FAO: Creditsafe Business Solutions Ltd, Dun & Bradstreet, Equifax, Experian, Graydon, Vistra UK and Company Watch and their trade body, Business Information Providers Association (BIPA)
I’m calling on every company in your sector to take action, this morning, to help the UK’s economy in this dire times. Whatever change in legislation or charter you need, should be taken. Whilst respecting your data needs to have integrity, you also need to commit to consider how the impact of the next 3-6 months does not detrimentally affect credit scores for SMEs for the next 6 years.
The Government’s support has not yet helped businesses, any businesses, as Local Authorities cannot access the funds and have no guidance for the grants, the banks/lenders are not yet set up with contact centres to administer the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans (CBIL) and cannot cope with the influx of calls asking for payment holidays, and business owners are making decisions themselves in order to protect their own homes and families’ futures by making redundancies today.
My proposal is that we freeze all working capital – today. I would like to be able to tell businesses they should stop paying all bills (suppliers, state taxes, rent, bank payments, utilities and overheads) and only pay their staff the % of wages they need to be able to pay for food and travel for their own families. This would give everyone some breathing space and take away the anxiety. It’s what every business does in times of turnaround when administrators take over businesses in order to try and save them. We need time to catch up. Government, banks, business need a few weeks to calmly decide how to continue and recover from this crisis.
But I can’t tell businesses to do that without the support of the whole economy. If everyone stopped their outgoings and only paid staff, it would work and government could support those at the top of the supply chain (utilities, banks, food manufacturers) with working capital and longer term support if eventually needed. And credit reference agencies need to pay a vital part. They CANNOT be registering these next few months on credit reports which last 6 years and can affect an individual’s or business’ ability to borrow or even trade in the future. The industry needs to stake a stand and provide this support now, TODAY. Allow the businesses to do what they to need to in order to survive.
Chairman of The Corporate Finance Network
20th March 2020
[postscript – 9th April: the proposed solution of freezing the economy was unfortunately not considered by the Treasury, although is happening in micro-situations naturally anyway, far more haphazard and potentially very damaging, but we are where we are, and HMG has put in their alternative solutions to support the economy. I “met” with the Outgoing and Incoming Chairs of BIPA on 3rd April and they have assured me that their industry is going to consider how they can support SMEs during this time. They have published this statement on their website:
The Covid-19 crisis is first and foremost a humanitarian crisis and all our members are putting people first in their response. As an industry body, BIPA believes that our role during this crisis is to ensure that the economy continues to benefit from informed credit decisions and we are reaching out to government and other stakeholders to offer our help in whatever way we can. We will provide updates as appropriate.
In addition, banks and lenders have agreed and announced that defaults will not be registered on credit records where payment holidays have been granted. I very much welcome these commitments. More information as I have it.]