UK SMEs cite an unskilled workforce as their greatest barrier to growth

22nd April 2015

New research from the British Insurance Brokers’ Association (BIBA), found that the largest barrier to growth for SMEs in the UK is a lack of talent in the workforce. Almost half (46%) of the SME owners, directors and managers polled cited a lack of skilled workers as the biggest obstacle to growing their businesses. This is something that BIBA has called on Government to address in their 2015 manifesto, where they have asked for more support on apprenticeships and are encouraging schools and careers advisers to highlight the value of insurance apprenticeships to students.

The second greatest problem facing SMEs is government red tape (43%). BIBA, whose members are made up of mostly SMEs (75% have less than 10 staff members), has proposed a ten point plan in its manifesto to remove unnecessary red tape. This includes encouraging the Financial Conduct Authority to develop smart, clear and proportionate solutions that deal with issues relevant to small businesses like information overload and developing more tailored communication to relevant sectors of the market.

In addition, more than a quarter of SME leaders (26%) from companies with 10-49 employees cited availability of credit as a barrier.

The poll, carried out by BIBA and conducted by Populus, also demonstrates that credit affects businesses with lower turnover the most – 30% of SMEs with annual gross turnover of less than £1m say that credit availability is a barrier to expansion.

Steve White, Chief Executive of BIBA commented on the research saying: “At BIBA we want to do everything we can to help SMEs overcome barriers to growth and that is why we have included these issues within our manifesto.  Our members can support businesses and have the expertise to ensure that SMEs can grow their businesses.”

Idrish Bhaloda, Manager of Manchester-based auto body shop, Barlow Street Motors said: “As a small business owner, I have direct experience of these challenges. One of the biggest obstacles to our growth is a lack of effectively skilled staff, which is crucial given the nature of our work. We are also heavily reliant on suppliers to give us the best deal and recently we have seen a rise in these costs, which are certainly a barrier for our business.”

Customers looking for suitable insurance can use BIBA’s Find a Broker service either on 0870 950 1790 or at



Notes to editors

1. For further information please contact:

BIBA press office:
Leighann Forsyth, Head of Communications
020 7397 0223

[email protected]

Hanover Communications:

0207 400 4480

[email protected]


2. Biggest barriers to growth

  • Lack of talent/skills: 46%
  • Red tape: 43%
  • Rising supplier costs: 36%
  • Lack of tax breaks for small business: 24%
  • Lack of business opportunities/sufficient network: 23%
  • Availability of credit: 23%
  • Knowledge of overseas markets: 13%
  • Protective overseas markets: 11%
  • Lack of cost-effective transport: 10%

Recent research from BIBA also found that SME leaders are among the hardest working in the UK. They work the equivalent of an extra 10 hours per week, which equates to three month a year.


3. About British Insurance Brokers' Association

The British Insurance Brokers' Association (BIBA) is the UK's leading general insurance intermediary organisation representing the interests of insurance brokers, intermediaries and their customers.

BIBA membership includes just under 2,000 regulated firms having merged with the Institute of Insurance Brokers (IIB) in November 2011.

General insurance brokers contribute 1% of GDP to the UK economy and BIBA brokers employ more than 100,000 staff.

75% for BIBA’s members have less than 10 staff.

54% of all general insurance is sold by an insurance broker and they arrange 79% of all commercial insurance business.

Insurance brokers put the client’s interests first, providing advice, access to suitable insurance protection and risk management.

BIBA helps more than 400,000 people a year to access insurance protection through its Find a Broker service, both online and via the telephone.

BIBA is the voice of the industry advising members, the regulators, consumer bodies and other stakeholders on key insurance issues.   


4. Methodology

Populus interviewed 500 directors, senior managers and owners of British businesses with between 10 and 249 employees online between 5 and 8 February 2015.

Populus is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. For more information see