The South African Reserve Bank (SARB) has given regulatory approval for a new partnership designed to serve the SME sector exclusively. Powered by Access Bank South Africa Ltd, the collaboration with Lulalend will see the creation of Lula, a platform that will address common challenges SMEs face when managing finances.
A 2020 McKinsey study showed that SMEs comprise 98.5% of all businesses in South Africa, employ up to 60% of the private sector workforce, and generate approximately 40% of the country’s GDP.
Despite being a vital cog in the economic development of the country, SMEs remain underserved by traditional banking institutions, according to Access Bank’s Natasha Archary, Senior Manager of Product and Business, who notes that frustrations most often experienced by business owners include high and hidden costs; impersonal or slow service, and difficulty accessing funding.
“Issues like this create costs and difficulties with managing finances, which SMEs do not have the resources to spend time on. Challenges to their growth ultimately threaten their survival,” Ms Archary notes. “With our broad African footprint, Access Bank is acutely aware of how important it is to mitigate these issues, and we support the Lula platform in these endeavours.”
According to Trevor Gosling, CEO of Lulalend, this next step in the company’s evolution is a transformative one. “Lula’s banking offering will allow us to reach more SMEs and empower them to succeed. We have seen a need to broaden our offering beyond providing access to working capital, and we will now be able to remove the hassles of cash flow management, allowing business owners to focus on growth.”
With its Access Bank partnership, Lulalend’s new business banking platform will enable SMEs the ability to open an account online in minutes; provide tools to simplify cash flow management and improve decision making; and ensure instant customer support and speedy access to business funding.
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“We see SMEs as the lifeblood of the South African economy, and we are committed to play a role in helping small businesses grow and develop,” says Ms Archary. “Our partnership with Lulalend will aid them in growing their offering and play a valuable role in making banking services accessible to SMEs. Alliance Banking has always been the cornerstone of Access Bank, and our experience in this sector is vast.”
The Access Bank and Lulalend partnership was grown through the bank’s Alliance Banking strategy, headed by Meagan Rabe, and strives to partner with open-minded, progressive businesses to develop innovative offerings.
With Lula, the agile, adaptive, and flexible banking platform and its value-added services affirms Access Bank’s strategy of commitment to partnering with fintechs in various industries, driving an out of the box, disruptive path to innovation.
Established in 2014 by Gosling and co-Founder Neil Welman, Lulalend has enabled business owners to access working capital within 24 hours via its artificial intelligence (AI) driven online platform. Since its inception, it has disbursed billions of Rand in business funding to thousands of SMEs.
After securing US$ 6.5-million in Series A funding in 2019 from the International Finance Corporation and Quona Capital, Lulalend has built a loyal and fast-growing customer base through the seamless and responsive experience it offers SMEs looking to access capital.
Access Bank is one of Africa’s largest commercial banks and its partnership with Lulalend will empower the lender to grow into an advanced fintech business offering sophisticated services to SMEs. With SARB’s approval enabling the partnership, both parties will proceed and expand their offering to new markets.
Gosling and Ms Archary agree that by simplifying cash flow management, the launch of Lula will enable business owners to focus on what really matters. Both are optimistic about making a meaningful impact on the economy through this partnership.