Gary Cain reflects on his team, the business and how SME lending has changed since his career began over 20 years ago.
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Gary heads up Reach Commercial Finance - the bespoke brokerage division of Leonard Curtis Business Solutions Group - and is responsible for a national team of 12.
As Reach celebrates its fifth anniversary, Gary shares his thoughts on what the next five years could bring for the UK commercial finance industry.
Tell us about your role at Reach Commercial Finance
“I’m here to support the team in delivering the most appropriate form of finance to our SME clients so that they can maintain and grow their businesses.
“Products that we provide, such as invoice finance, asset finance, property finance and cashflow loans are becoming increasingly popular and more deeply integrated into the UK’s SME lending infrastructure .
“The growing demand for these products that fall outside of traditional bank lending has seen us expand our team. It’s an exciting time for us at Reach and across the SME finance sector as a whole.
What are your career highlights at Reach Commercial Finance?
“There have been so many highpoints and milestones that have made me proud over the last five years. It’s always great to reach key goals - pushing through the 100-client barrier, then hitting 200. We now have over 500 live clients in our portfolio and we expect to hit the 600-mark next year. It really is some achievement.
“And let’s be clear, none of it has happened by luck. I believe our success is intrinsically linked to our approach. We always thoroughly analyse client requirements to make a trusted connection between borrowers and lenders.
“This means we’re able to secure the most flexible deals at the most cost-effective rate - completing over 500 transactions and raising more than £250 million in finance over the last three years.
“But regardless of our own numbers, as commercial finance brokers we help SMEs to overcome what are critical hurdles or when they’re seed, start-up, early-stage or fast-growth seeking capital. External finance is usually required to realise their ambitions and it’s always best to partner with a specialist, to ensure that the best finance option is secured. This saves time, hassle and potentially unwise deals. It is hugely rewarding to support businesses in this way.”
How has the team been able to achieve success?
“We always make sure we fully understand clients’ requirements from the outset and that we’re close to funders. The strength of these relationships gives us, as independent advisers, the time and ability to find the most appropriate solutions. And, due to our wealth of expertise and contacts, there are also many options to choose from.
“We must also acknowledge the impact that the changing finance industry has had on our success. Alternative finance - and more recently, Fintech - has completely disrupted the financial sector.
“Such alternative forms are thriving, growing by over a third in the UK. Of the £6.2billion secured, 68% was for business funding for around 30,000 companies.
“Being part of a national professional services Group - with 18 offices across the UK and a team of over 200 people - also means that we are able to take a collaborative view of SME challenges, which is massively valuable to owners, their stakeholders and professional advisers.
“As a Group, we have specialists at hand to help overcome financial and operational issues faced at every stage of a business’ lifecycle. Often, Reach funding options are part of a wider solution that we provide, which could also include the likes of debt advisory, legal, property solutions, private equity and rescue and recovery.”
What’s the secret to your success?
“There really is no secret - it’s all down to our business model and how we operate, day-to-day, as an organisation. We recognise the importance of relationships between lenders and clients. Combine this with our team’s collective experience and we’ve been able to build a leading specialist brokerage business.
“We always invest lots of time at the outset to ensure we fully understand a client’s requirements. It’s an approach that sets us apart. We don’t just issue a name and a number to a funder. Instead, we take the time to truly get to know clients and lenders so we’re able to find the most appropriate solutions. This reduces overall time and effort to reach a successful outcome. Hard work early doors really does pay off.”
With Reach Commercial Finance celebrating its fifth birthday, what industry developments do you predict in the next five years?
“Whilst mainstream banks continue to dominate in terms of the overall volume of small business lending, the amount of finance secured by SMEs from the alternative finance market is rapidly increasing. I expect this trend to continue, which will underpin sectoral - and therefore our - growth.”
“The growth of Fintech will also bring even lenders to the market, which will significantly increase competition in our sector.
“In a recent report, London is said to have overtaken New York in terms of fintech investment deals, smashing record levels of investment in the UK. In the first eight months of this year alone, over $2billion has been invested in London-based businesses across 114 deals. It’s a figure that surpasses anything previously seen and I think these numbers will continue to rise.
“What is clear is that the alternative finance market is moving fast, and we have to keep up by constantly evolving as a company. Not doing so would see us left behind. And quickly.
“That said, we recognise that the inherent success of our business is based on the strength relationships we have with our lenders and clients. So, whilst tech is booming and removing the need for personal contact, relationships are truly at the heart of our business model, so we’ll effectively combine the two.
“It’s clear that brokers like us must diversify their offerings to meet much wider financing needs within an increasingly fast-paced and ever-changing environment. I truly believe this means that trust, strong interpersonal relationships and contacts are more important than ever.”
To find out more about our approach to securing lending for SMEs, click here.
For testimonials from some of our clients and partner lenders, click here.