Financial technology has come a long way in the last few years. With innovations from cryptocurrencies to contactless payments, the use of technology to make financial services more efficient is everywhere, and available to everyone, including SMEs. And it is being used to solve age old business problems.
Take working capital. For a long time, SMEs have struggled to maintain cash flow while waiting for debtors to cough up. With materials to buy, staff to pay and costs to cover, this is a huge problem. And in the age of the 60 – 180 day invoice, it is one that is not about to go away any time soon.
Tungsten started out in 2000 as an e-invoicing provider, connecting buyers and suppliers on its network. Over the years, we have learned that one of the major concerns of our suppliers is working capital.
With only a little delving, it is clear that large businesses are concerned about their suppliers’ access to funding as well. They need reliable supply chains, and if one of their suppliers goes out of business due to cash flow problems it is not good news for anyone.
Last year we conducted research into exactly how SMEs are affected by payment terms, and found that more than one in ten (12%) are forced to wait over 90 days to get paid. These extended payment terms are hard to manage from a cash flow perspective.
Banks, unfortunately, are not always the best option for plugging the gap. The loans they can offer are often not suitable for SMEs that prioritise agility and growth. Equally, to large banks, SME financing can mean higher risk. It’s no wonder that ABFA, the industry body for the asset based finance trade, reported last month that the amount of invoice finance received by businesses is up 60% year on year.
Agile financial technology providers can absolutely address this funding shortfall. SMEs do not want to wait to get paid for a job, unable to take on new work or pay their bills. The smartest of them will happily use technology to their advantage.
At Tungsten, we allow businesses to advance cash on outstanding invoices in a simple easy-to-use way. We also provide an online platform for businesses to check on the progress of their invoices, so they know when they have been received and when they’re due to get paid. This frees up time for people to do more valuable tasks, such as drumming up new business.
So what other business processes can FinTech make more efficient? We believe the potential market is significant. We have set up the Tungsten Centre for Intelligent Data Analytics (TCIDA) in partnership with Goldsmiths University to research how artificial intelligence can help businesses analyse how their money is being spent, therefore enabling them to spot cost savings more easily.
Financial technology is enabling businesses to evolve, by freeing up time and money to target growth. The ability to apply agile solutions intelligently is why the FinTech sector is revolutionising not only technology and finance, but business as a whole.
By Prabhat Vira, President of Tungsten Network Finance