Three Things That Will Help Small Firms Remain Competitive

Ulster Bank was delighted to continue its association with the Small Firms Association at its 2018 Annual Conference, bringing focus to a sector of critical importance to the economy as a whole. The economic growth and employment supported by the sector is reflected in the Bank’s aim to lend more than €1bn to SMEs in 2018. Here’s what Eddie Cullen, Managing Director of Commercial Banking at Ulster Bank had to say post event:

“In Ulster Bank we try to spend as much time as we can engaging with our customers and try to understand their challenges. We have found staffing and Brexit to be principal amongst these and SFA surveys have found lower levels of business confidence in the last six months than previous periods.

The uncertainties of Brexit remain, and likely will do so for some time. We encourage our customers to examine how they can diversify and to plan for a “Hard Brexit”, whatever the outcome. The overarching ambition to remain competitive is widespread amongst our customers and we are constantly asking ourselves how we, as a Bank, can help with this ambition.

Central Bank of Ireland reports show that while outright new lending to SMEs increased in 2017, the overall level of debt in the economy continued to reduce. The vast majority of SMEs who had not applied for finance responded that not needing it was the main reason.

A company’s financial structure and strength is crucial, and in this time of lower credit demand, SMEs should ensure that they analyse what is best for the long-term health of their business, and that they do not starve the company of the debt or equity investment needed.

More companies seem to be using existing cash resources for investment, and one danger of this is that they are then starved of the cash necessary to turn that investment into the growth needed and to match their ambitions.

Three Things That Will Help Small Firms Remain Competitive

To help our customers in achieving this finance structure, we try to provide clarity on the information we need and the type of investment that we can support, just like our customers would in their own business.

In addition, we have spent considerable time and resources investing in our people to ensure that they have the right expertise and sector knowledge to help our customers through a process that can admittedly be sometimes daunting.”

Tips for Businesses When Approaching Your Bank

When approaching a Bank or a lender, be prepared, know your investment case and make sure you receive all the relevant information about the various types of finance available.

Companies and entrepreneurs should shop around when assessing their finance options. Statistics indicate that less than 10% of small companies apply to a different Bank when applying for finance.

And Three Things to Help Small Firms Remain Competitive?

“Communication, good structures and assessing all of your options are three things that will help any small firm remain competitive in today’s challenging economy.”