SMEs are the backbone of the UK economy and yet they are chronically underserved by the banking sector. For many people this might be an unfortunate yet passing fact but for business owners across the UK, it’s an everyday reality.
At Akoni, we know how critical change in the business banking sector is for SMEs because we’ve experienced the challenges first hand. Our founder, Felicia Meyerowitz Singh, first conceived of Akoni while she was the frustrated financial director of an SME herself. Despite holding up to £50m in cash, she found that there were few market options available to help the company maximize their returns and little interest from banks whose business services were designed around serving larger clients.
We believe that it’s absurd that £50m has become an insufficient sum to attract any engagement from the banks and we are driven to provide all UK businesses, regardless of size, with the resources they need to thrive and grow. We know that it’s much easier for a company to focus on what they do best when they’re given the tools they need to streamline their finances and efficiently increase their returns. It was this passion for equal access to an efficient and fair business banking system that first inspired Felicia to found Akoni Hub and these values remain key to Akoni’s future.
With hundreds of financial products available to small businesses it is alarming to think that so few of them have been designed and conceived by people with real experience of what a small business requires. All to often banks reserve their most powerful tools and offerings for the large corporates before presenting a much reduced selection to smaller businesses – a selection that rarely, if ever, is specifically tailored to meet the differing requirements of an SME. Akoni co-founded by a CEO with real, endlessly frustrating, experience of seeking out financial products for the SME market are different.
Financial services have traditionally been plagued by a lack of diversity that has deprived the sector of the innovation and growth that a multi-cultural environment can provide. While many companies now acknowledge how important it is for their team to reflect the broader community they serve, few have created a culture that doesn’t just tolerate diversity but actively seeks it out.
For Akoni, however, equality isn’t a choice but is integral to who we are. Our team draws from a wide range of cultural backgrounds and is led by a female founder with experience in finance. It’s disappointing that having a female founder is still of note in 2018 and that last year only 9% of funding for UK start-ups went to companies with a female founder. Yet for us, embracing diversity is a natural extension of our commitment to the values that first inspired our platform.
UK SMEs should have access to the same services that larger corporates have long enjoyed. When these services are denied to smaller businesses they miss out on valuable opportunities to access extra income. This disparity is not only unfair but is also damaging to the UK economy as the success of SMEs is critical to maximizing growth.
It’s clear that the banking sector itself must learn to embrace whatever innovation is required to give all their clients the tools needed to achieve their best results. Akoni believes that our platform will play an important role in modelling this change and we are deeply passionate about leading the way to a future where efficient and responsive business banking is equally accessible to all.