smes, small businessesBanks lending to small businesses is a hot subject with each side telling a different story. So what is going on? On the one had the banks have maintained that they have an open door policy towards SMEs and on the other hand SMEs say they cannot get the right finance at the right price. The SME sector is probably the biggest one in terms of employment and is crucial to the economy. It is also a vote winner and frequently ministers and MPs shout from rooftops for the banks to do more.

The issue has assumed more importance in the last few years with the credit crunch and lack of bank liquidity. Both the government and the banks do however realise that bank finance is essential to the growth and survival of the SMEs and indeed the micro sector which embraces small retailers like  convenience shops.

Recently the UK’s big five,  Barclays, HSBC, RBS, Lloyds and Santander, announced they are launching a mentoring scheme whereby mentors will be available to provide advice on finance, HR and marketing service for SMEs.

This is welcome news and retailers should take advantage of this scheme by contacting their banks and requesting a meeting with the mentor. The mentor should be able to help the retailer on issues like preparing a case for loans  – having been scrutinised by the mentor loan applications should then have a better chance of success.

Retailers requesting a loan must however do their homework in determining what kind of loan or overdraft they want, the size of the loan, repayment capacity, duration and asset backing.

As they say preparation, preparation, preparation. It will pay dividends, and let us hope mentors are worth their weight in gold or Sterling at least!