Here are the week’s main news stories in the world of small business and digital payments:
Radical Budget needed to address business confidence slump
The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has called on the Chancellor, Sajid Javid, to bring forward radical interventions to address an unprecedented long-term slump in small-business confidence, slowing economic growth and a widening trade deficit when he publishes the 2019 Autumn Budget on 6 November. Writing to the Chancellor, the group calls for a major reduction in business rates bills for small firms, as thousands struggle to stay afloat amid spiralling operating costs. FSB recommends that the Retail Discount – which allows small retailers with rateable values of up to £51,000 to claim a 33 per cent discount on their rates bills – be increased to at least 50 per cent, made permanent and extended to small firms operating in other sectors, including manufacturing.
OCBC joins Singtel's regional e-payment alliance
Singapore-headquartered OCBC Bank could soon enable customers in Thailand and Japan to go cashless after it joined Singtel’s VIA mobile payment alliance. According to a press release, QR code payments will be available to customers at more than 1.7 million merchant partners on VIA’s network through the OCBC Pay Anyone app by the first quarter of 2020. The partnership also promises competitive and transparent exchange rates. In addition, from November, the OCBC app will allow clients who are Singtel Dash users to top up their Dash accounts. And the app will allow customers to make peer-to-peer e-payments directly from their bank accounts to anyone with a Singapore mobile number or PayNow.
Half of small businesses have never used business finance
Around half of small businesses (49 per cent) have never accessed business finance, according to a survey by Purbeck Insurance Services. The survey also found that an overdraft is the most common form of finance (29 per cent), followed by an unsecured business loan. As Britain’s banks reaffirm their commitment to back British business through access to finance ahead of Brexit, Purbeck is urging small-business owners not to be deterred by a Personal Guarantee to secure access to funding but to look at ways they can mitigate the risk. Twelve per cent of small-business owners said they had decided against taking out a business loan because it included a Personal Guarantee.
Starling Bank raises £30 million to fund expansion
UK digital bank Starling Bank has raised £30 million in new funding that will support increased investment in its retail and SME bank accounts and B2B banking services, and enable it to accelerate its expansion into Europe. Merian Chrysalis Investment Company Limited is leading the round with an investment of £20 million, while Starling’s existing investor, JTC, has added a further £10 million. The expansion will build on Starling’s rapid success to date in the UK: since launching its app in May 2017, Starling has opened 930,000 accounts and expects to hit one million customers shortly.
Asset finance companies sign up to SME Finance Charter
Leading asset finance companies have pledged their support for a new SME Finance Charter aimed at ensuring the SME finance market works effectively, particularly throughout Brexit. Lenders have signed up to five broad aims, which include lenders being open for business and ready to lend, fair treatment of businesses, and a readiness to work with the government-owned British Business Bank to support SMEs. Launched in a collaboration between the industry, business organisations and the government, the charter’s high-level commitments have been signed off by the Business Finance Council.
Tide launches digital receipt management for SMEs
SME business banking platform Tide is introducing optical character recognition technology that will give customers the ability to auto-match receipts to transactions and perform bulk uploads to accounting software. The new expense management feature follows Tide user research that found 28 per cent of small-business owners spend between one and four hours per week managing their expenses. Other new expense functions include the ability to edit and delete notes related to expenses, download attachments linked to transactions, and auto-upload to accountancy software.