Like many of the businesses we support, MarketFinance has spent the last 10 months coping with big changes and tough challenges, finding ways forward against all the odds. Now we’re closing the year stronger, bigger and more ambitious than ever before.
I’m extremely proud of the tenacity and resilience every team in the business has displayed to get us here. Never have our company values – #MakeItHappen #AlwaysBeLearning and #1Team1Dream – held so true. So I’d like to share a few of the standout moments of 2020 that the people who work here made possible.
When COVID-19 hit in March the whole company successfully went remote. We’re a social bunch who were used to running from desk to desk to solve problems, so the shift wasn’t easy. We pulled together as a team to keep as much liquidity as possible flowing on our platform and did a thorough risk review of all our positions facing the downturn. Despite the turmoil in the financial markets in those early weeks of the pandemic, we were able to keep funding flowing to most of our customer base.
In terms of our own operations, as with most businesses in the country, the huge uncertainty facing us forced some tough decisions and sacrifices. We made use of the furlough scheme and implemented a company-wide 3-month pay cut to control our cost base until we were clearer on our path through this crisis. Since then, our collective hard work has meant we’ve been able to bring back almost all furloughed team members. And it was a particular pleasure to close the year able to pay back the 3-month salary cuts, too.
Although the lending environment suffered a huge blow at the beginning of the pandemic, impacting operations across the board, at MarketFinance we’ve seen a significant turnaround and strong growth in the second half of the year. In 2020 we’ve increased lending to over £340 million and helped thousands of businesses navigate their own way out of the pandemic.
We achieved this by introducing new technology to improve and streamline our review processes, and cut the time needed for onboarding and automation by a third. Our customers received 83% more finance on average, and innovations in our tech have seen the time it takes for customers to receive funds reduce by half.
But without approval to lend through the government’s Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), these improvements wouldn’t have had the same impact. In May, we turned adversity into opportunity, becoming the second major fintech to become accredited under the scheme. Joining the ranks of lenders supporting businesses through the pandemic was a proud moment and testament to an enormous teamwide effort. Long hours went into building new CBILS-compliant products in record time so we could meet the specifications of the scheme.
By the end of the summer we had other big ambitions realised when we won a £10m Capability and Innovation Fund (CIF) grant, run by Banking Competition Remedies (BCR). After a successful first quarter with the funds, we’re developing new products and improvements to our platform to provide a broader range of funding solutions. These financial tools will all be conveniently accessed under one roof, like a traditional bank, but with the added speed and efficiency of a fintech experience.
As part of our BCR grant commitments to be a catalyst for innovation, we’re reaching out to a host of new partners who share our vision for providing SMEs with the tools they need to be successful at their fingertips. Already this year we’ve worked further with our partner Barclays to develop a seamless digital channel where their customers can come directly to us for support on lending. We’ll build on these improvements with existing partners and work with other challenger banks, payments providers and more to integrate our products with innovative business technology. This embedded lending will allow entrepreneurs to access tailored solutions in a single space and I’m excited to see our expansion help more SMEs.
On a final note, I’m all too aware that this period has not just been challenging for businesses, but for our mental health too. At MarketFinance we’ve shifted the way we come together as a company, continuing our weekly Townhalls via Zoom to keep everyone connected. We held “lunch and learns” with guest speakers, ran virtual cooking classes, played family fortunes online and, of course, organised plenty of quizzes. We’ve also offered free access to meditation app, Headspace, through our health insurance to help combat the effects of the pandemic in our daily lives.
As I think back on the year I can only feel hopeful and energised about what 2021 has to offer. Wishing you all a restorative start to 2021, wherever you’re reading this.