Guest Article: Steve Grice, UKSE area manager for the Midlands

In this guest article, Steve Grice, UKSE area manager for the Midlands, shares his views on collaborative opportunities in the professional services community across the West Midlands.

It’s a frequent discussion we hear in business circles across the West Midlands that ‘we need to do more to promote ourselves’, writes Steve Grice, Area Manager for business investment specialists UKSE.

Each region across the UK has its strengths, London is seen as a global city whereas other areas from Cornwall to Tyneside and across the UK, may trade off more recognisable identities but as UKSE’s West Midlands team approaches the end of our first year supporting growth, we have been impressed by the positive drive for collaboration within the professional services community in the region.

The relationship among brokers, advisors, and lenders around supporting small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) is alive and well in the West Midlands and we have been encouraged by the support we have received since our launch 12 months ago.

Reflecting with our colleagues in other parts of the country, it seems every UK region has a different ecosystem of professionals, sometimes markedly so. In the West Midlands, we have a real comparative advantage in the strength and depth of our advisor network, working together to find the right solution for the customer.

Despite the challenges out there, my colleague Mike Lowe and I are optimistic that the positive approach taken within our community will add to the greater good as firms look to rebuild from the adversity, they have faced over recent years.

SMEs make up a huge part of the UK economy and have been hit hard through the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, rising interest rates and the cost-of-living crisis. Some businesses are now finding it increasingly difficult to access funding from traditional high street lenders and this is where the role of the broker and professional business community is vital.

Brokers and advisors not only understand how the lender and business relationship works but will have the business specific knowledge to inform decisions, something, we at UKSE value and see an abundance of in the West Midlands, Conversely, if we are approached by a business where we are not the right investor, we would rather match them with a trusted partner who can make the difference.

At UKSE we need and value this kind of relationship. A broker understands the type of businesses we are looking to support and will work closely with us to introduce businesses who meet our criteria.

Despite the positive outlook, the picture across the region is mixed. The latest Business Barometer from Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking suggested that business confidence in the West Midlands rose to 56% in January with top areas for growth including entering new markets (43%) and investing in their team (41%). Whereas the latest Quarterly Economic Survey (QES) found that although businesses believe were positive about the future, recruitment was one of the biggest challenges firms faced with 57 per cent attempting to recruit, down from 71 per cent in the previous quarter.

We believe that as a region, the professional business community is thriving, with regular networking opportunities and great relationships with brokers who understand what we are looking for. It always helps get a deal over the line when we know all the professionals working for the company – broker, accountant or solicitor.

UKSE offers strategic loan and equity packages of up to £1m to generate growth, create local job opportunities and bolster the economy across Birmingham, the Black Country, Coventry, Staffordshire and Shropshire.

Based at our new office in Cannock, UKSE’s new local team have begun engaging with our team to support firms wanting to grow, innovate and bring employment opportunities to the West Midlands.

The West Midlands has a proud heritage for innovation. If the collaborative spirit within the investment sector can continue to make a difference, our region can look forward to more success from the businesses we support.

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