Let’s Talk Business

With the ongoing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and the prospect of Brexit uncertainty over the coming months, this is a period of significant change for business customers across the UK. These changes may involve considerable uncertainty for your firm, your customers and your business model, so it’s important to prepare.

Access to finance is only one of the issues you may have to work through but it is important to consider any funding requirements early on.

Banks and finance providers stand ready to support viable businesses and there is a wide range of advice, guidance and finance options available to you.

Lenders have approved finance for over 1.4 million businesses through government-backed coronavirus loan schemes, with bank staff working incredibly hard to ensure companies can access the support they need. These schemes are just one part of a wide package of measures from the industry, including commercial lending, capital repayment holidays, extended overdrafts and invoice finance facilities.

The finance industry is here to help you prepare, so, Let’s Talk Business.

  • Take time to think about how your customers and suppliers could be affected by any upcoming changes, so you are prepared for the potential impact.
  • Ask your bank or finance provider early on if you think you might need additional finance, or changes in your current facilities. The earlier you engage with providers the better – start by checking your provider’s website for details of the support available.
  • Look into alternative finance options. Most applications are successful, but if your first choice doesn’t work out there are many different providers out there. 
  • Know where to go for more information to help your business. Whether you’re looking to export for the first time or wondering how to manage changes to your supply chain, the information on this site aims to provide what you need.

This guide is a starting point for businesses looking for assistance. UK government advice can be found here.

The SME Finance Charter also sets out a series of commitments made by banks and lenders to support small and medium sized businesses through Brexit and beyond. Alongside five key pledges, signatories to the Charter have set out their own individual commitments to business. The aim of the Charter is to let you know how UK lenders in general plan to support their business customers, what this means for your business, whether your lender has signed up to the Charter; and how other lenders are responding, so that you can compare.

Our 10-point checklist to help you prepare

  • 1. Understand your current financial position

    Ensure you fully understand your key financial information, including current cash position, lending facilities, debtors and creditors. Assess your current stock holdings and be aware of when any current commitments are due for payment.

    2. Identify potential future finance requirements

    If you identify a need for external finance, now or in the future, familiarise yourself with the full range of financial options available, and engage with lenders as early as possible. Consider undertaking sensitivity analysis to review the impact of any disruption to sales and payments, and consider what reinvestment might be needed to adjust.

    3. Supply Chains

    Understand your supply chain and the potential impact there may be on your suppliers. Ensure that where there is a knock-on impact on your business’ working capital requirements this has been factored into your financial plans.

    4. Overseas customers

    Where you have customers in the EU, have you considered what Brexit might mean for demand, payment terms and contractual arrangements? Engage your key EU customers early. Consider the opportunities to develop other markets and the need for representation and investment to make that happen.

    5. Cross-border banking

    If your firm has cross-border banking relationships, you should engage with your provider as there may be changes required.

  • 6. Payments

    Ensure you understand where you have payment arrangements in foreign countries. Movements in exchange rates are likely to have an impact on you and you may wish to mitigate some of this risk. Whilst businesses will continue to be able to make credit transfers and direct debits in euros through the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) schemes, your fees and charges may change.

    7. Staffing

    Have you considered the financial implications of the potential change in status of employees from the EU 27, for instance registration fees and other related costs? Have you considered the cost of adjustments due to the coronavirus such as safety measures or staff working from home?

    8. VAT / Customs

    Changes to VAT registration and arrangements could lead to increased cost and delays which you should factor into your financial planning. Have you familiarised yourself with the relevant VAT and customs changes Brexit might bring for your firm? This is particularly relevant if you currently only export to the EU 27 and are not familiar with customs procedures.

    9. Legal implications

    Consider the potential consequences across multiple areas including intellectual property, data, product labelling. There is likely to be a resource need to understand these changes and potential consequences for non-compliance. Take the time to review those areas relevant to your firm, and take necessary action.

    10. Sector support

    Ensure you have identified where you can go to get sector specific guidance and support, tailored to your business. Your trade association and information available on GOV.UK will be able to provide more detailed guidance.

Questions you might have

How should I prepare for Brexit and possible changes to trading arrangements?

The situation is changing, but businesses can still plan ahead. It is critical that you consider not only the impact on your own businesses, but also on your customers and your suppliers.

You might want to consider breaking down the key potential impacts into three broad areas:
1. Trade (supply chains, exporting, tariffs)
2. Financing (tax/VAT, access to finance, direct receipt of EU funding)
3. Staffing

The potential implications for your business are likely to differ depending on the formal arrangements for the UK’s exit from the EU. Consider scenario planning to assess the potential impacts and what you might need to do to respond.

The latest UK government advice can be found at https://www.gov.uk/transition. Your business trade associations may be able to provide further sector-focused advice and guidance, take a look here.

We strongly recommend using the resource links on this website. If you need to speak with a finance provider, about your current requirements or any potential future needs, it’s best to do it as early as possible.

How are businesses like mine preparing?

Whatever the size of your businesses, it’s important to consider and respond to upcoming changes. Even if you don’t export or import directly, you may be involved with customers and suppliers who will be affected.

There is a variety of advice available from business groups – you’ll find a summary at the bottom of this page. In particular, you may find the Federation of Small Businesses' Transition Hub, the British Chambers of Commerce's Brexit Hub and the CBI's UK Transition Hub are useful resources.

My business might need finance or I might need to discuss my existing finance needs. What should I do?

Lenders retain the capacity and commitment to support viable businesses, so you should feel confident in approaching your finance provider, or others, if you wish to discuss finance needs. It’s best to do this as early as possible.

If your primary lender cannot provide the finance you have requested, remember there are many alternative options at this stage and another lender may be able to support your business.

The banking and finance industry has introduced a range of measures designed to help businesses of all sizes access the finances, support and guidance they need during the coronavirus pandemic.

You can find more information about Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) here and about Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS) here.

Can I keep my existing bank account?

If you are a UK-resident business but make your EU/EEA payments through an EU/EEA-based account, your ability to continue accessing the account will depend on the position taken by your provider. We recommend that you contact your EU/EEA-based finance provider for more information.

The ability of EU/EEA-resident firms to access UK-based financial services will depend on their local national regulation and the provider’s business model. We recommend that they contact their UK provider for more information.

My business bank is an EU-based bank. Will I need to change banks to continue my UK business activities?

Please note that this does not apply to UK high-street banks with foreign parents. If your personal or business banking is provided by a UK-based branch of an EU/EEA bank, we do not expect any issues in the short term. This is due to contingency measures proposed by the Bank of England and the UK government for a period of up to three years after 29 March 2019 (subject to some usual conditions on cooperation between your bank’s national supervisor and UK supervisors).

If you are banking directly with a bank based in other EU/EEA countries, your ability to continue accessing your UK facilities will depend on the individual position of your EU/EEA based bank. We recommend that you contact them as soon as possible to discuss your individual situation.

If you are banking with an EU/EEA-based bank that operates through a UK based subsidiary, which includes a number of the main high street banks, then it is not expected that there will be any issues, even after these arrangements end.

I am an EU/EEA-registered business accessing banking services from a UK-based bank. What do I need to do?

This may depend on the country in which you are incorporated. You should discuss your arrangements and needs with your bank and your bank will be in touch with you if you are affected.

After leaving the EU will SME debt financing be more restricted?

We do not expect that leaving the EU will have a material impact on the availability of finance for most SMEs. Most financing for SMEs is currently provided by UK-based banks and other product providers.

Nonetheless, the Bank of England and the UK government are planning for a three-year period during which EU/EEA banks operating in the UK can continue providing services subject to arrangements between the Bank of England and their national supervisor. In light of these, and as long as the business meets the other criteria of the specific lending provider, there is no reason why leaving the EU would have a material impact on the availability of finance for SMEs in the UK.

Several banks have also confirmed they will be making funding available to support SMEs and address short-term cashflow issues arising from potential disruption to supply chains caused by the UK’s departure from the EU.

If you are a UK-based business financed by an EU/EEA-based financial service provider, or an EU/EEA business being financed by a UK-based service provider we advise you to contact your financing provider.

My business relies on European Commission funding. What happens after leaving the EU?

The EU has some SME financing programmes which will no longer be available if the UK leaves the EU. Many organisations, including UK Finance, are urging the government to institute similar schemes. Further information will be made available as soon as the EU and UK government provide further clarity.

My cash flow has been or may be disrupted, what should I do?

Businesses concerned about cash flow issues should speak to their financing provider(s) as soon as possible to discuss what products and support may be available. These options may vary depending on your circumstances but could include for example applying for or extending an overdraft, a working capital loan or other sources of finance such as invoice finance.

It might also be sensible to consider payment practice more broadly, for instance whether your payment terms are still appropriate, whether they are clear enough and whether you should consider tools such as the Small Business Commissioner to take action against poor payment practice of your customers.

Invoice finance allows businesses to use the debts owed to them by their client businesses (as represented by their invoices) to release funding immediately instead of waiting for payment. Invoice finance can usually unlock around 85 per cent of the value of an invoice straight away, with the balance (less the financier's fees) paid when the invoice is settled. In addition to invoice finance, asset based lending can release funding against wider assets, including stock, inventory, work in progress, plant and machinery.

Many invoice finance providers will also provide sales ledger management services and can support clients in making sure that they get paid. In addition, bad debt protection can be provided, as well as funding or invoice finance, which can complement a client’s existing trade credit insurance facility, unlocking working capital and helping clients manage their payment risks and do more business.

I sell goods to the EU and get paid in euros. How will I be affected?

This will depend on your banking arrangements. If you are receiving euros (or other EU/EEA currency) into a UK-based account and are a UK-resident firm, we do not foresee any issues. UK-based banks will still be able to receive payments in EU/EEA currencies the same way they receive payments in other currencies (e.g. the US dollar, or Japanese yen).

If you are a UK resident business but receive your euro payments through an account with a provider based in the EU/EEA, your ability to continue accessing the account will depend on the position taken by your service provider. We would therefore recommend that you contact your service provider for more information.

The ability of firms based in the EU/EEA to access UK-based financial services will depend on their local national regulation and we recommend that they contact their UK-based finance provider for more information.

It should also be noted that, in addition to the sales ledger management and bad debt protection services that can be provided with invoice finance, funding can often be made available in a range of currencies to fit with the customer’s needs.

My business uses invoice finance and has EU trade customers. How will I be affected?

It is not expected that Brexit will cause any particular problems for the provision of invoice finance or asset based lending. Indeed, many invoice finance providers are preparing to provide increased levels of funding to their current and new clients, to support them through any short-term economic uncertainty. We do recommend that you contact your finance provider to discuss any concerns that you may have, however.

I need to make payments to suppliers in the EU. How will payments be affected?

UK-based banks and other service providers will continue to be able to make payments in different EU/EEA currencies including in euros. UK businesses will continue to be able to make credit transfers and direct debits in euro through the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) schemes, which ensure timely and cost-effective euro payments. This follows a successful application, made by UK Finance, allowing the UK to maintain participation in the SEPA in the event of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit. SEPA is an area in which consumers and businesses are able to make and receive payments in euros under the same basic conditions regardless of their location. For example, a euro account in the UK can receive a salary earned in Spain or be used to pay a recurring utility bill in France. The SEPA schemes also make it easier and cheaper for UK businesses to send and receive euro payments.

I buy goods from the EU and pay by card. Can I still do this after the UK leaves the EU?

Card payment systems are globally inter-operable and when the UK leaves the European Union, cards issued in the UK will be dealt with in the same way as debit or credit cards currently issued by issuers internationally.

In other words, the card schemes do not rely on mutually-agreed regulations or trade agreements to function. The international card schemes set the operational rules for card payments between payment providers (including banks) and retailers, not only within the EU, but around the world.

Post 31 December 2020, cardholders across the EU/EEA can expect to continue using their debit or credit cards domestically and overseas with the same ease of use as they do today.

However, if you are a UK-based client using an account provided by an EU/EEA service provider, or an EU/EEA client using an account provided by a UK service provider, we recommend that you contact your service provider.

I am concerned by movement in foreign exchange rates. How do I protect my business?

There are a number of options available to help businesses mitigate the risk of adverse foreign exchange movements. Banks and finance providers have a variety of products which may assist. Further information on these options can be provided by contacting your finance provider.

How do I access finance for exporting?

The financial services industry supports businesses with international trade daily in many ways, by providing working capital, financing capital goods, helping customers to identify export and inward investment opportunities, making international payments and offering pre and post-shipment financing. This will continue and banks and other finance providers stand ready to support your needs. Your usual contact points will be able to either advise further, or refer you to relevant colleagues to discuss support for you. Government guarantees through UK Export Finance may also assist and your bank will be able to help you navigate your various options.

The banking and finance industry has introduced a range of measures designed to help businesses of all sizes access the finances, support and guidance they need during the coronavirus pandemic.

You can find more information about the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) here and about the Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS) here.here.

As well as your main bank, there are a range of finance providers and types of finance, with the available options becoming significantly more diverse in recent years.

Figures show that banks approve around eight out of ten applications for SME finance.

However, it’s important to remember that they have an obligation to lend responsibly and there are times when a proposal does not meet a bank’s lending criteria, for example due to affordability or past credit history. In some cases, providers may make an offer that is different to the amount and type of finance applied for, which a business then chooses not to accept. In other cases, there might be other types of finance that are more appropriate to the circumstances of a business, whether these are provided by a bank or another finance provider.

If your bank lending application is unsuccessful, there are several options which may be available.

1. Appeal
If you’ve applied to your bank for finance and you have been turned down, you can lodge an appeal on the Better Business Finance website. You must submit this within 30 days of your original application, and you will need to meet certain eligibility conditions as explained on the website.

The following banks are part of the appeals process: AMC, Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds Bank, Bank of Scotland, RBS, NatWest, Santander, Ulster Bank, Bank of Ireland, Danske Bank, Clydesdale Bank, Yorkshire Bank and First Trust Bank.

2. Referral to Government Designated Platforms
If a small or medium sized business makes an unsuccessful loan application to a designated bank, the bank is obliged to offer the business a referral to the government-designated online finance platforms, subject to eligibility. These platforms aim to help firms find a suitable finance provider that may be willing to offer the required finance.

3. Finding Finance Tool
If you’ve been unsuccessful in applying to your bank for finance you could try the Finance Finder on the Better Business Finance website.
This tool brings together a wide range of finance providers across Britain, including business angels, regional funds, government schemes and banks.

4. Responsible Finance providers
If your business needs a simple and affordable loan and your bank is unable to help, try a responsible finance provider. There are responsible finance providers all over the UK, lending to businesses, social enterprises (and individuals) providing finance that is fair, support and advice. Find your nearest responsible finance provider at http://www.findingfinance.org.uk/.

It may be easiest to contact your bank or finance provider through your usual channels.

Provider

Contact points

Barclays

Barclays is committed to helping its customers through uncertain times as well as helping them to maximise growth opportunities. We know that UK businesses need to be ready to evolve in order to cope with – and capitalise on – the changes Brexit will bring. So whether you’re an established business looking for ways to adapt, or a new business still finding your way, we have a wide range of options to help take your next important steps, including access to an SME Growth Fund of £14 billion.

Our Business Direct team and network of Relationship Managers are ready to talk to you about options that may be available to meet your needs. Please contact them via your usual channels.

Bank of Ireland

It’s important that businesses like yours are ready for the challenges and opportunities Brexit brings. To be fully ready, you need to be fully informed. Amid the uncertainty of the outcome we can help you face this with a greater degree of confidence.
 https://www.bankofirelanduk.com/business/brexit/

Bibby Financial Services

Bibby Financial Services is a global business and a leading independent financial services partner to UK SMEs. BFS’s relationship-based approach means that they get to know your business so they can support your current and future needs with invoice finance, trade finance and asset finance through, to corporate funding. BFS understands a wide range of industries and sectors, and the challenges they present, within the UK as well as internationally.
https://www.bibbyfinancialservices.com/funding

Business Enterprise Fund (BEF)

Business Enterprise Fund (BEF) is a not-for-profit social enterprise, set up to provide flexible responsible finance to SMEs that will help them thrive and grow when other lenders can’t fully assist. We exist to support SMEs that make a tangible difference to the communities they serve through social impact. In uncertain times, we feel it’s more important than ever to keep supporting businesses and enabling growth - they are the heartbeat of the UK economy and we are committed to work with mainstream funders to ensure sustainable alternative finance options are made available.
www.befund.org

Close Brothers

Now, more than ever in these uncertain times, it is vital to maintain momentum and keep pushing forward. Close Brothers can help you do just that, helping you thrive today and for years to come.
www.closebrothers.com

CYBG / Virgin Money

At this point in time, now more than ever, Clydesdale and Yorkshire Banks want the best for all our customers, from small start-ups and SMEs to global business giants. Wherever you’re going, whatever the challenges, we’ll be there every step of the way with experienced specialists, our latest digital tools and supported by relationship managers who can provide prompt and appropriate assistance where it is needed.
https://secure.cbonline.co.uk/business/
https://secure.ybonline.co.uk/business/

Danske

As things stand, there is still uncertainty around what will happen after the transition period and what impact this will have on the wider financial services sector in the future.
Those uncertainties may have implications for the banking services we provide, and we are continuing our work on potential Brexit impacts. If there are going to be changes to the services we provide, we will let you know.
To help customers understand what Brexit means for the services we deliver, we have put together answers to some frequently asked questions.
https://danskebank.co.uk/important-information/brexit

HSBC

HSBC UK is well positioned to support clients in both the UK and Europe and have done everything we can to make the bank and our clients as resilient as possible, whatever the outcome of Brexit.

We are committed to help British businesses realise their ambitions for growth and navigate Brexit. Our £14 billion SME fund is our largest to date and includes increased ring-fenced pots for international businesses and for the agriculture sector.

For further information, please visit our Brexit Hub: https://www.business.hsbc.uk/en-gb/brexit

NatWest

Regardless of how Brexit negotiations unfold, we are committed to helping our customers succeed. With our expert knowledge, we’re here to support customers with the opportunities and challenges that Brexit could potentially bring. For further information please go to your bank’s ‘Brexit Hub’.

https://www.business.natwest.com/business/support-centre/brexit-hub.html

Lloyds Banking Group

During uncertain times for our customers it is important they have the financial support and expert guidance to navigate the unique challenges they may face. Whatever the future brings we will continue to support UK businesses. This is one of the ways we’re helping Britain prosper.
Lloyds Brexit info:
https://resources.lloydsbank.com/brexit/
Bank of Scotland Brexit info:
https://business.bankofscotland.co.uk/business-resource-centre/guidance/Brexit-FAQs.html

Santander

Whatever form the UK’s future relationship with the EU takes, we will be the trusted partner of UK SMEs to help them grow their businesses at home and internationally. For international trade enquiries and advice about how Santander can help your business in a changing economic environment, you can visit: https://www.santandercb.co.uk/financing/international/brexit

There is a range of business group information and advice online, including member-only advice. There is also government information in place, including the British Business Bank Finance Hub.

Organisation

Resource

Link

British Chambers of Commerce

The BCC has a Brexit hub which contains a Business Brexit Checklist, Risk Register and a Withdrawal Agreement FAQ & Analysis.

https://www.britishchambers.org.uk/page/brexit-hub
https://www.britishchambers.org.uk/page/brexit/business-brexit-checklist

British Business Bank

The British Business Bank is the UK Government’s development bank. Their Finance Hub and Business Finance Guide have been built to help businesses understand and discover the finance options that could enable them to grow.

https://www.british-business-bank.co.uk/finance-hub/
https://thebusinessfinanceguide.co.uk/

Business Debtline

Business Debtline, run by the charity the Money Advice Trust, provides free debt advice to small businesses and people who are self-employed. You can access the service over the phone, through the website and via webchat.

www.businessdebtline.org

CBI

The CBI has a variety of information, including In-depth sector analyses which you may find useful.

https://www.cbi.org.uk/uk-transition-hub/

Federation of Small Businesses (FSB)

The FSB’s Small Business Brexit Pack has a lot of relevant information and a number of resources you may find useful.

https://www.fsb.org.uk/campaign/uktransition.html

ICAEW

The ICAEW’s Brexit Hub has a range of resources to help prepare. Those involved in the accountancy profession may find this particularly of use.

https://www.icaew.com/technical/economy/brexit/brexit-checklist
Further information including the below can be found at:
Inventory planning and Brexit
Supply chains and Brexit
Details of how to find a chartered accountant to support you can be found here.

Sector-specific advice may be particularly important for certain sectors. Below are details of available support. Further advice and guidance is also available to members of relevant trade associations.

Sector

Industry Group Resources

Government Information

Automotive

The SMMT, the automotive trade association has a range of resources available at https://www.smmt.co.uk/industry-topics/brexit/

Government information can be found at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/the-automotive-sector-and-preparing-for-eu-exit

Construction

Build UK’s Deal or No Deal: Are you Ready for Brexit guide can be found at www.builduk.org/brexitguide
Members of the Federation of Master Builders may also benefit from their guidance at https://www.fmb.org.uk

Government information can be found at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/the-construction-sector-and-preparing-for-eu-exit

Manufacturing

Make UK’s EU Hub provides information for businesses involved in manufacturing. This is available at  https://www.makeuk.org/services/leaving-the-eu

 

Retail

The BRC has a range of resources for businesses in the retail sector available at https://brc.org.uk/brexit-resource

Government information can be found at
https://www.gov.uk/guidance/the-retail-sector-and-preparing-for-eu-exit

Farming

The NFU has a range of Brexit-related resources, including guidance material, available at https://www.nfuonline.com/news/eu-referendum/

 

Our 10 point checklist to help you prepare

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