Brokers bridge finance gaps for SMEs with £38 billion in loans

NACFB unveils comprehensive insights from the largest survey of the commercial finance sector

LONDON, Wednesday 21st February 2024: Commercial finance brokers facilitated £38 billion in lending to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in 2023, as revealed in the latest membership survey findings from the National Association of Commercial Finance Brokers (NACFB).

Total lending to SMEs fell by 16% from 2022’s all-time high of £45 billion in what, according to commercial finance brokers, was a year marked by uncertain economic conditions and lower lending appetites. Over half (52%) of surveyed brokers observed a decrease in lending appetites across all lender types, with nearly three-quarters (72%) of broker respondents anticipating an increase in the use of alternative lenders in 2024.

The survey, drawing from the experiences of over 2,400 commercial brokers and 155 lenders from within the trade body’s growing community, unveils an average loan size of £509,000 in 2023, adjusting to a 10% fall from the previous year. Importantly, it also highlights the critical role of brokers, with 32% of small businesses successfully funded in 2023 having previously faced capital refusals elsewhere, marking a significant 10% increase in such successes year-on-year.

Paul Goodman, Chair of the NACFB, commented on the findings, stating: “The ability of NACFB Members to turn a ‘no’ into a ‘yes’ has never been more crucial. With a third of SMEs successfully funded in 2023 having been already declined funding elsewhere, our Members have directly contributed to the sustainability and growth of the UK’s SME sector.

“Commercial finance brokers should no longer be the ‘best kept secret’ of business borrowers. With banks and lenders reducing their presence on Britain’s high streets, there emerges a significant opportunity for SMEs to fully utilise the knowledge, guidance, and support of brokers, as they affirm their position as the modern-day bank managers,” Paul added.

Key findings from the NACFB’s 2023 membership survey include:

Borrowing factors

  • Growth ambitions drove 87% of SME borrowing in 2023, indicating that a robust entrepreneurial spirit remains despite the challenging economic backdrop.
  • 32% of new clients successfully funded by Members had been previously declined funding elsewhere, underscoring the pivotal role of NACFB Members in facilitating access to essential capital.
  • 89% of surveyed commercial finance brokers reported that inflation had caused either moderate or significant concern among their clients.
  • Three quarters (73%) of the total transaction value generated by NACFB Members originated from property-related sectors.

Lending conditions

  • 69% of total lending from commercial lenders was conducted via their broker channels in 2023, with a majority of lenders expanding their broker-facing teams during this time.  
  • A significant 61% of surveyed commercial lenders reported increased collaboration with brokers in 2023 as a direct response to economic challenges.
  • In 2023, 52% of NACFB Members observed a decrease in lending appetites across all lender types.
  • 43% of commercial lenders reported that the elevated interest rates had directly led to a decrease in their total completions in 2023.
  • 70% of broker-led transactions were placed with either specialist lenders or challenger banks, whilst a quarter of broker respondents shared that their relationships with high-street banks had worsened in 2023.
  • 35% of commercial lenders surveyed admitted they lack a formal referral system for direct loan enquiries that they subsequently declined.
  • 98% of surveyed commercial lenders expected their relationships with brokers to either strengthen or at the very least remain consistent in 2024.
  • Both brokers and lenders viewed a continuing high-rate environment as the biggest threat to their business.

The full 40-page report has been shared with the entire NACFB membership, for all other the findings can be accessed via

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