iwoca launches lending platform as bank branches close

Joe McGrath |

Business lender Iwoca has launched a new platform that allows banks and fintechs to enhance their existing lending facilities.

The platform, called OpenLending, is designed to offer micro businesses speedy access to finance when they need it. Businesses are able to access funds within seconds of a decision.

Partner organisations such as banks, fintechs, finance brokers and accountants, can customise how they offer Iwoca’s loans to their customers.

Iwoca said it has already signed up 14 commercial partners to the platform. The most recent partner is “instant bank account” provider Monese, while Xero is scheduled to join OpenLending by 2021.

“OpenLending is a fully digital platform that established banks can use to get finance to small businesses within minutes, opposed to weeks or even months,” Christoph Rieche, Iwoca’s chief executive officer and co-founder (pictured, right) explained.

“Digital access to finance is particularly valuable now where COVID-19 may lead to severe disruption of bank branch networks and call centres, reducing their ability to provide the service level that they aim for under normal circumstances.”

The launch of OpenLending is certainly timely.

On Wednesday (18 March), UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that further social distancing measures would likely be introduced in the coming weeks. Banks have already started closing branches.

“Some of our branches are closed at the moment because of the coronavirus outbreak,” HSBC confirmed in a statement to customers on Thursday (19 March).

“You can manage your everyday banking needs through online banking or our mobile banking app without needing to leave home. There’s no need to visit a branch to make payments or pay in cheques.”

Barclays also said that temporary branch closures may be a possibility in the days and weeks ahead.

“If we temporarily close a branch, we’ll send a text message to anyone who uses it regularly,” the bank said in a note to customers. “If there are any issues with our telephone services, you’ll get a message when you call us.”

Atul Choudrie, chief commercial officer at Monese, said it was important that small businesses continue to have “the very best access” to funding, which was part of the company’s decision to link up with Iwoca.

“It’s important that we partner with a leader in the SME lending space and give our customers the very best tools to control their finances and manage important cash flow gaps.

“We started Monese with a goal to provide businesses with financial freedom anywhere and everywhere, and I believe OpenLending will help us do that.”