By Josh Levy, CEO, Ultimate Finance

It’s safe to say the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the business landscape in ways people thought would never happen. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this has resulted in more than a million businesses borrowing more than £50bn through the government-backed CBILS and Bounce Back Loan schemes, according to the Treasury, many of them accessing external funding for the first time.

However, government-backed schemes aren’t permanent fixtures – as it stands, CBILS is set to close at the end of September while businesses will only be able to apply for Bounce Back Loans until 4th November. So what happens when those options are no longer on the table?

Looking towards the long-term

The move by the British Business Bank to include specialist asset-based lending companies like us in its pool of 91 accredited CBILS providers has no doubt helped to open people’s minds beyond the high street banks. As businesses shift from short term survival towards longer term rebuilding and recovery, the funding they require will naturally need to be reconsidered, as well as how they pay back their government backed loans.

This certainly matches our own experiences, with brokers and their clients s beginning to plan for their longer-term funding needs. Businesses will need to embrace debt in a way they may not have done before and with high street lenders likely to retrench further on their appetite for SME lending following the conclusion of the Government schemes, alternative funding providers like us will play a crucial role in supporting cashflow needs and growth ambitions. An Asset-Based Lending facility, allowing businesses to unlock the value tied up in their debtors and machinery, alongside dedicated relationship support, provides the certainty and flexibility of funding.

June was a record-breaking month for our Asset Finance offering, as a 50 per cent increase in deals paid out compared to the month prior with our loan book reaching a record high of £60m. This momentum continued into July and August, with our team recently paying-out deals including a £445k  CBILS-backed Asset Finance facility for a leading UK concrete supplier and providing an existing customer with a  CBILS backed term loan of £500k alongside their £1.25m Invoice Finance facility.

Vital role of introducers

Although lockdown has now eased significantly compared to its peak in April, UK businesses aren’t out of the woods yet. Many companies are looking to adapt to new surroundings and will be finding that customer expectations and demands have changed drastically. Consumer-facing businesses will be seeing increased footfall as consumer confidence begins to slowly increase, while many firms are transforming to adhere to social distancing protocols. Financial stability will be impacted by such change, which is where introducers have such a key role to play in setting up their clients for a secure future.

By gaining an in-depth understanding of the business, knowing how the various government schemes work and developing a strong relationship with clients, brokers are in a unique position to provide the advice companies need right now. While businesses going alone could be overwhelmed at the variety of options available, introducers remove the burden from them by taking stock of business objectives and the issues they’re facing. Only once this analysis has taken place will they connect the client with a flexible asset-based lender which best suits their needs.

This is why we’re proud to have a strong network of commercial brokers and introducers supported by organisations like the NACFB, who provide an invaluable service to businesses seeking funding, particularly those new to the process. Without them, the market would be an increasingly difficult place for companies to navigate, especially in such testing times.