A web-based financial advisory service for small business which first asks the question “do you need to borrow money at all” is being rolled out nationally.
The web-based finfind programme was developed with support from USAID after access to finance was identified as one of the biggest challenges facing small to medium businesses, according to Kirsten Kennedy, SME Business Services Specialist for USAID’s Financial Services Sector Programme.
“There are many alternatives to bank finance – such as grants, enterprise development funding, niche SME lenders and non-bank financial intermediaries,” she says.
“Our research found that there was very little information available to guide SMEs on how to finance their businesses. There is a lot of consumer marketing material issued by the different financial institutions, but it does not address the needs of small business.”
Step-by-step consulting tool
The Financial Sector Programme developed and tested a web-based tool, finfind, in consultation with theInstituteofBusiness Advisorsand the South African Institute of the Professional Accountants (SAIPA).
The result is a step-by-step consulting tool that provides more than 50 modules of information, and helps identify the most cost-effective means of meeting the financing needs of a business, according to Wayne Oosthuizen, general manager of Finfind, a company established to roll out the finfind programme nationally.
Live since March
More than 30 institutions are already on the system, and more are being added.
There is also information on the different government incentives and schemes.
Consultants have been recruited nationally, according Oosthuizen, and the website went live at the end of March.
“The system takes a structured approach in order to understand the business and identify its financial needs – and then to identify the most cost-effective solution. Because our consultants do not work for any financial institution, they are not limited by what they can offer, and the advice they give – such as starting off with the question of whether there is not a more cost-effective alternative to borrowing for a small business needing finance,” says Oosthuizen.