Last month Orange Money Ltd acquired Everline and subsequently created the largest business e-lender in the UK. Orange Money (trading as Ezbob) also hired Everline MD Russell Gould as chief operating officer as part of the deal.
In an exclusive chat, Gould told Growth Business the deal came about in an environment in which he believes the alternative space is “massively underestimated” by those who have researched it. He says that for this to change three things need to happen:
“One is for the alternative providers themselves to become more confident when promoting themselves; secondly more alternative providers coming to market, which will help to promote the overall space; and thirdly for the government to get behind it,” he says.
One way the government is already supporting the area is to pass legislation forcing banks to give clients information about alternative providers. Gould describes this as “both positive and negative”.
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“It’s positive in that they’re promoting the alternative providers but I think it’s negative in that they’re offering them only as an alternative if you get declined by the bank. I think it can be a more accommodating solution for the small business-owners’ needs,” he explains.
Gould says he has “definitely” noticed a shift in people’s attitudes to the alternative finance space across the past few years – with a UK business community inclined to stick to traditional funding routes starting to embrace alternative lending as a viable option.
“One thing I can say as a foreigner is that the UK business population is rather conservative in its approach,” he explains. “They go with the brand and products they know. And I think as the alternative space gets more well know and better promoted, people will start to feel more comfortable using it.”
As for Everline and Ezbob, Gould told Growth Business it’s “game on” in terms of working together. One of the first orders of business will be to recruit a number of people to accommodate growth. The company will also get to work on the “brand strategy” – which is far from simple.
“The difficulty we have is we’re currently catering for two different customer sets, which means we have two different brand propositions,” Gould explains. “So there’s a little bit of work there. But when that’s done it will be to do with harmonization. And there are people from both parties who are incredibly excited about this coming together.”
Further reading on funding: Is alternative finance an equal contender to banks?