By Alex Evans, Editorial Director, National Business Awards

The 12 finalists for this year’s Small to Medium Sized Business of the Year Award have all demonstrated the qualities that banks look for when considering corporate finance — so it’s no surprise that one of the UK’s friendliest business lenders, Santander, is sponsoring this award.

In the midst of the debate about whether banks aren’t lending or businesses aren’t borrowing, Santander has a qualified view on the organisations most likely to secure finance. “In any industry or sector there are good and bad businesses,” observes Steve Pateman, who heads up Santander Corporate Banking. “It’s not about manufacturing or hospitality or financial services, it’s about where it is and where it’s going.

“We want businesses that can demonstrate there is a demand for their products and services. Last year’s SME of the Year, treetop adventure company Go Ape, is a great example of a business that looked niche but has seen demand grow exponentially — and there are plenty of trees in the UK to support future growth! Fundamentally, it understood its customer and had a clear model.”

Funding growth
This year’s hopefuls include Newport-based engineering firm Abriox Limited, which has developed what it believes is an exemplary business model — and has grown impressively since early investment from Finance Wales. It has also expanded successfully into the US.

London-based online advertising group Media Ingenuity has grown rapidly by adapting to the evolving needs of its customer - transforming the marketing of financial services along the way. Ranked in the top ten in this year’s Tech Track 100, it has capitalised on the downturn in financial services to offer comparison and lead generation for credit cards, loans, insurance, banking, energy, and many others in between.

Also carving out a niche for itself, Coffee Nation has continued to accelerate the 'coffee on the go' market sector after pioneering the concept of gourmet vending in the UK. The High Wycombe-based firm, which is passionate about “democratising” gourmet coffee, has capitalised on growing demand through R&D and staff training.

Details of all finalists for this year’s Santander SME of the Year can be found at www.nationalbusiness awards.co.uk/finalists. All 12 finalists give a live presentation to a panel of expert judges at The Gherkin in the City of London. This year’s judging panel, chosen to focus on key aspects of the criteria, include Martin Lyne, Director for small and medium business Orange, UK/Everything Everywhere; Surinder Arora, Chairman of Arora Holdings Limited; Stuart Hough, Sales Director, SME at British Gas Business; Steve Pateman, Head of UK Corporate and Commercial Banking; and Jack Perry, Former CEO of Scottish Enterprise.

The winner will be announced at a glittering award ceremony on 9th November at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London, when 1,200 of the most influential and inspirational business leaders will gather to celebrate business excellence. Ticket and table sales are now open, so for your chance to network with the cream of UK plc, and get a heads-up on the businesses and industry sectors achieving the highest levels of success, contact Anthony Akoto on 020 7234 8710 or email anthony.akoto@ubm.com.

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