In the first of our new Q&A sessions, we spoke to Norman Chambers, Managing Director of the NACFB, about challenges and opportunities within the commercial finance market.
In your opinion, what is currently the biggest challenge for commercial finance brokers?
For the overall commercial finance market at this moment in time, the biggest challenge really is around the uncertainty for the future. There is still a lot of business to be written, but the impact of the uncertainty varies depending on the type of finance and what the client base is like.
Brokers also have concerns that a lot of deals are taking longer, particularly the larger-sized funding which takes longer to progress, reflecting a nervousness in the SME market as well.
However, our brokers are incredibly resilient, we have seen challenges in the past and because of their entrepreneurial skills and experience, they will find a route through. Obviously, it’s difficult to know how to prepare, but whatever happens, the NACFB will continue to play a pivotal role for its members.
What is the best way for brokers to keep up to date with industry changes and stay abreast of the diverse array of lenders in the market?
Keeping in touch with the NACFB via the daily Morning Briefing and also our monthly Commercial Broker magazine is a good place to start. We don’t see full sight of all the lenders within the market – I believe at last count there were over 350 – but 142 of those are Patrons of the NACFB, which we can comment and keep people up to date on.
Our Members can contact us at any time to request a list of Patrons. We would advise our Members that if they come across a lender that is not registered with the NACFB, that it is always worth calling us to see if we are familiar with them; we would also recommend undertaking their own background research, most importantly, checks on the individuals behind the brand and understanding their funding lines.
How important do you think product development will be in supporting the SME and broker communities and what is the best forum for communicating these needs to lenders?
I think funders could be doing more with the SME community to understand what their needs are and to develop new services or products that might be right. It is crucial for all funders not to be complacent, particularly in the short term, they should be looking at other ways they can support SMEs.
Credit4 is a good example, they do provide something different from the mainstream funders and due to the research that has been undertaken, they are ahead of some of their competitors in terms of their offering.
We would strongly recommend piloting new products and the NACFB are always interested in hosting open conversations between lenders and SMEs, in order to discuss potential new products.
In terms of keeping people up to date, our daily Morning Briefing email has over 5,000 subscribers – it’s not just read by lenders and brokers, but all our connections across the entire commercial finance arena.
At the NACFB expo in the summer, you discussed how lenders can work best with brokers to ‘ensure good turnaround times whilst maintaining professional standards’. Obviously, turnaround time is crucial, how should lenders balance this with the need for the right product and decision?
All SMEs want things done quickly and giving a decision in principle should be straightforward. Funders can support this by employing experienced staff with the correct systems and processes in place, but critically, delays can often be avoided by collecting all the relevant information from the SME at the outset and being very transparent about timings.
In the long term, I would welcome SMEs having the opportunity to log into a portal in order to track the progress of their application themselves to check what is happening with their transaction.
With new technologies and platforms emerging all the time and ever-increasing pressure on turnaround time for deals, do you believe SMEs will continue to seek out and rely on advice from commercial brokers?
I think there is a place for it all, it depends on the client as well as the type and amount of finance required. It could be very quick and easy via a portal, but some of the more complicated deals need more work with a broker to fully establish the SME needs, in order to best match them with the correct product.
Predictions for 2020?
That’s easy. The England football team to win the European Championships.