Lack of finance shackles international ambitions of local businesses – CBI/BDO report

Too many medium-sized businesses across Southampton and the Central South region are locked out from the essential sources of growth products and support they need to export and invest abroad, the CBI and BDO said today.

In a new joint report from the CBI and BDO, ‘Go your own way’, the Government and private sector are urged to get behind the international ambitions of medium-sized businesses (MSBs), which are being held back by a lack of access to finance, as they journey from non-exporter to global business. CBI research has shown that MSBs could be worth an additional £20bn to the economy if only the UK can unlock this growth.

The CBI and BDO warn a lack of access to export finance could hurt the economic recovery if financial providers, both private and UK Export Finance (UKEF), fail to plug the gap. Only 52 small and medium-sized firms across the UK received direct assistance from UKEF in the last year. The report calls for an ambitious expansion in UKEF support which would aim to directly assist 250 small and medium-sized businesses by 2015.

Katja Hall, CBI Chief Policy Director, said: “There is a disturbing gap in export finance that is shackling the international ambitions of medium-sized businesses across the region and could damage the local and UK economy’s long-term prospects.

“Government support has improved, but the reality is that they have not even scratched the surface when it comes to supporting the efforts of medium-sized businesses in the regions. UKEF must reach out to far more businesses on the ground.”

Despite three quarters (78%) of MSBs expecting to generate more revenue from investment abroad in the next three years, MSBs have little knowledge of the schemes that the Government offers. Two-thirds of MSBs are unaware of UKEF itself, while 69% of SME exporters are not aware of UK Trade and Investment, the Government department charged with helping business succeed in international markets.

Kim Hayward, international liaison partner at BDO LLP in Southampton, said: “Local MSBs need help to understand their potential for international success. They need hands on support to help map out the international journey and, importantly, must have access to the right advice and funding to implement their plans.

“Doing business in international markets is no longer just the realm of the region’s biggest businesses but their experience and knowledge is key. We want to see greater numbers of large firms reviewing their supply chains and assisting medium-sized suppliers where they can to enter new overseas markets.

“The non-exporter of today can be the global businesses of tomorrow, but only if the Government, big business and finance providers play ball.”

‘Go your own way’ also offers practical steps and advice on breaking into new markets on the journey from non-exporter to global business.