SMEs are the lifeblood of the UK economy. At the start of 2020 there were 5.94million small businesses in the UK, generating a total £2.3trillion in turnover and employing a workforce of 16.8million people. Not to mention they foster an atmosphere of creativity and entrepreneurship that is so vital if the UK is to remain a hub for innovation.

The news that there will be a new recovery loan scheme for businesses to replace the BBL and CBIL schemes due to end in March, an additional £5bn of business grants and the continued 100% holiday for business rates until the end of June, is welcomed to ensure SMEs have continued access to the financial support they need to navigate out of lockdown. Whilst the Government is helping to fill the financing gap with the flexible terms SMEs need, banks and financial services providers should continue to step up and rally around the SME community and understand the challenges they are facing so that they will be supported when they come to need it most.

Banks and financial service providers must ensure they really get to know their SME customers and understand the challenges they are facing. In the current climate, it is vital that lenders not only provide access to finance for SME customers, but the information, tools, and guidance they need to navigate the post-pandemic world. With public sector support now winding down, the private sector must continue to step up and ensure that, whatever the weather, helping these businesses remains at the top of the agenda.