SME lending in the spotlight but small business still in the dark

AltFi Australasia, Australia’s inaugural event dedicated to alternative finance, drew an impressive crowd of 250+ guests yesterday. As more than 30 speakers and moderators took the stage, regulation, collaboration, big data and of course how to achieve scale were discussed at length.

The small business finance sector took centre stage with 36 per cent of speakers hailing from SME lending platforms. The sector is undeniably buzzing with interest as players compete for a slice of the growing SME lending pie.

Although much was said about increased competition in the sector, our CEO and co-founder Toby Triebel, in Sydney to speak at the conference, argued the addressable business loans market here is gigantic and still relatively untapped.

Why? Because small businesses are still in the dark when it comes to alternative finance solutions. Speaking to attendees, Toby shared this statistic from East & Partners:

39 per cent of Australian small businesses can’t name a fintech brand and that number would decrease significantly if they had been asked to name an alternative finance provider

Key players agreed they were all grappling with the same awareness challenge but rather than spending millions of dollars on marketing and advertising, most spoke of tackling it as an industry. How? With greater regulatory support and collaboration with big business.

David Stevenson, AltFi, urged the government to look to the UK and in particular the bank referral scheme for inspiration. The mandatory measure will see incumbent banks refer SME customers to a panel of alternative providers when they are unable to serve them.

Alternative providers at the conference were also in varying stages of partnering with established businesses as a way to build awareness, credibility and trust.

If the energy in the room yesterday is anything to go by 2016 will be the year Australian alternative finance hits its stride.

We’ll leave you with two of our favourite quotes from the day:

“Banks are more vulnerable to disruption now than at any time over the last 25 years,” – Richard Wiles, Morgan Stanley
“Banks shouldn’t confuse apathy with customer loyalty,” – Martin Barrett, AusWide Bank