Coffee with … Annabel Ah-Lim, Touch Financial

Every success story is a tale of constant adoption. Our Head of Sales, Kevin Vendel recently spoke with Annabel Ah-Lim, Director at Touch Financial, about growing with the company and what comes next.

Kevin: Tell us about your work at Touch Financial – what do you do?

Annabel: I am a director at Touch Financial, which is the brokerage part of the SFP Group of commercial finance companies. I began as a forensic accountant and then became the controller who looked after the finances for the group. The brokerage was an area that interested me quite a lot, so I moved there in 2014 and became a director in 2016.

Kevin: How did Touch Financial get started?

Annabel: The SFP Group has been in business for more than twelve years with Touch Financial coming into existence ten years ago. The creation was a natural extension of the commercial finance services offered by the group.

We were able to establish ourselves quite quickly with a reputation of providing market-leading levels of service, and initially provided invoice finance, only. However, over the last couple of years, we have expanded our offering to cover more forms of finance—business loans being one of them.

Now we want to add to the product lines we already have so we can continue our mission to help business owners. There are so many different types of finance out there. It’s difficult for business owners to know themselves what they qualify for. This is where we can help.

Kevin: What are your biggest challenges in achieving this goal?

Annabel: It’s difficult to manage expectations. Whilst we work hard to understand the customers’ business there are sometimes certain areas that we are not aware of and it’s only after we have made introductions that we come across them. What we try to do is give customers a quick yes or no, to speed up the process. What we don’t want to do is drag everything out and tell them weeks later you can’t get any funding.

Kevin: How do you address those challenges?

Annabel: We have a department that specialises in invoice finance and another that specialises in loans. The two products are quite complementary to each other. For example, a new start might not qualify for a loan because they don’t have enough accounts history. However, with invoice finance, it doesn’t matter how long they have been trading as long as the invoices all stack up. We ask ourselves: where are the gaps for businesses owners? And then we try to fill them.

Kevin: What is next for Touch Financial?

Annabel: The journey we are on at the moment is one of growth—we are going to be adding more products to our portfolio. We are looking at: merchant cash advances, overdraft replacements, credit cards, property finance, and will be deciding which one to go for. The idea is to add more products to our portfolio over the next couple of years so we can provide better solutions to our customers.

We are also building the team. Richard Leader, former Funding Options, recently joined as the new head of digital and we are also recruiting in both the invoice finance and loan departments.

Kevin: Can you share an example of a business you helped recently?

Annabel: We placed a customer, a recruiting agency, with an invoice finance provider 3-4 years ago. They were having cash flow issues and needed additional funding. The invoice finance facility was quite limited because there was a cap on the funding line. This meant that the invoice finance provider wasn’t able to help the customer with additional funding, so the customer came back to Touch. We were able to find a loan provider for them and get the funding needed to ease the cash flow issues.

Kevin: How did Spotcap come into the picture?

Annabel: We met with Spotcap when they first entered the UK market, even before we launched our loan product. When we did start brokering loans in 2017 we were looking to build a broad panel of different lenders to suit our clients’ different needs—it was natural to get back in touch.

Kevin: What is it like working with Spotcap?

Annabel: It’s a really good relationship. Our consultants enjoy that they can deal with the account managers directly. The loan dashboard is really simple and it just makes it really easy.

What we’ve always liked about Spotcap as a lender is that you don’t tend to take a personal guarantee. It fills a real gap in the market. And also your rates are very competitive, which doesn’t hurt.

Kevin: Last but not least, how do you take your coffee?

Annabel: I don’t take coffee, it gets you wired, so I stick with tea. There is more than enough excitement in the commercial finance industry and at Touch Financial!