SMEs have had a relentlessly difficult few years. As the pandemic that barred many from trading petered out, business owners were hit with rapid inflation and a subsequent rise in interest rates. These factors had the pincer effect of squeezing margins and reducing the spending power of would-be customers. The road to recovery for SMEs has proved to be long and challenging.
The LSB oversees the only set of Standards for banks and lenders that are designed to ensure good outcomes for SME customers, even during the most challenging landscapes. Now, more than ever, the industry must ensure the focus is on ensuring no SME gets left behind.
For example, there is large cohort of SME lending customers who would define themselves as either having a disability or a long-term medical condition. Out of the country’s working age population, 33 per cent report having a long-term health problem, 20 per cent a disability and 8 per cent a severe disability. It is important this cohort receives the support they may require in accessing business banking, which is why we have worked with registered firms and lenders extensively over the last year, ensuring they are driving financial inclusion for all.
We look forward to responding the Treasury Committee’s inquiry in due course.