FSB works closely with the Ulster University Business School (UUBS) on a range of activities to support SMEs, with the most recent being around ‘alternative finance’ through a study entitled “The SME-Bank Relationship: Exploring the Impact of Crowd-funding at Start-up” and an associated half day lenders’ conference.
Most businesses have a relationship with their bank that sees them keep their deposits, borrowings and transactions with a single institution, however, the UUBS has been researching the burgeoning range of alternatives and how firms here are engaging with them.
Following on from the research paper, the UUBS staged a conference to explore everything from crowd-funding, to peer to peer lending, equity finance, venture capital and much more. Equity crowd-funding is a rapidly growing industry, but still in its infancy. There have been relatively few successful business exits that have raised money in this way but, as time goes on, this sector continues to develop.
UUBS Executive Dean, Professor Mark Durkin, who co-authored the study, said: “SME growth is the bedrock for future economic development in Northern Ireland, so educating start-ups about alternative forms of funding is essential for success, in particular the potential of crowd-funding as an alternative source of finance.”
Dr Anthony Gandy, another co-author of the report, chaired the conference, which brought together specialist providers from many aspects of the alternative finance sector, along with business owners. Dr Gandy commented: “In short there are clear roles for both banks and the crowd-funding alternative. The key to success for SMEs is being aware of what finance options are available and the optimum time in the business lifecycle to avail of them, with meaningful advice playing a strong role in the SME-Bank relationship, especially at times where bank networks are contracting.” FSB members can find out more about alternative finance options from: https://www.fsb.org.uk/benefits/finance/independent-financial-services