Adam Tyler discusses the potential when the online service is taken up by FSB members

The launch of the Small Business Finance Directory is the news story of the month at the National Association of Commercial Finance Brokers (NACFB). It’s now being rolled out to members of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).

The idea is to get useful data from SMEs, as simply as possible, just enough to funnel a finance request through to the most suitable broker.

It’s a balancing act; ask insufficient questions, and the broker at the other end may not be able to take the deal, but ask too many questions, and the business owner will be dissuaded from using the site at all. We’ve done lots of real-world testing to get it right.

While each individual business may be small, the fact that we are bringing them all together in one place makes this a very big initiative. There are more than 210,000 small businesses with the FSB and in the early stages of the Small Business Finance Directory the median deal size going through the system is £20,000 (€23,600). So we can see there’s a great deal of potential here, and it’s up to us to help maximise the take-up.

This leaves the NACFB in the middle, gathering an enormous amount of industry-unique data. For example, more than 40% of our broker members have expressed an interest in receiving deals larger than £5m. Twenty-six percent of NACFB members report that the majority of their work is in leasing and asset finance – and we have 243 member brokers who are involved in leasing and asset finance to some degree.

So the member information we have gained already, on top of the data we will continue to gain from the day-to-day activity on the new website, has turned into a valuable resource that has attracted a lot of attention from the government. Four years of vigorous lobbying has led us to this point.

We’re putting ourselves in the position of knowing what businesses want, and how the specifics change according to location. Any plans made by us, the FSB, or our lenders, can take into account real-time, constantly-updated information.

But the next step is to ensure there is country-wide awareness of the Small Business Finance Directory. Our aim is for small business owners to start believing that funding is easy to find – and we are trying hard to make it easy.

Who is going to use the data that comes out of this source? Well, it’s of great interest to the government. And it’s also one of the big attractions to alternative funders, who can look to tailor their products to quantifiable demand.

New patrons such as Davenham, Relendex, Genesis and Titlestone have all begun to take advantage of the NACFB’s package of experienced qualified brokers. More than ever before we are relying on our lenders to stand behind the NACFB as our ambitions outstrip the original goal of the Association.

We remain the regulator for commercial finance, but our reach is now so much greater and it’s time for us to deliver on our potential.

Adam Tyler is chief executive of the National Association of Commercial Finance Brokers