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News Round-up: Interest in alternative financing grows, Stripe valuation soars, SME tech fund makes first investments

Here are the week’s main news stories in the world of small business and e-payments:

Interest in alternative financing increases among UK SMEs

With 71 per cent of UK SMEs seeking an average of £1.1 million of funding over the next 12 months to facilitate growth ambitions, alternative forms of finance are increasingly of interest. According to a report from asset-based lender Independent Growth Finance Traditional, traditional lending channels remain slow, with 53 per cent of businesses typically having to wait at least a month for a funding decision in 2018. While traditional bank funding remains the top source of finance (67 per cent), a report found that 27 per cent of businesses now use invoice financing and 22 per cent use other asset-based lending facilities.

Stripe hits $22.5 billion valuation

Payments company Stripe has raised an additional $100 million from Tiger Global Management, putting its value at $22.5 billion. This round follows a $245 million Series E fundraise announced last autumn that put its valuation at $20 billion. Stripe has become one of the most sought-after payment startups in Silicon Valley and is now one of the most valuable private firms worth more than $1 billion in the US. Stripe’s online platform integrates electronic payments and secure transactions, and has become an attractive bet for venture capital as consumers shift to online payments.

Small business tech fund makes first investments

The first round of funding from the UK’s Business Basics Fund has been distributed to small businesses piloting emerging technology projects. The fund, designed to enhance the productivity of British small businesses, made £2 million available for its first recipients, with a second round of funding to be allocated later in the year. Fifteen projects from across the UK were chosen to receive Business Basics funding, including Enterprise Nation, which plans to trial ways of introducing emerging technologies to the operation of small and medium businesses, and a joint enterprise between Greater London Authority, CognitionX, Capital Enterprise and the London School of Economics promoting uptake of artificial intelligence applications in the retail and hospitality sector.

Banks given more time to adopt Singapore e-payment protection guidelines

Banks in Singapore have been given more time to implement e-payments user protection guidelines originally scheduled to come into effect on 31 January. The Monetary Authority of Singapore said it responded to the banks' request for a delay due to the scale and complexity of complying with the new rules. The industry regulator first announced plans for the protection guidelines in February last year as part of efforts to better safeguard consumers and drive the adoption of e-payment platforms in the country. The guidelines outline the responsibilities of financial institutions and e-payment users in securing e-payment transactions as well as streamlining error resolution processes when money is sent to the wrong recipient.

Two-thirds of UK SMEs aim to support local communities

More than two-thirds (70 per cent) of the UK’s 5.7 million SMEs believe they are purpose-driven businesses with a strong desire to make a difference in the lives of their customers and local communities, according to a report by The Co-operative Bank. The research shows SMEs around the country are leading the way in rooting their businesses in improving life for their customers and communities. Over half of SMEs (52 per cent) said their businesses exist to make a difference to customers’ lives and to serve customers better, while 72 per cent want to play an important role in their local area.

SMEs plan to expand employee benefits

SME bosses are planning to increase the benefits they offer staff in addition to pensions over the next two years as they focus on retention and recruitment, according to new research from MetLife UK. The study found 57 per cent of firms plan to increase benefits, with 24 per cent saying they want to significantly increase their employee benefits package. Around 19 per cent of SME senior managers said benefits specifically addressing health and wellbeing would be their first choice while 11 per cent said they would like to see benefits which are suitable for employees who work from home.

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News Round-up: Interest in alternative financing grows, Stripe valuation soars, SME tech fund makes first investments
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