Esquire to hike SME financing to P10 B this year

Esquire Financing, Inc., the Philippines leading non-bank small and medium enterprise (SME) financing company, plans to significantly hike to P10 billion the amount of funds it could lend to customers this year to support entrepreneurs scale up their operations and amid strong appetite for entrepreneurship after the pandemic. 

Kendrick C. Co, Esquire head of strategic partnership, said during a press conference at the 14th Philippine SME Business Expo (PHILSME) that the company aims to increase its available funds to P10 billion this year from P6 billion last year.   

“Necessities is the mother of all inventions so during the  pandemic a lot of people were seeing the opportunity in entrepreneurship and getting into that mindset,” Co said. People also experienced work from home and not want to go back to office for work anymore. The pandemic also provided people the chance to learn entrepreneurship through webinars, Co added.

Trixie Abrenilla, CEO and managing director of PHILSME, agreed with Co stating that the pandemic was a big factor in the growth of entrepreneurship. 

According to Abrenilla, the pandemic did open opportunities for them to network via online platforms and their PHILSME app before they were able to stage the physical expo again. In fact, she attributed the surprisingly high turnout in the first physical expo after the pandemic to the online networking they established during the pandemic. 

The number of participants grew further during the 13th expo and the latest 14th expo was the biggest, exceeding their expectations, with more than 10,000 participants.

With the success of the expo, Abrenilla said they have decided to hold a second expo in November this year, making the PHILSME a bi-annual event thereafter.

With the strong appetite for entrepreneurship, Co said that Esquire’s goal is to  double or triple their current 30,000 client base to 100,000 in three to four years.

To support those just starting or the micro entrepreneurs, Co said they already lowered their P300,000 minimum to P50,000 during the pandemic. “Our CEO and team made a conscious effort to lower our minimum to P50,000 to support micro entrepreneurs,” he said.

Despite catering to small enterprises, Co proudly said that Esquire has very low default rate of below two percent. He attributed this  to the company’s careful conduct of due diligence on applicants to ensure the funds go to improve and expand business operations and not to pay off previous loans or other unrelated expenses.

“Even our CEO does client interview so we make sure you are not just a number in the sheet, but we really know who our customers are,” he said.

In fact, he said, Esquire clients grow their loans on average of five times additional or reloans with average amount of P500,000. Loans can go as high P20 million or P100 million depending on the need of the clients.

Since issues on ease of doing business in the country still remains a big concern among businesses, Abrenilla expressed hope for the government to establish a real one-stop-shop where entrepreneurs can process their application, register and secure all the necessary approvals and documentation required by the government. So far, there is none, she noted

“There is no main center that I can go to,” she said.

On the part of Esquire, Co said they have been streamlining their requirements with the goal of being able to release loans within 24 hours from completion of the documents from the current seven to eight days.

They have also digitized all their processes so anyone can apply online through their platform.