Mandatory bank referral system failing SMEs

6 July 2023

The Finance & Leasing Association (FLA) is recommending a review of the Mandatory Bank Referral (MBR) system because it is failing to help SMEs find alternative funding if they are turned down by their bank.

The MBR was introduced in 2016 and requires banks to refer declined loan applications from SMEs to other finance providers – a logical and laudable policy measure in a funding market with new entrants and different risk appetites.

However, 9 out of 10 businesses that currently use the referral system are unable to secure funding. This may stem from the fact that the MBR simply cascades applications which, having failed once, are likely to do so again because either the application itself is flawed or the business does not have a fundable profile.  

Simon Goldie, Director of Business Finance at the FLA:

“Mandatory Bank Referral is a blunt tool but what we actually need is a smarter system that can distinguish between those firms that are not ready for finance, and those that potentially are but have more work to do to improve their credit profile and understanding of funders’ expectations.  

“We would like to see the MBR system reviewed so that it could be used by lenders to channel some firms out of the process and signpost them to sources of advice that will ultimately help their prospects of securing finance.”

Note to editors:

  1. The FLA’s Funding the Future: Access to Finance paper can be found here
  2. In 2022, FLA members provided £150 billion of new finance to UK businesses and households.  £34 billion of finance was provided to businesses and the public sector. FLA members financed almost a third of UK investment in machinery, equipment and purchased software in the UK in 2022.
  3. For media enquiries, please contact the FLA press office on 020 7420 9656.

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