Giving Scottish businesses the credit they deserve

Whatever a business’s type, size or sector, access to cash flow remains one of the most critical barriers to success. Derek Money, Head of Sales at our Glasgow office, discusses how our approach to business finance is giving Scottish businesses the credit they deserve.

Whether it’s funds to buy new equipment, develop a business or spread the cost of essential outlay, it’s a vital requirement in supporting long-term growth.

Whilst business cash flow requirements continue to evolve, the traditional landscape for servicing business funding has changed fundamentally in the last 10 years. For many, the first point of contact would have historically been their own bank, but as branch numbers have fallen by more than a third since 2010 as a result of more than 480 closures across Scotland, the demand for a more progressive and accessible approach to business finance has been essential.

Fast forward to 2019, and the need for business finance has progressed quite significantly. Not only is there a need for investment and growth in the same ways that there always has been but add to that an increased level of urgency on its delivery.

Today, when a business identifies a finance need, there’s an expectation for a rapid-response and smooth process from start to finish. It’s no longer feasible to expect businesses to wait on long decision timescales and reams of unnecessary paperwork. In fact, that’s one of the leading reasons why so many businesses are embracing the flexibility and speed that alternative options such as non-bank funding can present.

This progression is a sign of our times and something that White Oak UK has focused on developing in recent years. With a 30-year history in business finance, providing fast, flexible solutions to SMEs across a mix of industries, regions and specialisms has always been at the core of our business.

Whilst we have recently opened a new Scottish office in Glasgow City Centre, we were based in nearby Stewarton for more than 25 years as First Independent Finance, before becoming part of White Oak UK Global Advisors. The move was part of a keenness to support our evolving client base more closely and it’s a key development that we hope gives our customers peace of mind that not only are they are dealing with people close by, but also importantly that their business is in good hands.

Despite a tenured and successful history in providing (predominantly) asset-based funding to key sectors such as agriculturehaulageconstruction and energy, the wider White Oak UK business has for many years been a leading provider of corporate and professional loan solutions, across areas such as taxation, VAT and PII funding. This is something that we propose to develop further through the Glasgow office.

Since the new office opened on Waterloo Street earlier this year, we’ve successfully delivered a high number of business loans to new customers in the region, proving the appetite for funding that exists and the need for supportive finance options for Scottish business outside of the banks.

An added benefit for our customers and partners is the wealth of experience the Glasgow team brings, with many, including myself, being positive veterans in the commercial lending market, across both banks and alternatives.

Despite essentially being a branch office of a larger organisation, we are quite independent in our set up, with many support functions native to the Glasgow office, from credit and accounts to IT and administration functions, in addition to the core sales team. We are also proud to have successfully recruited several new sales starters as part of our relocation and the plan is very much to grow this operation further, providing more opportunity to regional based talent in both office and field-based roles.

We are keen to grow our product offering to our Scottish customers, both directly and through our network of broker partners. In 2018, White Oak UK collectively delivered more than £511 million in finance to businesses across the UK and this is only set to grow.

Ensuring that Scottish businesses have access to fast and simple finance solutions is a critical aim for us, as is expanding our market reach, playing on the strengths and successes we have seen across the wider business, particularly in respect of the professions and legal markets, an area where our expertise has been recognised for many years.

Connected to this, we have long been supporters of the legal market, offering our facilities for many years through many leading firms and this feels like a natural progression to promote our loan offerings to a broader Scottish audience.

Our focus on offerings to the professions market has grown significantly in recent years, offering firms the ability to finance many key investment or expenditure areas with ease over terms that work with their cashflow cycles, particularly relevant across areas such as taxation and VAT. For many businesses it becomes a simple and effective tool for spreading costs.

It’s become increasingly clear to us over the years that businesses need solutions to fund a growing number of requirements that are often unavailable through more traditional sources and this is something we have always stayed tuned to. Our customers remain our best barometer for new product development and they continue to drive an evolution in our funding lines.

In recent years, we have seen products such as business development loans being borne from customer demand, enabling businesses to cover more intangible costs such as recruitment and marketing costs into a facility that can drive real value for businesses.

I think that’s the big difference between us and our competitors, the closeness we maintain with our customers and the influence they have over driving change. It’s simply giving Scottish businesses the credit they deserve, and we look forward to building on that.

This blog originally featured in the The Times Scotland (paywall).

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