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What online finance can give you that the Big Four can’t

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With dissatisfaction among the big banks continuing to rise, more Australian SMEs are attempting to figure out how they can use alternative lenders to grow their businesses.

But that’s easier said than done. With so many alternative lenders arriving in Australia, it can be difficult for SMEs to figure out which is going to best suit their needs for unsecured business loans.

How can they start?

According to the recent SmartCompany SME survey, which questioned hundreds of SMEs around Australia, 25% of readers said they wanted to get a business loan in two years. Of those, 51% said they would approach one of the big four banks, and 31% would go to another large bank.

That still leaves a larger number looking for other sources, and the huge number of alternative financiers in Australia is proof: last year saw $656 million invested across 25 different fintech deals, according to KPMG.

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There are dozens of alternative lenders on the market now, and the growth is huge. Frost & Sullivan say the fintech market will reach $1 billion by 2020. One 2016 KPMG study found alternative finance grew by 320% in 2015 to $460 million.

The East & Partners Business Banking Index also found in 2016 found 39% of SMEs are considering alternatives. And why? One of the main reasons given was approval times. Alternative lenders are much faster than the big four, often providing finance within days whereas traditional lenders can take weeks or months.

One report from Digital Finance Analytics found loans only take an average of 36 hours for approval from alternative lenders. That’s a good result considering 24% of SmartCompany readers say cash flow is one of the reasons they seek extra finance.

Other reasons for seeking alternative finance can include a much higher likelihood for approval due to more sophisticated algorithms, as opposed to banks which may only have a limited amount of data. These rejections could then hurt an SME’s credit rating.

So, it’s clear that alternative finance offers speedy results. But given so many lenders are available, how can SMEs compare them?

CPA Australia head of policy Paul Drum says SMEs deciding on alternative forms of finance outside of bank lending need to consider a range of criteria.

“In considering whether these alternative forms of funding are right for your business, you should compare the cost (the interest rate), the tenor (the length of the loan) and terms and conditions against what a bank can offer you,” he says.

“The terms of financing should not only be cost effective, they should also reflect the purpose for which the finance is needed.

“For example, if you are buying a long-life asset, the length of the loan should match the expected life of that asset and not be short-term.”

Other criteria should include looking at whether alternative lenders have hidden costs or fees that can result from paying late. Some alternative lenders can trigger extra interest rates if payments are late by even a day or so, which makes it all the more crucial to carefully read the fine print.

Finally, Drum says businesses should act quickly: once an SME knows they are in the market for finance, they should start looking.

“Deferring can limit the financing options available to you and potentially increase your financing costs,” says Drum.

 

eBroker

eBroker is a ‘fintech’ app that connects small business with non-bank business lenders. Over 500 small business owners per month are currently using the eBroker matching system to find unsecured finance, equipment finance, invoice discounting and trade finance. SMEs can access loans up to $5 million via eBroker, across a panel of 60+ lenders. It is a free service. CEO Simon Isaacs is an emerging ‘fintech’ leader and seasoned entrepreneur with more than 10 years’ experience in digital platforms.