What a year! We’ve smashed through a number of company milestones, launched several large product initiatives, celebrated our 7th birthday, and are expanding our offering to more small businesses each and every day. Glancing over what we’ve achieved, it’s clear we couldn’t have got half as far as we did without the support and love of our customers, who’ve been so positive about us and what we’re doing.
That’s why we’re taking a moment to say a big thank you. Thank you and thank you again, for your passion, your commitment and dedication to your business’s success—it’s a privilege for us to have helped so many companies grow, develop and get stuck into new possibilities right across the country.
As is custom for this time of year, we’ve done a rewind on 2018, to highlight what went on.
January began with us winning the first stage of Nesta’s innovation prize for Open Banking, an award which encouraged fintechs to really seize the new opportunities offered by open banking. Needless to say, we're excited about the project, given Open Banking's potential to radically alter how our customers supply their bank data during loan applications. Instead of uploading PDF documents, business owners can now effortlessly share up to five years of bank transactions with us in the blink of an eye.
Open Banking has been a huge success. We were the first UK business lender to boot up the integration, first with Lloyds Bank. The first Open Banking customer was a hair and beauty salon based in Kent. After signing up, we approved and deposited the funds into their account in just over an hour. Now over 60 percent of our customers have access to Open Banking through integrations with Lloyds, HSBC and Barclays—connections with the rest of the big banks will follow in the New Year.
In March, we made a commitment to lend £100 million to micro and small businesses in the North of England by 2020. Over the past seven years, we’ve watched as the UK’s high-street banks have withdrawn their credit facilities for small businesses—this withdrawal process being particularly acute in the North. Where banks step out, we step in.
Since then we’ve funded £20 million to businesses in the North and, given our current projected growth, are on track to smash our pledge by 2020. We’ve also been busy championing the concerns of small businesses in the region—in November we organised a juggling flash act in Manchester Piccadilly station, highlighting the shared feeling of 63% of small business owners in the North West, that running their business was a juggling act.
To better meet small businesses’ diverse array of needs, we launched for customers. Limited companies that meet the criteria are now eligible to borrow £25,000 to £250,000 for up to five years, with rates from 4.5% p.a.
We accompanied the business loan launch by increasing the maximum amount businesses can borrow using our revolving credit facility too, from £150,000 to £200,000, so we can better support business owners’ large-scale growth and expansion investments.
In April, we raised £50 million in debt financing to help us fund our ever-growing customer base. Talking of growing, this year Team iwoca soared past a headcount of 200 people, up nearly 60 members of staff since last year. With over 40 roles currently being advertised on our jobs pages, this hiring surge is showing no signs of slowing down any time soon.
Managing this expansion is our new COO, Seema Desai, who’s been laying down smarter processes for customers and colleagues and encouraging conversations around diversity, a large passion point within the company. We also welcomed our first Frankfurt-based iwocans into their new home in October, Team Germany having finally expanded beyond the London office. We’re eager about building up the two teams together into next year.
These upgrades meant that by December 2018 we were in a position to approve a record number of businesses, 28,000 across the UK, Poland and Germany, compared to 21,000 last year; a 33% increase.
In July, we celebrated turning profitable. Christoph, our CEO, was naturally over the moon about this and at the time noted that ‘achieving profitability truly demonstrates the strength and depth of our business’. The news is great for customers too, allowing us to invest more resources into developing better products, a raft of which will come into play next year. More information to follow on this shortly.
It was around this time that we also hosted our first event for small business owners at our Tottenham Court Road office. It was a privilege to chat with customers like Duncan and Tracy Sambrook, who own and run Sambrook’s Brewery and SEB Brewing Services. The meet-up was also an impetus for iwoca to start 'going all SME', where we source our supply chain requirements—food, beverages, pens etc.—from small businesses instead of the big chains. Practice what you preach, after all.
Not only did we turn profitable, but we also grew–a mythical state of duality that most fintechs would kill for. It was fantastic to have our growth recognised, as the UK’s fastest growing SME finance provider in The Sunday Times Tech Track 100 and also the Deloitte UK Fast 50.
The awards didn’t stop there though, and it was an amazing feeling to win 10 awards in 10 days in November, including: Best fintech lender (short term), Best online commercial lender and Alternative SME lender of the year, to name just a few of the accolades.
In November we also doubled down on our commitment to help small businesses through the launch of our insights centre—in which you are reading this very article. The Sixty Percent is named in honour of the business owners responsible for overseeing six out of ten jobs in the private sector.
The publication contains business guides, insights and news to help small business owners. Whether you want to find out what a personal guarantee is, or how to set up your own artisanal cheese business, it’s all on here. Read the related articles below for a taster of what to expect appearing on this hub weekly going forward.
We’re so happy that we were able to share 2018 with you. Next year you’ll see us revamping our platform to make it ever easier for small businesses to know which product is right for them. There’s a lot more in the pipeline, so stay tuned for updates, or subscribe to our newsletter below for the latest announcements and articles—sent straight to your inbox weekly.
Season’s Greetings from everyone at iwoca, and we wish you a very Happy New Year.