By Daniel Hunter

Owners of small-to-medium sized enterprises (SMEs) would still prefer to do business face-to-face rather than online, according to new research among 1,000 firms by Bibby Financial Services.

While one in four of the UK businesses surveyed said they use the internet to look for financial information, the vast majority (76 per cent) said they would prefer to discuss financial matters face-to-face with an independent financial adviser, accountant or bank manager.

The research by leading independent invoice finance specialists Bibby Financial Services, also found that businesses in areas such as the South West and South East relied more on the strength of personal relationships with their financial providers than their counterparts in the North.

Almost half (49 per cent) of business owners in Yorkshire said they would prefer to look online for support than meet with the local business adviser. Elsewhere in the UK the majority of both Welsh (79 per cent) and Scottish (69 per cent) businesses said they seek out their accountant or business bank account manager when looking for solid financial advice, rather than relying on the internet for information.

Edward Winterton, executive director at Bibby Financial Services, said the research highlighted the value of personal relationships in business at a time when people need to have confidence about the credibility of the information they are dealing with.

“The old adage that people do business with people does seem to still bear out according to our research," he said.

“We know what a powerful tool the internet is, putting a wealth of information at our fingertips but we believe our survey shows that it is still important for business owners to have a one-to-one relationship with a financial provider. When so many businesses are still nervous about the economy, naturally they want to be sure about who they are dealing with when it comes to something as crucial as funding.

“Over the past 30 years Bibby Financial Services has built up a network of 14 regional offices across the UK and it is encouraging to see that more and more businesses are turning to sources such as accountants and IFAs for advice.

“These financial professionals are not tied to one particular type of finance or product and therefore can help businesses understand the full range of options open to them, such as invoice finance.

“We have found that more and more of the businesses we speak to have been advised to take up invoice finance as it provides a flexible form of finance, at a time when banks are not funding certain sectors or businesses.

“It is particularly encouraging given invoice finance’s suitability in the current economy as it provides a quick release of cash against sales invoices achieved to help maintain a healthy cash flow.”

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