Why do SME need extra funds and why should your bank manage such applications?

Ksenia
Ksenia Goncharova Sales Manager, Financial Services Comarch Benelux

SME companies are one of the major groups of bank customers. To facilitate services for small and medium-sized enterprises, banks implement cutting-edge software and make it available to them. Many banks attract business customers by offering additional services to ease the operations of a company.

SME funding — an immense financial gap to be filled

According to the “European SMEs: Filling the Bank Financing Gap” report prepared by Euler Hermes Global, there was a financial gap in 2019, understood as the inability to acquire funds by small and medium-sized enterprises despite the ability to use them for further growth. The gap value is estimated to reach 400 billion EUR. This is the difference between the needs reported by SMEs and available bank credits. The largest gap was diagnosed in the Netherlands (22% GDP), Belgium(14% GDP), France (9% GDP) and Italy (4%).

Although SME funding is often limited, this sector of enterprises is the major employer on the EU market. Small and medium-sized enterprises operating in the European Union employ more than 90 million people, i.e. close to 70% of the employed in the non-financial EU sector. This means that the limited funds for SMEs mean not only fewer investments but also exert a negative impact on the labour market.

The above gap means high opportunities for the banks offering products dedicated to SMEs. Though the EU programme called COSME for 2014-2020 (offering e.g. credit guarantees for small and medium-sized enterprises) has almost reached its end, the market has still had insufficient funding.

What are the major sources of funds for SME and what do they use the funds for?

With respect to the small and medium-sized enterprises operating on the EU market, the major source of funding is external sources as they rely on the funds offered by the banks in 70%. To compare, in the United States the banks ensure 40% funding of SME. According to “SME Access to Finance in the EU Countries 2019” report, the SMEs believe the most important products for their activity include credit lines (51%), financial lease (47%) and banking loans (46%).

Regarding the European market, what purposes do the enterprises use the money from external sources for? According to the above report, the SME needs are versatile:

  • 40% of SMEs appropriates the obtained funds for investing in fixed assets,
  • 35% for the working capital,
  • 22% for employing new workers and training,
  • 20% for new products and services,
  • 13% for the debt rollover,
  • 9% use the funds in another way.

As the products offered by the banks are perceived to be of key importance for further development by the European small and medium-sized companies, it is necessary to facilitate their access to them. Thanks to implementing cutting-edge software, the banks may manage the financing applications more efficiently and thus improve their own financial results.

In the traditional model of selling bank products, a customer must visit a branch personally and submit a credit or loan application, and then deliver the required documents. For SMEs, this route is time-consuming and ineffective while the funds are often required almost instantaneously. The banks where the process of granting loans to companies was carried out, fully or partially, in the traditional way, with clients being obliged to turn up in a bank branch saw a decrease in SME loans due to the pandemic.

For financial institutions, banks, leasing companies or factoring companies not prepared to serve customers through remote channels, this is a blocker not only in winning the market and new sales, but also acquiring business opportunities. It is particularly painful in the case of losing customers from the SME and corporate segments. Customers from these segments are most valuable to financial institutions due to the turnover volume and products margins.

The bank competitiveness is thus proved not only by the offer comprising the maximum credit or loan value and interest rate, but also the overall service and application examination period, as the remote service makes the customer expect their cases to be processed automatically without any delay.

The entrepreneurs may apply for a credit or a loan or for opening a credit line any time and they do not want to be dependent on the bank opening hours. To increase the number of opportunities and respond to the needs of the entrepreneurs interested in SME funding, the banks are implementing or improving their digital banking tools in order to support comprehensive service of business customers, including the possibility to submit credit and loan applications online. This is a necessary step in making funds for SMEs available almost instantly but banks also need to enable the bank employees to view the cashflows of the entrepreneurs which may result in eliminating the need to deliver additional documents required to assess the customer’s creditworthiness.

Not only funds for SMEs — additional services for a business customer

Although the products offered by the banks are primarily the funding sources for SMEs, the institution may also help their customers manage funds, providing additional fintech solutions to them. They include, not being limited to:

  • e-invoicing and e-accounting — both issuing invoices and keeping the books of accounts are the everyday chores of entrepreneurs, and a bank providing such opportunities may support its customers when it comes to settlements,
  • warehouse and e-shop — thanks to inventory checks, the entrepreneur may avoid selling any products not held on stock and thus prevent any compromised image,
  • payment management — having logged in their account, the customer may order transfers, import and export payment files and process mass payments,
  • report generation opportunity — reports are created based on selected data and the conclusions drawn from them help to make accurate business decisions,
  • multi-banking functionality — thanks to it, the entrepreneurs may collect information on the accounts held for them in different banks.

If besides the above functionalities, the systems also handle cash pooling (a funds management method dedicated to entities belonging to a capital group), it has a major benefit of gathering the information on the corporate funds in one place. This facilitates funds management significantly and also enables to apply for funds for SME any time. Thanks to automating many everyday activities required when running a business activity, entrepreneurs may devote even more time to developing their activity, including looking for vendors or creating new services and products.

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