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Interview with Chirag Shah, Nucleus Commercial Finance

What are the main financial challenges facing UK SMEs this year?

The environment for UK SMEs is undoubtably tricky. The supply chain issues that emerged during Covid remain unresolved for many. Businesses have also suffered by not being able to recruit staff and significant wage inflation in order to bolster retention. Combined with that you’ve got increasing interest rates which will further reduce businesses’ cash flow.

Crucially though, these are not insurmountable. They require not just access to fast and reliable financing, but actionable data to help them make the right business decisions.

What role can data tools like Open Banking play in enabling SMEs to face up to these challenges?

All SMEs have data and many of them are well aware of how to access it. All too often, however, the data is in a bad and opaque format. It doesn’t give actionable intelligence unless a lot of time and effort is put behind that data. This is where AI driven tools such as Pulse can be transformative. Once access is granted to the data, Pulse’s cutting-edge technology can go to work in the background, quickly analysing data from across the business to deliver a concise snapshot of the company. This then enables decisions to be made confidently and quickly.

Who does Pulse aim to serve – and in what capacity?

We see ourselves as being able to deliver valuable insight for each of the UK’s 5.5 million SMEs. It’s a large target market, but it matches our ambitions. Truly sector agnostic, Pulse will provide the same type of insights for all businesses. But as Pulse expands and grows, it will also be able to have a second layer which is sector specific, giving even more tailored insight for businesses so they are better equipped to seize any market opportunities arising. 

What was the main driver behind the creation of Pulse?

As a business, we are getting data from SMEs located across the UK and we have built the tools and tech infrastructure to analyse that data. This really benefits us in the lending decisions we make. But this level of insight has the potential to be hugely significant in the decision-making process of the businesses themselves. That purpose sits behind the creation of Pulse.  

This service – free at the point of use – provides businesses with real-time insight into all aspects of their business’ health and wealth. So strategic decisions are made looking forward rather than based on outdated insight. 

What is the future for Pulse and Nucleus?

In the immediate future, we are laser-focused on helping businesses navigate the current environment. That means empowering them by providing access to invaluable and actionable business intelligence as well as the right financing to help them succeed and grow. Looking further ahead, our ambition is to unlock ‘open data’ for UK SMEs and enable them to realise its potential to transform their business. Embracing the ‘open data’ opportunity will catapult businesses to a new level, not only delivering a more rigorous understanding of their own business, but of their competitors too. It will also enable them to be bolder, more decisive, and crucially, more successful. . We want to be there alongside them helping  every step of the way.   

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