are extremely ambitious and nimble, moving forward at a breakneck pace. They expect their Bank to provide services that extend beyond plain vanilla banking services. Built on top of the first two dimensions, is HSBC’s Banking dimension. Here, HSBC prides itself in putting itself in clients’ shoes, understand their business, and then offer the best fit customised solutions. This is what a true partner does.

Says Venkatesan, “Even before we became their customer, HSBC India’s CEO and senior leadership interacted with me. They understood our business model and strategy, how we differentiate ourselves with other suppliers. They are truly our partners, and we look forward to working with them in the future.”

Dev Jain, owner of Dipty Lal Judge Mal Pvt Ltd, agrees. He says, “Coming from a 35 year old account in a PSU bank to HSBC was a sea change, the bank came to us, loans approved in a fortnight, our request were heard and taken care of, a very friendly and smiling approach. Overall my experience with HSBC has been great and helped us cut down on our financial costs. Currently also we have expansion plans and HSBC as always is with us in our path of growth.”

To add, HSBC has also recently launched the ‘Beyond Banking’ proposition, to provide solutions that cater to the client’s entire lifecycle of business and operations. These include ERP, accounting software, shipping, logistics, e-HRMS, cloud service providers, remote collaboration tools among many others.

The way forward

Says Anurag Tripathi, Director and Head, Business Banking (MSME) Lending, “This is just the beginning. SMEs are the real wind behind India’s Sails. Banking needs to be constantly evolving in line with the MSMEs evolving needs. We, at HSBC, are fully committed to act as a catalyst to help SMEs of India achieve rapid growth. We would be happy to connect with you to understand your needs and work for each other’s symbiotic growth.”