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New grant finder helps businesses secure funding

NatWest and Swoop have collaborated to launch a service that will take the time and complexity out of finding funding that’s not debt.

Last updated: 03 Feb 2021 6 min read

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As part of the response to Covid-19, national, local authority-level and privately funded grants and schemes have all been made available to help support businesses through the crisis. From the headline Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, Bounce Back Loan Scheme and Local Restrictions Support Grant through to the coronavirus Future Fund, the package of financial assistance for businesses is diverse and welcome.

But finding grants can be perplexing. Finding all the grants that are available and, most importantly, understanding which grants are right for you, is difficult and time-consuming. On top of all that, the Covid-19 outbreak is ongoing and information on the virus and the measures the government and devolved governments are taking can change quickly. It’s sometimes hard, therefore, for smaller businesses to reliably figure out exactly what financial support there is, how to find it, whether it’s still available and whether exclusions or restrictions apply.

Even in so-called normal times, being able to access the right funding when it is needed is a critical part of the growth journey of a small business. In a time of huge challenge, having cash to continue operations or resume functions quickly after a crisis is crucial to any recovery strategy.

Finding the right fund

In recognition of this, and to aid UK businesses searching for grants to help support them with the ongoing impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, NatWest has sponsored a new grant finder service powered by business funding and savings platform Swoop. This market leading platform provider does all the heavy lifting for owners by efficiently matching funding to specific needs in minutes.

“SMEs are the backbone of the UK economy and it is vital they know exactly what government support is available to them, especially during the current Covid-19 pandemic” Greg Taylor, head, financial solutions, MHA MacIntyre Hudson

Following completion of a simple questionnaire, applicants can review grants that are personalised to their needs, and then choose to apply for grants directly or request assistance from Swoop. You do not need to be an existing customer of NatWest to use the new service, although it can be accessed through the bank’s website.

Andrew Harrison, head of business banking at NatWest, says: “The last year has been the most challenging in living memory for the UK’s entrepreneurs and SMEs. The tenacity and resilience this group have shown in the face of so much uncertainty has been inspiring, and we’re pleased to have been able to help so many businesses access the funding they’ve needed, whether through our delivery of government schemes, or through more conventional lending.

“But we know borrowing isn’t right for all businesses at this moment in time, which is why we’re delighted to be working with Swoop to offer business leaders simple access to the vast array of grant funding currently available across the UK. Swoop is the only holistic source of third-party grant options in the UK, and together we want to help more entrepreneurs than ever before grow, thrive and survive as we look forward to a brighter 2021.”

Swoop works with over 1,000 funding providers from mainstream banks, alternative lenders, venture capital funds, SEIS (Seed Entreprise Investment Scheme)/EIS (Entreprise Investment Scheme) funds, angel investors and grant agencies. Swoop has integrated with all major digital accountancy software, including NatWest's own FreeAgent, making signing up to Swoop’s platform a breeze. CEO and founder Andrea Reynolds says: “Now more than ever SMEs need the right information at their fingertips. By combining the reach of NatWest with the power of Swoop’s advanced technology, together we’re ensuring SME access to grants can support recovery and growth as we move into 2021 and beyond.”

The business perspective

Because it operates within the leisure, hospitality and beauty sectors, Harper Gill, founder and MD of Wolverhampton-based members’ club and grooming salon Vaal & Vaal, says the lockdown measures brought her business to a near standstill.

“We applied for the national government grants that were applicable to us around forced closure, local restrictions, and wet-led [drink-focused] pubs. On the whole, the process for national grants was relatively straightforward, in particular for those who have all of their paperwork and financial details in order – which can be hard for small businesses.

“Things were much trickier when trying to obtain information regarding discretionary grants at a local level – and from my own personal experience local councils either weren’t well informed, under-resourced, or just didn’t do a great job of finding out which businesses were in real need – in particular ignoring the challenges faced by SMEs.

“I appreciate this was a quick one-size-fits-all approach from the government, but the national grant system didn’t take into account the intricacies of different business models and scenarios.”

Although Vaal & Vaal has invested in the physical venue by increasing floor space for social distancing, Gill says: “We’ve got a big task ahead of us in 2021, and one that no doubt more funding will play a part in.”

The adviser perspective

Greg Taylor, partner and head of financial solutions at chartered accountant MHA MacIntyre Hudson, says businesses can run into trouble quickly and there is no substitute for planning ahead and knowing all the potential support on offer in detail.

“SMEs are the backbone of the UK economy and it is vital they know exactly what government support is available to them, especially during the current Covid-19 pandemic, which has put many businesses under significant strain.

“SMEs need to look ahead for pinch points in their cash flow to give themselves and lenders sufficient time to get the right financial solutions in place before it is too late.

“The current deadline for the various Covid-19 loan schemes available is 31 March 2021. The two most useful schemes for SMEs are the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) and the Bounce Back Loan scheme. The government is expected to launch a replacement for these schemes towards the end of February 2021, so businesses need to remain abreast of the latest developments to continue to make the most of the support available to them.”

Emma Jones CBE, founder of small business support network Enterprise Nation, says: “The critical thing we have been saying to small firms at the moment is to keep an eye on the figures. Maintaining a healthy cash flow and getting paid on time has always been challenging for small businesses. As firms prepare to get back to business post-pandemic, and tackle new transition-related responsibilities, knowing that invoices are being settled is vital to cover every scenario they might find themselves in over the coming months. Do make sure you’re up to speed on the grants and loans available to make sure plans are in place for when you must start to pay them back.”

For more on how to guide your business

through this challenging time, visit the NatWest customer

coronavirus support hub.
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Leadership and Management