Small and medium businesses are turning to advisers more often for guidance in running their businesses, opening up an opportunity for financial planners and accountants.
A quarter of SME respondents to Scottish Pacific SME Growth Index (24.2 percent) say they contact their trusted adviser every week or fortnight – a fourfold increase from 6.3 per cent in 2017.
Business colleagues (40.7 per cent) and suppliers (22.2 per cent) top the list of trusted advisers. SMEs also nominated family (7 per cent) and friends (8.6 per cent).
When it comes to professional advisers, 5.7 per cent say their trusted adviser is an accountant, 4.1 per cent say a broker and 2.6 per cent a bank manager.
The proportion who nominated their accountant as their trusted adviser has fallen from 10 per cent in 2017.
The report says: “One possible explanation for this is the SME sector’s increasing reliance on online accounting software. SMEs may be taking control of the number crunching side of the business.”
It may also be the expense of getting professional advice.
Business finance company Scottish Pacific has identified a “watershed moment” in the survey, with more companies planning to fund their growth using a non-bank in preference to their main bank.
Scottish Pacific says this result is the culmination of a five-year trend of SMEs moving away from their banks as a funding source. The proportion of SMEs planning to borrow from their main bank has fallen from 38 per cent in 2014 to 18.3 per cent today.
The SME Growth Index was prepared by East & Partners. It shows that the proportion of SMEs preferring to use a non-bank is 18.7 per cent. Only 2.6 per cent said they would not consider using a non-bank lender (down from 4 per cent in last year’s survey).
Overall, 83 per cent of SMEs say they plan to fund their growth using their own funds.
The key reason for preferring a non-bank for funding is to avoid having to offer property as security for loans. SMEs would prefer to use non-personal assets as security or not provide security at all.
Another factor is that one in five business owners report having had a loan application knocked back, which has a significant negative impact on cash flow management.
And SMEs believe they will get their application processed more quickly by a non-bank.
“Historical loyalty to banks is not converting into the banks providing appropriate business funding solutions,” the report says.
There are other factors impacting cash flow, with 39.4 per cent saying suppliers have reduced payment terms and 40.1 per cent saying customers are paying late. The proportion of businesses writing off bad debts has increased from 4.7 pe cent in 2018 to 5.2 per cent in the latest survey.
Despite this, SME sentiment is at its highest level in more than two years. More than half (54.6 per cent) predicted positive growth in the second half of 2019, with an average expected revenue increase of 5.1 per cent.