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Home » Supporting SMEs » Bank points out why we need SMEs — and how to encourage them

Elyn Corfield

CEO, Business and Commercial Banking, Lloyds Banking Group

The banking sector has a pivotal role to play in supporting small businesses.

SMEs are the lifeblood of the UK economy, accounting for three-fifths of UK private sector employment. Lloyds Banking Group’s CEO of Business and Commercial Banking, Elyn Corfield, points to the pivotal role of the banking sector in offering relevant support — whether with core services or helping SMEs develop strategic growth plans.

Yet, opportunities for business leaders from Black and ethnic communities, support for disabled entrepreneurs and help for women to grow their businesses are often not easily accessible.

Supporting a diverse customer base

She emphasises the need for banks to have an affinity with their diverse customer base when providing services and expertise. Research highlights many of the challenges faced by under-represented groups in business.

Expanding access through people with lived experiences

The studies found, for example, that 84% of people with disabilities, 75% of women and 74% of Black business founders felt they did not have equal access to opportunities. “Our purpose is ‘Helping Britain prosper,’” says Corfield. “But that only happens when all businesses have those same opportunities to succeed.

“It is not one-size-fits-all. It’s about working with trusted partners to ensure we can create confidence around what small businesses need.” The bank’s Black Business Advisory Committee steers its Black Entrepreneurs programme; it works with the Black Business Network to canvass 1,000 Black entrepreneurs through the ‘Black. British. In Business and Proud’ reports; and offers bespoke leadership and development with Foundervine.

“What we are also seeing is that under-represented groups are keen that the support that comes to them is from someone who understands their culture or lived experience,” she adds.

The cost of living for a disabled person
can be around £570 higher than for
non-disabled people — monthly.

Discrimination towards disabled entrepreneurs

Further research indicated that 37% of disabled entrepreneurs feel there is discrimination against them while 33% said they followed an entrepreneurial route out of necessity. Additional data shows the cost of living for a disabled person can be around £570 higher than for non-disabled people — monthly.

“Running a small business is hard,” Corfield adds. “For a disabled entrepreneur, that journey is more important in terms of quality of life and living.” The ‘Disability and Entrepreneurship’ report, produced in partnership with Small Business Britain, found that 60% of disabled entrepreneurs received no support when starting their business; 70% lacked appropriate role models; and 84% feel they do not have equal access to opportunities.

Maximising growth opportunities

The bank’s support for SMEs spans transactional banking through to expert guidance on more complex issues, as well as networking; mentoring and education; leadership and digital skills; supporting building trading performance.

Corfield acknowledges that with SMEs making up over 99% of the business population and contributing half the private sector turnover (£2.4 trillion), their role in helping the UK meet net zero by 2050 is crucial. However, helping businesses to capitalise on growth opportunities from consumers wanting to be more sustainable should go hand in hand with reducing their own carbon emissions.

Small business case study

Shani Gabbidon joined her family’s firm iUVO Skincare, which sells a range of natural and organic vegan-certified skincare products directly to consumers, when her mother became ill.

Surprised at how much there was to think about in running a business, she says: “My advice is to talk to as many other people as you can — customers and other businesspeople you meet at trade fairs. Tap into all the help that’s available. Lloyds Bank has been amazing in the support they’ve given me as I develop iUVO’s future growth plans.”

An architect by profession, Shani took part in the Level Up accelerator, which is part of the Foundervine Immerse initiative with the Bank. With such support, more aspiring entrepreneurs will have a route to take their businesses to the next level.

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