SMEs owed £225bn – Looking to IT And Asset Lending

More than half of SMEs are owed money, with a total of £225bn outstanding in late payments. As recent headlines about Tesco payment practices have brought this issue into focus, it is clear that many SMEs look to small business loans to assist cash flow.

According to a survey by Zurich of 600 SMEs reported by SME Insider, 67% of businesses report that late payment is the biggest cause for companies going into insolvency.

The amounts owed by creditors can be significant. Around one in five (20%) of the businesses surveyed said they were owed £25,000 or more, while one in ten said they were waiting for payments of over £100,000.

SME financing is a pressing problem for small businesses; 41% say late payments place significant pressure on their cash flow and 49% think the government is not doing enough to help.

Since the Tesco scandal, there have been gestures towards addressing the problem. A small business commissioner has been mooted, and from April large companies will be required to disclose details of their payment practices.

The Federation of Small Businesses is also promoting a voluntary Prompt Payment Code, which enforces a 30-day payment term as standard with a 60-day limit, but many firms will still rely on SME business loans to smooth their finances.

Jason Eatock, head of SME at Zurich, said: “We have been warned about a ‘cocktail of threats’ to the economy, and small businesses will need all the capital at their disposal to weather this potential storm.”

“In an uncertain economic climate, it is imperative that SMEs receive the support and guidance they need to adequately address the central concerns threatening the viability of their businesses.”

Does your company need SME funding? Why not talk to Syscap about how we can help support your business?

Eight simple marketing tactics you can do today!

Marketing is one of those disciplines that can be a bit daunting. There are mysterious processes, calculations and jargon that make you feel like a hopeless outsider. While it’s certainly true that qualifications and experience in marketing are valuable assets, there are also some simple steps you can take with no experience at all to boost the value of your brand.

Here are some ideas of how you can improve your marketing without investing in specialist resource.

1. Have a strategy
If you are doing any marketing activity at all, it is important to know what you are trying to accomplish: who you are trying to reach and what action you want them to take as a result. It’s too easy to see marketing as a tick-box activity which requires you to have adverts, social media presence or newsletters – these might be a waste of time if they do not suit your audience. For example, your strategy will be different if you’re a B2B organisation than if you sell directly to the public.

2. Know your value
Before you start reaching out to people, you need to know what you are going to say. For this, you need to know your unique selling proposition (USP); the thing that makes you different and preferable to your competitors. You might be the best value, the highest quality, offer the most comprehensive service or the best convenience – whatever it is, it should be centre stage in all your marketing communications.

3. Build an audience
Once you know who you want to reach and what you want to say to them, it’s time to work on building a mailing list – whether for email or direct mail, or in the form of Facebook likes and Twitter followers. The more loyal customers you are able to reach, the more likely it is that they will use your services or buy your products again. How to build up the list? Encourage email sign ups, do a guest column in a newspaper, comment on relevant articles; there are many methods, but they all take patient, diligent work. Don’t expect thousands of sign ups overnight, it takes time.

4. Use metrics
When it comes down to it, marketing is a numbers game. Some elements of activity are about developing relationships and strengthening brand values, but ultimately you want more visits, more clicks, more conversions and more money. This data should inform your activity and prevent you from wasting funds on activities that do not work. If you’re not collecting this data, start: tools like Google Analytics and Facebook Insights will help.

5. Develop quality content
Content is the stuff you use in marketing, whether it’s text, video, sound or imagery. It’s worth producing original content and spending time on getting it right. Use plain and simple language, keep it fairly short, and make sure it will be interesting to your audience. Use lots of images – although buying in stock photos should be a last resort, as they tend to look staged and artificial.

6. Social media
Commerce is increasingly linked to social media, whether it’s handling customer complaints, promoting new products or offers, or simply building relationships with customers. People will expect you to be on social media and reward you for maintaining an active and engaging presence. Post friendly, relevant content that is designed to appeal to your core audience.

7. Consider affiliate marketing
If you’re building up your business, it’s quite likely you know someone who is not a competitor but has a similar target market to yours. Affiliate marketing is a win-win arrangement where you share each other’s content in order to reach a wider audience. On social media, this can involve offering the chance to win a prize of the affiliate’s products if people sign up for your newsletter.

8. Learn about SEO
Search engine optimisation (SEO) is about making your site and content appeal to search engines as much as possible. Engines like Google use algorithms to rank sites according to a whole host of factors. The finer details of SEO are complex, but there are basic steps you can take yourself to boost your ratings. Take the time to find out about elements like keywords, page formatting and alt text for images so you can maximise your content’s SEO value.

These simple marketing tips will help your business grow. Even the simplest changes can bring results. If you’re considering an investment in marketing or any other service to help develop your company, why not talk to Syscap about your financial options?

Syscap’s Sean Read awarded Leasing Foundation Fellowship

Syscap’s sales and marketing director, Sean Read, has been awarded a fellowship by the prestigious Leasing Foundation. Supporting the leasing and asset finance industry in Europe, Asia and Africa, the foundation seeks opportunities to help sustain the industry through charitable activities and relevant research.

Offered by invitation only the fellowship recognises those with a personal commitment to the leasing industry, who have performed with high professional and ethical standards and have a willingness to challenge current thinking.

Sean originally joined Syscap back in 1999 to develop its public sector offerings. He later re-joined the team in 2014 as sales and marketing director. With more than 20 years of experience within the leasing industry he has a strong knowledge of how it operates, as well as a passion for entrepreneurship, and developing and innovating businesses and people.

Sean comments, “It’s important that we continue to support the leasing and asset finance sector, and it is a privilege to be joining the fellowship at The Leasing Foundation.”

Philip White adds, “We’re delighted that Sean has been recognised and commended by the Foundation; it really is a testimony to all the hard work he has given to the industry over many years.”

Introducing… Chris Hayes

Chris Hayes knew what he wanted to be from an early age. When he was around 14 years old, Chris decided to be an accountant in the future because Maths was his favourite subject.

After school, Chris studied Business Administration and Management at Kingston University. Whenever there was an optional module on accountancy, Chris signed up. After graduating Chris did a few short-term jobs, including a spell in a manufacturing company, before he discovered Syscap.

“I was attracted to the role at Syscap because financial services seemed like a good industry to be in,” says Chris. “Plus, Syscap offered training packages to help with my accountancy qualifications, and the location was good.”

Chris worked his way steadily up the ranks in the accountancy team, moving from Accounts Assistant to his current role of Financial Planning Manager. In that time, the department has gone from five people to nine, with two managers.

For the last two years, Chris has been in charge of managing someone else on the team. “It was a challenge to get used to it at first, because it was a new and alien set of skills. I was used to drilling down into numbers, but had to learn to do more organising and planning.”

Since Chris joined the team in 2002, Syscap has seen many changes: “There used to be more wide-boy sales people – I heard one was once so loud in a restaurant, he offered to pay for everyone else’s meal. I can’t imagine anyone at Syscap now being that rude!”

Reporting has also changed in Chris’ 14 years with Syscap. “Reporting used to be one or two sheets of A4 every now and again, now it’s a 50 page reporting package that goes to the board every month!”

Chris’ favourite thing about his role is the variety and range of tasks: “There’s regular stuff you do every day then something different comes along, like project work. No two months are the same.”

Looking to the future, Chris has big hopes that new investment from Wesleyan will help his team become more efficient through improved reporting systems. “My biggest bugbear is the software, getting all the programmes to talk to each other. We are investing in streamlining the systems so we spend more time on analysis instead of counting the same thing 20 times in different ways!”

Chris is looking forward to the developments and changes that will come under Wesleyan ownership, predicting that “in five years’ time, I can see us being a bigger funding house in our own right, not just a broker.”

Outside of work, Chris enjoys catching up with his large extended family. “We’re dotted all around the place – I’m originally from Devon, and still have family out that way, but some are also closer to home.”

At the weekend, there’s nothing Chris likes better than to retire to a cosy pub to have a few drinks with friends or family. He might be spending more time outdoors soon though, as he has signed up for a challenging 100km Richmond to Brighton walk with colleagues, to raise money for Dimbleby Cancer Care.

“When I signed up, I said to myself that it couldn’t be that difficult, and the countryside on the way would be really scenic. But thinking about it now I’m beginning to realise that it could be quite tough! I’ve bought myself some new walking boots and over the next couple of weekends I am going on practice walks to prepare.”

Even if he gets terrible blisters, Chris will be pleased to support a good cause: “We’re raising money for Dimbleby Cancer Care because they are helping the family member of a colleague, so we wanted to do something in solidarity.” Let’s hope it goes well!

What is a fintech company?

Are you confused about fintech? When a new product bursts onto the marketplace, it’s usually clear what it does and how it might change things: driverless cars, for example, are easy to understand and have predictable outcomes for lifestyles and the economy. Fintech, on the other hand, is something that many people would struggle to define.

Fintech means ‘financial technology’ and is a concept that refers to disruptive uses of software in the financial services industry. If you’ve noticed the term being used more frequently, it is because fintech start-ups are not only challenging established major companies, they are also bringing about a subtle transformation in the way we live and work.

The most typical fintech start-ups find a software solution to an everyday problem. Paypal was an early example; providing a secure payment system for online commerce. Other examples include TransferWise, which makes transferring money internationally cheaper and easier than using a traditional bank; or iZettle, which offers a low-cost card payment system for small retailers, operated through a normal smartphone.

Entrepreneurs have been seeking ways to streamline and improve every area of financial services, often using the power of big data to inform decision making. For example, peer-to-peer lending apps have been developed using algorithms which evaluate credit rating in a different way to the personal checks carried out by banks. Other start-ups are taking on heavily regulated areas such as mortgages – linking users, brokers and lenders in online platforms and apps.

Fintech innovation is something no established company can afford to ignore. Many companies are buying up start-ups to reap the benefits of their innovative software, valuable data or loyal customer base. Others are investing in in-house resource to maintain their competitiveness in the changing marketplace.

How is your company meeting the challenge of fintech? If you need to invest in up-to-date technical solutions, why not talk to Syscap about how we can help? Click here to find out more about IT financing options.

Are government policies putting UK IT businesses at risk?

How does government policy affect your business? According to the director general of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), the current policy framework is placing a “cumulative burden” on businesses which could threaten economic growth.

CBI director general Carolyn Fairbairn cited policies including the National Living Wage, apprenticeship levy and pension auto-enrolment as placing “a number of strains” on UK business. Fairbairn also criticised “wrong-headed” visa policies.

The National Living Wage, a higher rate of minimum wage, is set to rise to £9 per hour by 2020. Business leaders have said it will increase pressure, particularly on small businesses and low-pay sectors such as hospitality.

Business leaders are also concerned about the government’s apprenticeship plans, which will be funded by a levy on companies. The number of apprenticeships is forecast to rise to three million under the scheme, with industry covering the cost of training.

Pension auto-enrolment is a rolling process. Larger employers are already required to be compliant, while smaller businesses are required to set up pension schemes by 2018 according to a phased timetable.

Fairbairn said: “Overall, UK policymakers need to deliver regulatory stability and predictability. Businesses struggle to invest when the rules repeatedly change – as we have seen in the energy sector where policy shifts have chilled investment.”

The CBI director general also said politicians should “reform the UK’s wrong-headed visa policies that are keeping global talent from our growing firms and global students from our world class universities.”
Fairbairn also cited the “abject failure” of the government to make a decision over airport expansion in the South East as an example of policy risking economic development, saying: “Good business needs good infrastructure – yet the UK currently ranks 24th in the world, according to the World Economic Forum. We have fallen badly behind over many decades – we must catch up and then pull away.”

Are government policies risking the future growth of your business?

‘If you are looking to invest in the growth of your business, consider a flexible finance solution from Wesleyan Bank.

Top tech trends for 2016 – Finance IT Investment

Every year brings a host of new technology trends and innovations. What will be the key tech developments of 2016? The BBC requested predictions from well-informed sources: lawyers, accountants, digital agencies, research analysts, telecoms companies and tech firms.

Let’s look at some of the most common predictions.

1. Cybersecurity
This is not a new threat, but the risks increase and evolve by the day, particularly in relation to ransomware. High-profile hacking cases in 2015, such as Ashley Madison and TalkTalk, have boosted awareness of the financial and reputational damage cyberattacks can bring. As more data is collected and stored, attacks are becoming more numerous and sophisticated – no company is 100% secure.

2. Internet of Things
Michele Franci, chief technology officer at Inmarsat, claims 2016 will be the year when “machine-to-machine” tech moves beyond industrial applications such as utility infrastructure monitoring, finding new applications in agriculture, health, smart metering and environmental research.

3. Real-time data analytics
Big data and personalisation will develop further with improved collection and analysis systems. Data fed back from devices such as wearables and car trackers will generate real-time insights for companies, allowing them to move beyond responsiveness to customer needs to actually anticipating changes before they happen.

4. New data protection laws
2015 saw the passing of new EU laws on data protection. These will come into effect in 2018, bringing greater clarity but also heavier penalties. James Mullock of legal firm Bird and Bird advises companies to strengthen compliance procedures in 2016 to prepare.

5. Robots and artificial intelligence
Phil Cox, president of Silicon’s Valley Bank’s UK branch says: “From healthcare to space exploration and self-driving cars, business in 2016 will be powered by robotics.” As robots and AI take on more repetitive tasks, human job roles will also change.

6. Dominance of smartphones
Smartphones are fast becoming the primary way for businesses to interact. This trend is set to continue, with more mobile payments, increased connectivity in developing countries and wider acceptance of the “anywhere, anytime” philosophy.

7. Personalised and location-based marketing
Location-based beacon technology offers brands a way to provide customers with highly targeted ads, even determining content by which part of a store a customer is standing in. These services are set to proliferate.

Is your company keeping up with the pace of technological change? Why not get in touch to see how Syscap could help you finance investment in new tech?

Happy New Year: what 2016 has in store for your business

What is your strategy for the year ahead? For many companies, 2016 will be the year they get serious about using data to predict and meet customer needs. Businesses that lag behind may find their customer base shrinking as they look to more responsive competitors.

It might seem hard to know where to start in adapting your business to meet this challenge. These top tips will help you get started.

  1. Value personalisation
    Offering customers a personalised service used to be an experimental quirk used by some companies – now it’s becoming standard practice.
    Businesses need to be able to offer high-quality experiences tailored to the individual needs of their customers. Getting it right means stripping out legacy IT systems and investing in business technology that can serve today’s needs. The dividend will be greater customer loyalty and brand engagement.
  2. Make it company-wide
    Customer engagement strategy has to be an organisation-wide effort; you can’t have one individual or team chipping away at it while the rest continue business as usual.
    Companies need skilled professionals who can manage data analysis, develop customer experience journeys and people who understand the technology that is required to set up an effective system.
  3. Lead from the top
    If you are going to reinvigorate your customer experience, the CEO has to be engaged and involved. This buy-in from the top means businesses can make the crucial investments that are involved, and stay the course if initial results are disappointing.
    Having a bold, ambitious CEO who truly understands how the business IT platforms work is vital.
  4. Develop a customer-focused culture
    You need to become almost obsessive about your customers – a half-hearted approach will yield poor results.
    As the IT system used by your business changes, so too your culture, internal organisation structure and perceptions about yourself must alter to meet the new reality.
  5. Break with tradition
    There are many good things about being a long-established business, but you must continue to evolve and develop in order to thrive in the age of big data.
    Companies that play it safe by retaining legacy systems are at risk of losing customers as they offer a poorer experience. No matter how long you have been going, you will need a new mindset to maintain success in future.
  6. Invest in analytics
    Data analysts are fast becoming the most important people in a company. Once data was informative, now it is an essential tool for maintaining competitiveness.
    Collecting data is one thing, but understanding it is quite another. You need to know what questions you wish to answer before diving into a sea of data. Crucially, data analysis should always be linked to actions, not just filed away somewhere.
  7. Engage with customers
    Offering a personalised service means working on the affinity your customers have with you. Consumers respond well to being asked what they think, so long as the type of question, frequency and ease of answering are set appropriately.
    Developing systems for collating customer feedback and canvassing opinions and interaction is a fundamental part of the new data-ruled landscape.
  8. Commit to digital
    The ‘digital first’ principle has been with us for a while, and it’s time for businesses to truly embrace technology as being at the heart of their operations.
    Digital should be embedded into every element of a business, helping to harmonise the customer experience across different channels. However, this doesn’t mean that the offering for every device should be identical – learn how your customers use the different devices on offer and tailor your systems accordingly.
  9. Recognise privacy as a value proposition
    With regular headlines about snooping, hacking and data leaks, consumers are placing more and more importance on knowing their data is managed securely by the brands they trust.
    It never hurts to double check the security of your systems, looking at issues such as encryption and storage practices of outsourcing suppliers. If huge multi-nationals have vulnerabilities, it’s highly likely that you do too.
  10. Focus on operations
    In a data-driven marketplace, there is no more important driver of value than your operational model. It’s not enough to just say you are customer-focussed, you need to prove it by what you do as well.
    Thriving companies will be led by the insights provided by customer data, arranging internal and digital structures to promote flexibility in delivering value.

Do you need to invest in systems to harness the power of customer data? Why not talk to Syscap about our finance options?

Introducing…Paul Slapa

You may know him as Syscap’s Head of Direct Sales, but Paul Slapa narrowly escaped a career in software programming. He explains how the company has changed and his hopes to lend more to the UK’s SMEs.

Paul says: “I was quite good with computers at school, so I did IT GCSE, then A Level, then a degree in Computer Science. At the end of my degree, I realised I actually had no interest in spending my life working in IT and that it was just a hobby. I didn’t fit as a computer geek – I just wasn’t as passionate about it as other people on my course.

Unsure about what to do after university, Paul got in touch with a graduate recruitment agency. “They got me an interview with Syscap, saying they did computer sales. Luckily, I researched the company before the interview and worked out it was not an IT sales company!

Paul was offered a place on Syscap’s graduate programme. “I haven’t looked back since – I’ve worked for Syscap for almost ten years now.

Paul can see that there may have been a family influence on his career choice, although he was not aware of it at the time. His father worked for Lloyds Bank for 38 years, and his mum worked in banking too before having children and retraining as a nursery teacher. Paul and his dad still enjoy a good chat about the finance world, “although the rest of the family switches off!”

Back in 2006, Paul found a very different company to the one he knows today. “It was a typical sales organisation back then, not as extreme as the Wolf of Wall Street but there was a fair bit of ego around; people liked nice cars and being a bit flash, making lots of money. As a 21-year-old straight from university, I thought it was great.

Paul did not enjoy this booming environment for very long, however, as the financial crash hit two years after he started in the team. “The world changed, the company changed. It felt like everything was imploding.

After some turbulent economic times, Paul believes Syscap has come out stronger: “It’s definitely a better place to work today. We have a more considered, commercial approach to how we do things. It’s not all about the money; there is a longer-term plan. For employees, this means better career progression and a clearer organisational structure.

Now a manager in charge of a team of 16, Paul enjoys developing and implementing strategy, as well as regular contact with other teams, especially marketing. The recent move to target SMEs as well as professional firms is really paying off.

We’ve been doubling the business written for the last two years, and I expect we will again this year. Now we’re owned by Wesleyan, a bigger company, there is more money to lend and a longer-term approach. There are five million SMEs out there that we can canvas for funding. My role is to build the team that will take on the huge growth opportunity. I want us to be – hands down – the most important part of Syscap. It is very exciting.

Paul recently helped restart Syscap’s graduate recruitment programme. As a graduate recruit himself, he feels strongly about the benefits of hiring people fresh from college: “You get people at a stage in life where they are hungry to be busy and work hard. I always tell them that sales work is not rocket science – the most successful people are simply the hardest workers.

The first question graduates and recruiters ask Paul is always about sales targets. “I’d love them to hit targets from month one, but really what I care about is behaviour.  If you can learn and absorb as much knowledge as you can, ask questions if you don’t understand something – but ask once, not twice – I believe in the long term you will be successful.

Outside work, Paul is the proud father of a five-year-old daughter and son who is nearly two. Another boy is on the way, due next spring. The family moved to North Wales, where Paul grew up, so his daughter could go to the same school as him and to be close to Paul and his wife’s parents.

Despite growing up in Wales and living there now, Paul is keen to dismiss a misconception: “People think I am Welsh, but I am not! I was born in Shrewsbury and lived there until I was five.

An avid sports fan, Paul plays five-a-side once a week and inherited his dad’s love of Manchester United, “which is not very entertaining right now – we’re in for some lean years!

Now we come to Paul’s darkest secret: his love of professional wrestling. “My wife tells me I’m nearly 30 and should have grown out of it by now, but if I was ever on Mastermind, pro wrestling from the late 90s would definitely be my specialist subject.

Happy Christmas from Syscap

As Christmas approaches and our thoughts move from spreadsheets and projections to turkey and presents, Syscap Managing Director Philip White considers the company’s highlights of 2015.

This year has been a defining one for Syscap. The company was purchased by new owner Wesleyan, opening up new opportunities for expansion. We celebrated a significant landmark: our silver jubilee, marking 25 years of trading. Syscap was also honoured to be recognised as ‘SME Champion UK’ in the 2015 Leasing Life Awards.

Purchase by Wesleyan

The 28 February 2015 was truly a seminal moment for Syscap; we concluded the sale of the company to Wesleyan. We had enjoyed eight years of private equity ownership which saw us through the testing times of the economic crisis, but the new shareholders give us access to increased capital and the opportunity to grow. It’s also a chance to nurture and develop our talented staff even more than we do now, as part of our wider development.

It is tempting to think that price is the only differentiator in the financial market, but people are prepared to pay for value. We listen to customers and develop products that truly meet their commercial and financial objectives.

As we grow, we will always keep the customer at the centre of the dial, whether they want a full account manager service or to access funding through an app. We’re planning to deploy in excess of £250m in the next financial year, helping SMEs to continue their role as the lifeblood of UK Plc.

Silver Jubilee

We marked 25 years of trading with an amazing gala dinner in August, where customers, employees past and present and partners came together for a spectacular event. The party was great, but what is really important is the journey the business has taken. Looking back to 2008 and the depth of the financial crisis, we can be proud that we continued to trade and navigated our way through choppy waters.

Many companies failed during the financial crisis, including global players like RBS and Lloyds who needed state assistance. For Syscap, the characteristics that brought us success pre-crisis ensured our survival: strong commitment and will from our funders and partners and a dedication to the SME community, which requires sustainable funding for continued growth.

The road ahead – the UK’s SME Champion

It is fashionable to talk about the alternative lending market and Fintech right now. Syscap has been an alternative lender for 25 years – we’ve always been an alternative to banks. Banks are incredibly good at some things, but they cannot rival our deep domain vertical market knowledge and expertise. We truly understand the markets we serve.

As for Fintech, we’ve developed an online platform over the last 11-12 years, and now offer short-serve financial products for SMEs in a 24/7 self-serve online environment, including an app. In the year to come, we will continue to drive innovation and be disruptive.

On 3 December, we were proud to be named SME Champion UK in the 2015 Leasing Life Awards. This recognition of our improved funding levels, service and advice for small business customers was the icing on the (Christmas) cake of a very momentous and important year.

On behalf of Syscap, I wish all of our customers and employees a very Happy Christmas and a prosperous new year.