‘You’ve Got To Spread Your Risk’ Says Specialist in SME Finance

ABL Partners’ Founder & Managing Director Rob Kelly on why he left a 30 year career in corporate finance at the height of the pandemic.

Nimbla spoke to Rob Kelly about why he left a 30 year corporate career in Financial Services to launch ABL Partners last November. He also talks about the future of funding, and how SMEs can prepare for the Government loan schemes ending in April.

You launched ABL Partners last November. Can you talk about your background, and ABL’s mission?

Having spent most of 2020 on furlough it gave me time to reflect on my 30 years within the financial services industry. So in 2020 I decided to set up ABL Partners Ltd to assist UK SMEs in finding more flexible service offerings.

I founded ABL Partners to assist UK SMEs in sourcing commercial finance, bad debt, credit insurance and commercial insurance facilities that are fit for purpose.

Due to the ever-changing and challenging world we now live in, there are so many choices available, from Government-assisted loans to independent asset-based lending facilities, so making the correct choice is vital.

What trends are you seeing among your clients at the moment?

BBLS and CBILS loans are still the facility of choice at the moment, but the tide is beginning to turn, with businesses looking for facilities that will see them through the post-pandemic landscape.

Interest in invoice finance, supply-chain-funding and revolving lines of credit has increased. As we approach the April 2021 deadline for Government loans, alternative products like these can offer a more sustainable form of lending through 2021 and beyond.

As we approach the termination of Government support in April, what issues are businesses facing?

I think that people are a bit naive in assuming that the Government and banks will continue to assist if they default on their loans. The banks offered the original loans in good faith that they would be repaid.

Once a business starts getting into trouble with their Government-backed loans, even though they may have a really good business, the banks are likely to be reluctant to lend any more.

Businesses are approaching the stage where repayments of the Government loans are kicking in. From May, they are going to have to start paying back their loans and many haven’t accounted for that. This could be crippling for businesses.

What support tools are available for businesses at the moment?

The Government support has been drained, but there are other assets on business’ balance sheets; debtors, stock, work in progress. Those can be funded, and also insured using Nimbla to mitigate the risk.

Business owners who are rejected for CBILS and BBILS should remember that it’s not the end of the world. There are other facilities available to them, like a selective invoice finance facility or a revolving line of credit.

Post Government support, cash really will be king. Releasing funds against invoices, stock and other assets on a balance sheet will be key to survival.

Business owners need to start planning now for when that first monthly Government loan repayment comes in, and for life post-pandemic.

Flexible finance facilities will be key in 2021/22, as businesses need to make sure that they don’t run out of cash.

What does the future of funding look like?

Banks could well be nervous about offering further funding to businesses that have obtained Government assistance, so there will be greater need for niche lenders.

There’s got to be more diversity. You’ve got to spread your risk in order to get the most out of what’s available to you. I’ve had two leads this week from a major high street bank, asking if I can find a lender. This will evolve over the next 2-3 years, and we’ll see more independent funding.

Post-Covid, it’s going to be a case of survival of the fittest. It may well be that a facility with one lender or provider isn’t enough, so you won’t have all your eggs in one basket.

What attracted you to Nimbla?

The ability to obtain instant limits via the portal is market leading and a win-win for both clients and introducers.

Bounce back and CBILS up to £250,000 have also had not involved a personal guarantee. Nimbla offers the security that enables businesses to continue to access funding without having to provide personal guarantees.


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