Jon Maycock, Commercial Director, Propel Finance
When it comes to sourcing funding to acquire assets for your company, the end goal is to get the best business outcome. Whether that’s low repayments, flexibility, expertise or the ability to secure funding immediately, it’s important to consider all aspects of a finance solution before making a final decision.
Specific and dedicated finance is always better in practice. It’s tailor-made to a customer’s needs, helping business owners make more informed decisions when it comes to their company finances and assets. It can even be tax advantageous. Most importantly, expert finance companies don’t try and fit customer needs around a facility: they fit the facility’s needs around the customer.
However, how can a business know whether to go down this route – or simply apply for a traditional loan?
Potential pitfalls of a loan
Typically, loans come with a long list of terms and conditions that need to be addressed, such as the provision of quarterly management information. Alongside the huge administrative effort this invariably requires, there’s the question of flexibility; if the business isn’t using all the funds made available, it will still have to pay interest on them. With a loan, businesses are also often required to take out personal guarantees, a key consideration when compared to other forms of finance.
As such, it’s worth exploring the benefits of the asset finance route and how it can help small business owners secure the right kind of funding to meet their needs.
Each and every asset being utilised by a business demands a payback from either generating additional income or by creating extra savings and efficiencies. Asset finance allows businesses to use the latest and most efficient assets available. By offering low-deposit funding, asset finance can help businesses conserve the working capital they otherwise would have invested upfront, allowing scope to invest in other areas of the business. Flexible repayments can be matched to budgets, trading cycles and seasonality. Fixed interest rates across the whole term ensure certainty of budgeting, vital in times of constant change. Importantly, by using specific finance related to the assets concerned, existing credit lines, such as bank overdrafts and loans, remain untouched and are still available for business use.
Additionally, for eventualities where supplementary working capital is needed, there is also the option to refinance existing assets to generate required funds.
The security aspect of asset finance is the key differentiator when it comes to funding options. Unlike a traditional loan, with asset finance, the equipment itself acts as the security against the loan – meaning that personal collateral, such as directors’ houses, are not at risk if the business is unable to make repayments.
Lease over loan
Companies also have the opportunity to lease assets rather than purchase them. This means assets can generate income whilst they are being used, so can effectively start paying for themselves straight away.
As a by-product, leasing eliminates the burden of asset disposal. If the asset belongs to an asset finance provider, this puts the responsibility for disposal in the hands of a third party, with the term of agreement tailored to the anticipated useful life of the asset. And with the potential for rapid rates of corporate change and innovation, leasing provides businesses with the ability to upgrade their assets easily, without the difficulties or expense of changing a loan.
In essence, opting to lease resources removes any ongoing responsibility for funding assets once they have come to the end of their useful economic life.
The benefits of specialist finance
According to the Finance & Leasing Association (FLA), asset finance in new business (primarily leasing and hire purchase) grew by 6% in 2019 to reach a record annual total of £35.7 billion.
Largely, the reason behind this is the specialist sector knowledge and proficiency of asset finance houses. With an in-depth working understanding of the assets themselves, asset financers can use their expert understanding of asset values to provide specialist evaluations; and with widespread industry knowledge, can secure their customers preferential deals from established vendors.
As such, asset financing is about much more than just the cash. By capitalising on the advantages of a relationship-based funding approach, asset financiers can partner with small businesses to boost efficiency, improve performance and secure the ongoing viability of their enterprise.
HOW TO MANAGE YOUR CASH FLOW IN UNCERTAIN TIMES
While the world is constantly changing, probably at a faster pace now than ever before, businesses need to manage cash flow and costs to drive success in uncertain times, says Matthew Thorpe, partner at Haines Watts Essex.
Managing people and expenses
There are certain costs that you just can’t avoid as a business – to keep your operation running seamlessly, but scrutinise the detail and cut down on any non-essential expenses. Check things like your SaaS subscriptions and look out for costs that auto-renew and if you do cancel, remember to also cancel your direct debits too.
You might want to put a freeze on hiring new people, but ensure that other roles and responsibilities are clearly and efficiently assigned across your team. The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) has been introduced by the Government to help UK employers access support to continue paying part of their employees’ salary to avoid redundancies. Affected employees are classed as “furloughed workers”.
Once furloughed, the employee cannot work or they will not qualify for the scheme. For businesses that perhaps need to go further, there may be some roles they don’t need any more, but businesses should work sensitively with people to manage this.
Cash is king
In uncertain times, owner managers will need to keep operations going to ensure financial stability. You should look to manage debt more efficiently by negotiating extended payment terms with creditors. You could also renegotiate loans for longer repayment terms to give yourself a lower monthly payment, helping the business to set some cash aside each month.
As a business owner, you need to create a cash flow projection and update this regularly if you are to improve things. You can do this using financial information to create a picture of how the business will look in the next 12 months. The forecast needs to show revenue sources and expenses, which will show the ups and downs of business income and can be used to make sure that enough finance is in place.
While banks and other finance providers recognise that the cashflow of a business may be disrupted by the impact of Covid-19, they are still going to want to see that you are viable and continue to trade in these uncertain times. Make sure your business is organised and don’t let disorganisation cause unnecessary issues. You can evidence this by having detailed forecasts; current order books and projections (as best as possible).
Having instantly accessible, accurate financial information allows you to plan effectively, spot issues before they become problems and manage your money in the most efficient and rewarding way.
Software is now incredibly user-friendly and accessible from anywhere. For a business owner embracing the technology, this means:
- Invoicing can be done instantly when a job is complete, emailed to the customer with an easy to use link to a payment platform.
- Comparison websites can automatically monitor and help maintain lowest cost for things such as light & heat, insurance etc.
- Technology can be used in place of face-to-face meetings. It can also enable them to adapt production lines to different demands.
All of these things and more, used properly, can make managing your business finances quicker, easier and often cheaper. You will also be able to bring clarity to where your business stands and prepare for the next steps.
HOW FINANCIAL SERVICES CAN GET TO GRIPS WITH RISING SUPPLY CHAIN RISK
By Alex Saric, smart procurement expert, Ivalua
UK businesses have never been more dependent on their suppliers to help them deliver goods and services to their customers. Be it retail, manufacturing or financial services, suppliers have a vital role to play when it comes to innovation and meeting customer expectations. However, as supply chains become increasingly global, businesses are potentially exposing themselves to more risk than ever before.
This is especially true in financial services. Whether it’s the impact of geopolitical events like Brexit or global tariff wars, supply shortages, security or the businesses impact on the environment, an organisation’s failure to identify and mitigate risk could see millions wiped off its share price, and its corporate reputation left in tatters. Risk can present itself anywhere and at any time, so financial services firms must be ready to address it. However, many simply don’t have the ability to evaluate suppliers for risk factors, leaving them wide open to business operations being hindered, or being slapped with financial penalties.
More suppliers, increasing risk
One reason why financial services firms aren’t able to evaluate suppliers is the breadth and scale of today’s supply chains. For example, French oil company Total said in in a recent human rights briefing paper that they work with over 150,000 direct suppliers worldwide. This is just one example of how large and varied the roster of partners has become. Research from Ivalua has found that financial services businesses on average are working with around 3,600 suppliers annually, which is evenly split between UK-based and international partners. That number is expected to rise, with 60% expecting the number of suppliers they work with to rise.
The expanding nature of suppliers is only going to expose financial services firms to more potential risk than ever before, yet 78% say they face challenges gaining complete visibility into suppliers and their activities.
A lack of supplier visibility leaves businesses unable to identify and mitigate against supply chain risk. In fact, almost three-quarters (73%) of financial services firms have experienced some type of risk during the last 12 months. These include; supplier failure (43%), environmental impact, such as pollution or waste (35%) and supply shortages (45%). Supply shortages can be among the most damaging to a business, as seen by both the KFC chicken shortage which closed stores, and the summer 2018 CO2 shortage which caused companies such as Heineken and Coca-Cola to pause production, impacting supply across Europe during the World Cup.
Businesses unprepared for the worst
One way financial services firms can better prepare for risk is to ensure they know what to plan for to reduce the impact. However, whilst some say they have a contingency plan in place to deal with risk, many of them are unprepared. Financial services firms admitted to not having comprehensive and deployed contingency plans in place to prepare the supply chain for risk such as; natural disasters (68%), supply shortages (67%), geopolitical changes (65%), environmental impact (63%), supplier failure (62%) and modern slavery (50%).
In order to effectively prepare for these types of risks, it’s vital that financial services businesses fully understand their suppliers, their business environment, global variations in regulations, geopolitics, and a host of other factors. But for many, there are multiple challenges when it comes to gaining this understanding. A prevailing factor is an inability to gain visibility into all suppliers and activity because supplier management data is stored in multiple locations and formats, making insights difficult to access. This leaves teams unable to review supplier activity and assess compliance.
Making supplier management smarter
It’s imperative that financial services businesses are able to respond or prepare for supply chain risk. Clearly, much more needs to be done to ensure they have complete visibility of suppliers, especially in an era where regulators can levy heavy fines for GDPR breaches and scandals spread in minutes over social media. These types of risks can be reduced in the future if procurement teams have a 360-degree view of suppliers which will help with contingency planning and risk management.
For example, in the instance of supply shortages, plans could be put in place that identify alternative suppliers to ensure any shortages do not impact end users. This type of supplier collaboration is paramount when it comes to managing and mitigating against supplier shortages. When it comes to regulations, financial services firms can’t allow a lack of visibility to limit their ability to ensure all suppliers are compliant.
To do this, teams must take a smarter approach to procurement that gives complete visibility into suppliers throughout the supply chain. This will allow financial services firms to identify and plan for risk, reducing the potential damage, and ensuring they are working with and awarding business to low-risk suppliers. Supply chain risk is rapidly becoming an overarching concern for financial services firms, but by providing the ability to assess suppliers, they will have all the insights they need to mitigate the impact on business operations.
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