We should not underestimate the importance of SMEs to the UK economy and we must continue to do everything we can to support their growth.
As part of our recent SME Growth Watch research, we analysed some of the sectors in which we have specialist expertise and we were encouraged by the findings.
According to the research, the transportation and storage sector has grown 41% in the past five years. This trend is reflected by the bank’s own data, with our Asset Finance division seeing a 15% increase in business from the transport and distribution sector from 2016 - 2017.
This positive growth trajectory echoes the optimistic outlook this industry holds for the future, with 60% of respondents in the transportation and distribution sector stating that they were optimistic about their long-term economic prospects, compared to 53% in 2016.
We also provide property development finance to SME housebuilders and commercial mortgages via brokers so were interested to see that, according to the research, the number of construction of domestic buildings sector SMEs has grown by 38% in the past five years, while the number of smaller firms in the renting and operating real estate sector, which includes buy-to-let, has risen by 16% over the same time period.
However, despite both of these industries witnessing positive growth, real estate SMEs do not feel as confident about the long-term future of their industry as they did last year. The study found that 53% real estate SMEs are optimistic over the long-term, down slightly from 57% last year.
We must do everything we can to support UK SMEs. Increased economic and political certainty is called for in the year ahead, especially as we head towards Brexit, to ensure this crucial sector of British business continues to thrive.