How SBCI Offers Financial Supports For Irish SMEs


As we approach a new planning season for the many businesses already looking at 2020, we speak to Nick Ashmore, chief executive of the SBCI, about the financial support it provides to Irish SMEs.

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Nick Ashmore is CEO of the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI). He joined the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) as part of the team managing the National Pensions Reserve Fund (NPRF) in 2006, where he served as head of private equity and Infrastructure before becoming deputy director in 2011. Before joining the NTMA Nick was an investment manager with Greenaap Consultants.

How long has SBCI been in operation and how does it support SMEs?

“The SBCI was set up in September 2014 to ensure that Irish SMEs have access to stable, lower-cost, long-term funding options. As a state-owned promotional institution, the SBCI provides wholesale finance to SMEs through its on-lending partners (including Ulster Bank), ensuring that the benefit of its support is delivered to Irish SMEs.

The SBCI enables Irish SMEs to access the most competitive finance available and helps drive competition in the credit market. Since opening for business, the SBCI has supported more than 26,000 Irish SMEs, which have borrowed over €1bn using SBCI finance.”

Recommended reading: A Quick Guide to SBCI Long Term Funding Options for Businesses

What is the most recent funding option provided by SBCI and how does it support SMEs?

“In order to stimulate investments and help narrow the competitiveness gap between Irish and EU firms, the SBCI has developed a new risk-sharing product, the Future Growth Loan Scheme (FGLS), in conjunction with the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. The FGLS, with loans of up to €3m over an eight- to 10-year period, allows Irish businesses, including those involved in primary agriculture and seafood sectors, to apply for lower-interest loans specifically designed to bridge the funding gap and promote long-term growth, innovation and strategic investments.

For businesses looking to investment in research, development, process innovation, expansion or premises improvement, as well as equipment and machinery investment, the SBCI FGLS can help by facilitating with a lower-interest rate loan.”

What are the key features, and how do you apply for the SBCI FGLS?

“In simple terms, the FGLS provides funding of up to €3m over an eight to 10-year period at very competitive interest rates. In addition, as the SBCI provides an 80% government guarantee, the collateral requirements are reduced, with loans of up to €500,000 being unsecured.”

Key features include:

  • €100,000 up to €3m for eligible applicants;
  • €50,000 up to €3m for eligible applicants in the primary agriculture sector;
  • Initial maximum loan interest rate of 4.5% for loans up to €249,999 and 3.5% for loans equal to or greater than €250,000. Variable interest rates are subject to change;
  • Terms ranging from eight to 10 years;
  • Loans unsecured up to €500,000.

“The procedure to apply for the scheme is straightforward, comprising a two-stage process.

“Firstly, visit SBCI and use the guidelines to assess if your business is likely to meet the eligibility criteria. If yes, complete the eligibility form and return it to the SBCI by email or post. The SBCI will assess your application quickly (generally within 48 hours). Eligible applicants will be provided with an eligibility reference number that is valid for six months.

“Secondly, by presenting the eligibility reference number (along with your updated business plan for loans of €250,000 or more) to your preferred finance provider, you can begin the credit application process.”

SBCI also offers the SBCI Brexit Loan Scheme; how can this help SMEs that may be impacted by Brexit?

“The Brexit Loan Scheme (BLS) allows eligible Irish SMEs to finance the changes they may need to make to prepare for Brexit. These may include the need to purchase additional stock, explore new markets, acquire new storage facilities, change their business model, revise their supply chain, etc. The BLS offers lending of up to €1.5m over a three-year period at a fixed rate of 4%.

In addition, as the SBCI provides an 80% government guarantee, the collateral requirements are reduced, with loans of up to €500,000 being unsecured. As per the FGLS, the eligibility process is straightforward, SMEs can find out more by logging on to the SBCI website."

Recommended reading: SME Funding Options in Ireland You Might Not Be Aware Of

SBCI recently attended a number of Ulster Bank Intermediary workshops across the regions; were there any insights into the challenges faced by SMEs and how can SBCI support the Irish economy?

“The challenges that SMEs face are different from the ones they faced when the SBCI was set up, with availability of skilled staff and access to new customers now the priorities for SMEs. However, access to finance remains an issue and the SBCI will continue to develop products and on-lender relationships to help address this challenge.

The SBCI commitment is to deliver effective financial support to SMEs and, in time, other sectors that address failures in the Irish credit market, as well as to strive to drive competition and innovation, ensuring the efficient use of both government and EU funding and guarantees.”

How can I find out more about SBCI and funding options for SMEs?

“The SBCI encourages SMEs to actively engage through our website, helpline or at one of the many events we attend throughout the country, including the Ulster Bank Intermediary workshops.”

More information on these events can be found at SBCI.

To keep up to date, follow SBCI on social media: LinkedIn – Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland; Twitter – @SBCIreland; YouTube – Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland – SBCI.

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