Ipswich-based alternative finance provider Fleximize aims to shake up the business lending market
- Credit: Archant
Suffolk entrepreneur Peter Tuvey is managing partner at Fleximize, an alternative finance provider for small firms and start-ups based in Ipswich. He tells Duncan Brodie how his career brought him into business finance.
Peter Tuvey’s first job was a sales role at the Bury St Edmunds branch of homewares, DIY products and garden centres chain Homebase, but his career progressed into management quicker than most.
He next worked for mobile phone retailer Phones 4u in Bury and Cambridge, becoming the company’s youngest ever store manager at the age of 17, and then, while still only 19, he became area manager for Norfolk and Suffolk for mobile network giant Vodafone.
This early management experience was, he says “very enjoyable, not to mention invaluable”, but another change of sector beckoned.
“My first taste of the finance industry was as a call centre manager for an insurance firm in Diss,” says Mr Tuvey. “From there, I spent a period of time in claims management, before moving into the consumer finance sector.”
This marked the start of his path as an entrepreneur, first helping to set up the Fortress Group in Bury St Edmunds and then founding Ariste Holding, the company behind payday lender Cash Genie, which he grew from a team of six to a staff of more than 100 in Ipswich before the business was sold to United States-based EZCORP in April 2012.
“Because consumer finance was, and still is, a very competitive industry, I knew I had to move quickly,” says Mr Tuvey. “Fortunately, I was one of the first people to spot the gap in the consumer finance market that had emerged as a result of the banks pulling back on consumer lending.
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“I was also able to recognise and develop the technologies that would deliver both effective marketing and efficient delivery of our finance products. This technology-driven approach stood us in good stead, and ultimately paved the way for a successful exit in 2012.”
EZCORP subsequently closed Cash Genie through a solvent liquidation, after acknowledging the use of unfair practices during its ownership of the business and agreeing a voluntary redress scheme with the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority.
In January 2014, Mr Tuvey launched Fleximize where, together with fellow managing partner Max Chmyshuk and chief finance officer Dan O’Sullivan, he is aiming to make a “disruptive” impression in the business finance sector.
Fleximize, which now employs a team of more than 40 and recently relocated to larger offices at Holbrook House in John Street, Ipswich, claims to be the first UK firm to offer revenue-based finance, which gives businesses an immediate capital uplift in exchange for a portion of their monthly revenue.
“My co-founders and I sought to address the funding barriers faced by the UK’s small to medium-sized businesses,” says Mr Tuvey.
“By applying the same technologies and approaches that I’d developed in the consumer lending space to the competitive world of business finance, we believed that we could revolutionise an industry that had been dominated by the banks and other traditional lenders.”
Fleximize offers business loans of £1,000 to £300,000 to UK-based SMEs and so far lent more than £30m to more than 800 businesses, including more than £3m to firms in East Anglia. In addition to revenue finance it also offers traditional fixed-instalment loans, with flexible repayment terms, and it working on the development of more new products.
“We were the first lender in the UK to offer a revenue-based repayment option, which aligns a company’s repayments with their monthly revenue, allowing them to grow at their own pace,” says Mr Tuvey. “We also offer a traditional fixed-instalment loan, which is more flexible than the business loans offered by banks. Our lending terms range from one month to 48 months, top-ups and repayment holidays come as standard, and there are no upfront fees or early repayment charges.
“We’re also very flexible in terms of the types of businesses that we lend to. Because we don’t apply the strict lending criteria of banks, we will often consider, and approve, applications from businesses that were rejected for bank finance. Our bespoke technology and efficient underwriting processes allow us to deposit loans in as little as 48 hours. This means companies don’t have to put business on hold while waiting for the finance that they need to grow.”
Mr Tuvey says revenue finance can be a particularly useful tool for seasonal businesses, as it means they do not have to pay as much in the months where sales are slower, and he believes it will remain “an important part of our business for years to come”.
He says that the company aims to build the total value of its lending to to £250m within three years, a figure he believes is easily achievable with the introduction of five new products being rolled out.
“I’d also like Fleximize to be trading in at least two other countries by 2020,” he adds. “There are a number of countries in Europe where access to finance is a pressing issue for small businesses, so there’s clearly a demand for companies like Fleximize in markets beyond the UK.”