04 March 2013

SMEs: confidence improves, but funding deteriorates

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the UK are feeling increasingly upbeat about the economic environment, although access to funding has deteriorated, according to a recent YouGov survey commissioned by the Quoted Companies Alliance (QCA) and BDO LLP.

The latest quarterly survey of of small and mid-cap quoted companies has revealed that companies’ optimism about their own prospects has increased substantially, rising to 64 from just over the 60 mark last quarter. Optimism in the economy as a whole has risen to its highest level since the survey began 18 months ago, although the indicator still remains quite weak in relative terms.

SME survey findings

  • 56% of SMEs expect their number of full-time employees to increase over the next 12 months, with only one in seven believing the number will decline.
  • Turnover expectations have also improved, with the mean expected turnover growth standing at 11.2 per cent, up from 7.9 per cent in the last quarter.

Despite the clear signs of optimism in the economy there is a distinct lack of funding options open to the UK’s SME sector. This is particularly true of traditional funding methods, with bank finance, public and private equity, and listed debt issuance channels cutting back their levels of funding for business.

Tim Ward, chief executive of the Quoted Companies Alliance, said: “Confidence among small and mid-cap companies is creeping up but if finance is not available, then we will not see long-term growth – it’s as simple as that. Government needs to be alive to this and ensure that these engines of growth have access to all the fuel they need.”

The poll also revealed that there is a lack of knowledge about other funding sources, which could lead to an over-reliance on one asset class.