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Why brokers are critical for keeping cash flowing to SMEs in challenging times

Access to capital has been a longstanding challenge for Australia’s SMEs. As trusted advisers, commercial brokers are uniquely positioned to understand and service the finance needs of their SME clients and keep lending flowing in these challenging times, writes NAB General Manager, Commercial, Chris Thomas.

The challenges facing businesses and the uncertainty experienced by all Australians in the wake of Coronavirus is something we can all empathise with.

While these are no doubt trying times, it’s worth remembering this isn’t the first time Australian SMEs have been pushed to their limits, and that, in some cases, they have only emerged stronger.

Different speeds, different financing needs

While the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) saw a general slowdown across a variety of businesses, this crisis is different with multiple speeds playing out at the same time across different geographies and industries.


In the current crisis, some businesses are evolving and are seeing dramatic and unprecedented growth, while others are struggling with their revenue in free fall.

So, the current environment creates both a challenge and opportunity particularly for brokers and business bankers, where the ability to understand their client’s unique conditions, challenges, and financing needs is even more important.

Securing finance at the height of a global downtur

To put this theory to the test, I spoke to Rob Pohlman from Pohlman’s Nursery, about his experience of running one of the largest nurseries on Australia’s eastern seaboard at the height of the GFC.

Like many SMEs at the time, Rob was facing the challenge of securing business finance. He engaged the services of NAB business banker Donna Bannister with the help of leading commercial broker Mary Geary from Brisbane-based Mary Geary Financial Services.


By working together, Mary and Donna were able to deliver Rob a practical financing solution for his business that considered the nursery’s business plan and projected revenue for the years ahead.

As a result, Rob could invest in technology that helped navigate climatic challenges, he also capitalised on emerging consumer trends, such as the green spaces movement in property development. In the aftermath of the GFC Pohlman’s Nursery not only survived but thrived.

Access to capital surpasses other business challenges

While it is reassuring to know with the right support from brokers and business bankers, SMEs like Pohlman’s Nursery can, and do stand a fighting chance, access to capital is still seen as a major hurdle for a number of Australian businesses.

A recent report by NAB, Supporting Economic Recovery: What we can do for Small Business, found one in five businesses reported difficulty accessing finance, compared to two in five businesses in the aftermath of the GFC1.

While these figures are an improvement, they also highlight the growing importance of SMEs having support structures in place.

Supporting Australian businesses and brokers now and into the future

We believe the role of brokers as trusted advisers to their SME customers gives them a place at the table – whether it’s the boardroom or kitchen table – to help business owners unlock potential in their strategy and tackle any challenges head on.

By working in partnership with lenders to provide access to capital and debt advice, there is also opportunity for brokers to leverage deeper expertise and resources. NAB has a strong network of experienced BDMs and broker-aligned business bankers to help brokers understand and service the finance needs of their SME customers.

We also recognise the ever-increasing role technology is playing in connecting businesses with the right funding solutions for them – our Quickbiz solution is a clear example of this. 

Ongoing business support will be needed after this pandemic has ended and, as Australia’s largest business bank, we will continue to help brokers provide SMEs access to a more diverse range of finance options.

NAB looks forward to working with other large businesses and Governments to not only improve access to capital but create a more level playing field for Australian SMEs to thrive; from cutting excess regulation to ensuring faster payment times from suppliers. There’s a long road ahead, but by working together we can help Australian SMEs to make an even more meaningful contribution to our nation’s future prosperity.

July 2020, 'Supporting Economic Recovery: What we can do for small business'



Why brokers are critical for keeping cash flowing to SMEs in challenging times

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