Thursday, 13 February 2014

New Irish Programme Launched to Help SMEs Access Finance

– ManagementWorks to offer subsidised training to SMEs nationwide –

A new programme aimed at helping SMEs to access finance will be rolled out nationwide over the coming months.  The programme – ‘Building Financial Capabilities in SMEs’ – is being offered by the ManagementWorks training network, an initiative of Skillnets, the national training and upskilling body. 

The programme was developed in response to findings that there was potential for SMEs to increase their awareness of the sources of finance available to them, and improve their understanding of how credit applications are assessed by banks. 

According to Dr. Lorcán Ó hÓbáin, Senior Programme Manager with ManagementWorks, its main aim is to give SMEs the confidence and skills to effectively apply for credit and secure finance.

“Managers within SMEs tend to be very expert in their chosen field of work, but – because of the nature of how SMEs develop – they may not necessarily have financial expertise,” he said.  “This programme is targeted at representatives of small businesses who are interested in raising finance and who are either unsure of how to go about it or are worried about talking to the bank or about the length of time a credit application will take. 

“The programme will demystify the language used by the financial community, and raise awareness amongst participants of the different credit options available to them.  For 94 per cent of SMEs, the bank is their first and only port of call when it comes to accessing finance.  What we’re trying to do is show there are other options available, such as state-funded supports, the Micro Finance Loan Fund and venture capital schemes. 

“For SMEs who are dealing directly with banks, we want to increase their confidence in doing so and enhance their understanding of how banks assess and evaluate credit applications.  Ultimately, we will be helping representatives of SMEs to make a better case for securing finance for their business.”

Credit Review Office
According to Dr. Ó hÓbáin, the new training programme also aims to grow awareness of the Credit Review Office, the body that reviews decisions by certain banks to refuse or reduce credit facilities for SMEs and sole traders. 

“Although it was specifically established to help small business-owners who have had applications for credit declined, there is very low awareness of the Credit Review Office and its remit,” said Dr. Ó hÓbáin.  “The Office has only dealt with 300 applications in the past five years, so there is definitely an opportunity there for more SMEs to avail of its services.

“As part of this training, we’ll be giving participants information on what the Credit Review Office is and how it might be able to help their business, and we’ll also have direct inputs from representatives of the Office.  Again, this feeds into our goal of breaking down barriers and making institutions that deal with credit applications more accessible to, and easily understood by, SMEs.”

Rollout of Training
During 2014, ManagementWorks aims to train 1,000 representatives of SMEs through the ‘Building Financial Capabilities’ programme.  The first training session is taking place next week in Galway, with more to follow in the coming weeks in Dublin, Mayo and Cork.  According to ManagementWorks, by the end of the year, the training will have been offered in every county.

Participants in the training programme are expected to attend two day-long workshops, which are staged approximately three weeks apart.  Each workshop will be attended by up to 20 business representatives in total. 

In addition to the workshops, participants will also benefit from a one-to-one mentoring service: each trainee will be assigned an experienced business mentor, and will have two one-to-one mentoring sessions, lasting for two hours apiece and focused exclusively on their business needs. 

The cost to SMEs of participating in the ‘Building Financial Capabilities’ programme is €250 per person (ex VAT), which includes all training, mentoring, course materials, lunches and refreshments. 

The programme is funded by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation. 

To view the schedule of training courses taking place throughout Ireland, and to find out more about ‘Building Financial Capabilities for SMEs’, go