Alex Littner joined Boost Capital this summer, heading up the business as its new Managing Director.
Joining a business like Boost Capital at this moment in time is an incredibly exciting move for me. Boost Capital is an innovative, and dynamic company, and it is experiencing great growth. The area of alternative finance is an increasing force to be reckoned with, taking on traditional financial institutions, and turning business funding for small companies on its head with its radical approach. Add to this an enterprising, ambitious, and capital-hungry small business community in the UK, and I believe you have a recipe for huge success, and the potential to do something truly pioneering in the area of SME finance.
These are just some of the reasons I was so attracted to the job of heading up Boost Capital, and since I’ve come on board my excitement about what we might achieve as a business has only increased. The real need SMEs have for funding is obvious. That they make up the backbone of any economy is also apparent, employing a huge proportion of the workforce, and playing a vital role in economic recovery, and growth. They need funding. We have the money, expertise, and will to help them. Plus, we’re incredibly well-positioned because of our US parent, Business Financial Services (BFS), which is very involved, and committed in helping Boost Capital grow. When BFS announced recently it had hit the milestone of $1 billion worth of funding given to small businesses – much of it in the last couple of years – that clearly demonstrates its strength, ambition, and tremendous growth.
My own background working as director of global small business and corporate products for American Express meant I learned to inhabit the minds of small business owners in order to anticipate their spending needs. We had to understand our customers, which involved detailed research into how companies are run all over the world in a range of sectors. And what’s striking are the similarities between the problems small business owners face whether they’re in Britain, Asia, South America, or the US. Cashflow remains a major issue for smaller firms wherever they are, and whether they operate in retail, hospitality, business services, or manufacturing. Every entrepreneur has to do it all, juggling responsibilities, and becoming an expert in skills ranging from marketing, finance and operations. And one thing that’s also always true for SMEs is that time is critical.
If you’re a small business owner and you have a need for finance, it’s typically a very time-sensitive need. There may be a contract to fulfill, pressure to buy in new stock, or a strong desire to realise the dream of refurbishing premises. The fact is funding providers that meet these needs quickly, and efficiently will win the attention, loyalty, and repeat business of small firms. Boost Capital is very proud we can provide a loan in 24 hours in most cases. And, because we recognise how busy business owners are, we don’t demand the huge amount of information banks typically require before issuing funds. I understand the banks’ position – I started out as a graduate trainee at Lloyds Banking Group, so had an insight into how banks work, and their attitudes towards their customers. But we’re a walk in the park in comparison with the high street banks in terms of the loan application process. Often, we just look at the last three months’ bank statements of businesses seeking up to medium-sized loans.
Boost Capital is an impressive operation with a talented, and hard-working team of people, but there’s much work yet to be done, and more broadly in the alternative finance industry. A huge amount of education is needed in the UK market to let people know we’re here, how we operate, and what we can do for them. Developing strategic partnerships formed a great part of my experience at American Express, and I think there’s the chance to do that for our business with commercial finance brokers. Brokers speak to SME owners every day about the funding opportunities open to them, and they can get the message out that Boost is here to help. In the medium-term, I expect our business to introduce some new sales channels, and exciting partnerships, which will further support our mission of providing timely, flexible financing solutions that power the growth of small businesses.
At the heart of our business model is the balance between giving quick access to finance, and maintaining a customer-friendly approach. Having worked at American Express, providing world-class customer service is in my background, and while I understand some of our peers are automating finance decisions for reasons of efficiency, our aim is to truly understand the needs of the SMEs we work with, and build a great, long-lasting relationship with them. The fact that so many existing Boost Capital customers ask for further funding is a sign we’re getting this balance right, I believe.
There’s a matter of pride in being a small business owner. They want to gain control of their working lives, and over their company, whether their intention is to grow the business, or simply keep it stable. I think we can help customers achieve those aims. With great brokers by our side, strong roots in the US, and an offering customers like, want, and return to, there’s the opportunity for tremendous growth over the next few years. These are exciting times, indeed.