Small Business Finance Markets Report 2018/2019
The British Business Bank published its flagship Small Business Finance Markets report 2018/2019 – a unique, comprehensive and impartial assessment of finance markets for smaller UK businesses.
The report finds that an increasing proportion of smaller businesses expect Brexit to have a negative impact on their business (29%, up from 22% in 2017). Over one in three (34%) expect access to finance to become more difficult following the UK’s departure from the European Union.
Overall, demand for external finance has continued to fall, with just 36% of smaller businesses using external finance in 2018 (versus 44% in 2012). Despite these concerns, however, half (50.4%) still aspire to grow over the next 12 months.
Key findings include:
Stock of bank lending continues its recent decline – Bank lending stock (£166bn) was similar to 2017 (£165bn) but this continues a decline in real terms over recent years. Gross bank lending – which makes up the biggest proportion of business finance – averaged £14.4bn per quarter. Repayments, however, were at virtually the same level – £14.3bn per quarter – meaning that net lending over the year was positive, but only by a small amount.
Demand for external finance continues its long-term decline – most smaller businesses (73% in 2018, 70% in 2017) would rather forgo growth than use external finance and just 36% of smaller businesses used external finance in 2018 (vs 44% in 2012).
Use and awareness of alternative finance is rising – use of alternatives to bank lending is continuing to grow, but at a slower pace: asset finance was up 3% in 2018 (vs up 10% in 2017) and peer-to-peer up 18% (vs up 51% in 2017). Awareness is also increasing, with 52% of smaller businesses aware of peer-to-peer lending (up from 47% in 2017) and 70% aware of crowdfunding platforms (up from 60% in 2017).
Big differences in the use of finance options between, and within, UK regions – equity deals remain concentrated in London (48% – although only around a fifth of High Growth Businesses are in the Capital), and around tech clusters elsewhere, such as Manchester and Edinburgh. The existence of clusters outside of London and the South East masks stark differences in equity deals numbers at sub-regional level, however – almost half (45%) of Local Authority Districts had zero equity deals in 2018. A further 24% only had one deal.