We caught up with Alice Cox, Regional Director for London at ABL Business, to talk about what it is like acting as a consultant and advisor to clients looking for corporate finance in 2022. We discuss the the challenges faced in the commercial lending space, and the direction that the commercial finance space is heading.
I’m Alice, the Regional Director for London at ABL Business. I have an operational/risk background predominantly within invoice finance, where I ‘sat on the other side of the fence’ supporting businesses with their facilities from a lender perspective. Having done these kind of roles prior to joining ABL, I’ve got real insight and knowledge of what my clients need from a facility once it’s in place.
As an FCA authorised, independent finance consultancy, our IS09001 approved Finance Discovery & Delivery Process underpins everything we do at ABL. The process means we always start by understanding exactly what a business wants to achieve by accessing finance.
Then, we combine what we’ve learned through the Finance Discovery & Delivery Process, with our access to lenders and products across the market, to help our clients check and compare available facilities and ensure they choose the facility that is right for them and their business.
At ABL, I’m not a broker. My role is to act as a consultant or intermediary to advise my clients on the various facilities that are available to them, and the pros and cons of each to help them make the best decision and secure the most suitable facility. I say that because of how we do things at ABL; we are consultative in our approach and put partnerships and knowledge sharing at the heart of what we do.
Since joining ABL, the change in role has been really refreshing. I’m really enjoying working with and meeting business owners and business advisors face to face, getting to know them and understanding how ABL can support their business to raise the right type of finance to meet their objectives. I also love the bespoke nature of the finance facilities we help to raise; there’s no one size fits all at ABL, which makes every transaction unique.
Government schemes over the past couple of years have helped businesses to survive. This year, they’re looking to thrive – but, with rising costs and pent-up demand in supply chains, the need for businesses to have access to cash for growth is crucial.
Alternative finance is the fastest growing area of finance in the UK, and I think that’s a trend that will continue. But, as banks retreat from the high street, face to face interactions when arranging commercial finance are becoming a thing of the past.
This means the support and knowledge of a commercial finance intermediary is increasingly important, to ensure businesses fully understand the facilities available to them and are able to make an informed choice - rather than opting for a short-term, quick fix finance solution that may not be suitable for them long-term.
After all, there are many finance facilities available to achieve the same outcome, meaning we have a role to play to ensure that any product a business signs up to, is the one that’s most suitable for them.
I think the biggest challenge for business owners is simply not knowing where to start when it comes to accessing funds. In fact, a recent study by the British Business Bank cited 68% of SMEs were unaware of the finance options available to them - and that access to finance was one of their greatest barriers to growth!
Many business owners think they’re stuck with the finance facilities they already have and that there aren’t other options available to them, but that’s simply not the case. Whether a business needs an entirely new finance facility, or needs to restructure existing debt, there is always someone who can help.
The best thing business owners can do is ask; find a commercial finance consultant you can speak to in person to help you understand the complex commercial lending market and navigate you to the best facility.
Breaking down the stereotype of a broker as someone who just wants to get a deal done and take their cut. Nowadays, I believe our role must be about building long-term relationships with businesses and their advisors who trust us as a qualified and knowledgeable consultant to their company and extension of their team.
At ABL, initiatives such as our Finance Discovery & Delivery Process are how we do this. We are not purely transactional – we use this process to gain real insight into a business and what it wants to achieve through raising finance, before getting stuck in and delivering on what we’ve agreed.
I think Invoice Finance will continue to be a popular way for businesses to support their cash flow, and more recently we’ve seen an upturn in VAT and Corporation Tax funding. Also, businesses that ignore ESG activity – and the associated funding requirements - do so at their peril! And of course, a good credit control function such as Satago’s is always key.
I love music and will occupy my free time with as many live music events, gigs and festivals as possible. I also love to cook as well as making my way round London’s many wonderful restaurants. I do, however, also enjoy escaping the city and spending time in the countryside with my dog.
With 2022 being the first year since 2020 with no restrictions and being able to makes plans both personally and professionally, I’m looking forward to working with and helping businesses, as well as funders and partners, and seeing where my ABL Business journey takes me.