Aldermore group managing director for business finance Carl D’Ammassa considers the party political landscape and where lenders can adapt to match it.

When the political party conference season got into full swing recently, Aldermore was on the ground at the Labour and Conservative Party conferences in Brighton and Manchester respectively to represent our intermediary partners and SMEs’ needs.

The political landscape has changed greatly during 2015, and we believe it’s the job of funding providers such as ourselves to keep abreast of policy changes and to work to ensure the needs and requirements of SMEs and intermediaries are well represented.

Some months ago you may have read my blog outlining what I wanted to see from the new Conservative government. At the top of my wish list was a permanent increase to the Annual Investment Allowance. So, we were pleased back in July when the Chancellor committed to maintaining the Annual Investment Allowance at £200,000 a year.

The increased allowance, and more importantly, the stability it provides, will give business owners confidence to make serious long-term investment plans.

Another item high on our agenda was the use of ban-on-assignment contracts. Earlier in the year we ran a survey among key
decision-makers in SMEs, and 15% of them told us they are kept awake at night worrying about the impact of late payments.

Ban-on-assignment contracts suffocate smaller businesses by limiting the number of options they have to tackle the problem of unpaid invoices. The government’s decision to nullify ban-on-assignment contracts will enable the introducer market to function as it should and offer clients the widest possible choice. This is welcome news for SMEs wanting to grow by unlocking much-needed cash tied up in late payments.

While positive steps have been taken, there are still many areas where further consideration is needed. This is why we attended political party conferences, speaking to MPs and other policy-makers who need to think carefully about how we ensure that government support schemes work together.

The establishment of the British Business Bank (BBB) has been successful in helping lenders support SMEs and should be encouraged. However, myriad funding schemes have been launched and we need a more joined-up approach. I think policy-makers should seriously consider drawing on the BBB’s established expertise to better manage the numerous programmes that encourage and support business investment. There’s also a lot of discussion around technology and the risks and opportunities it affords.

We know that when you’re out and about seeing clients, you rely heavily on tablets and smartphones. Aldermore is fully committed to the use of technology to help provide faster, more effective client service, but increased reliance on technology does result in increased client data being stored on portable devices. This means it’s more important than ever for digital security to be high on the agenda for both the government and businesses. It’s certainly an area we’re watching and are keen to engage on.

As a trusted lender, I see it as Aldermore’s responsibility not only to think about the day-to-day function of providing funding to SMEs, but also to help ensure we all have the optimal business environment to work in. That’s why we’re at the party conferences to understand what could be in the pipeline and represent the needs of the lending, intermediary and SME sectors.