Blenheim Chalcot is an incubator. Its raison d’etre is to buy, create and build companies that transform industry sectors. FinTech is a key focus with group brands in this area including Modulr, Liberis and Oakbrook. They also work alongside entrepreneurs and co-founders, support ventures from startup to scale to exit, giving them access to the global networks and business development services they need to grow.

"The experience with Circle has been excellent. They got out strategic goals from day one and even though their approach to mapping the market was extremely thorough, they still managed to communicate insights in a way which was easy to digest. Whatsmore, their interpretation of these insights gave clear and sound recommendations for action."

The challenge

In the years after the financial crisis of 2008 credit markets froze up and many businesses, especially SMEs, were finding it tough to access the growth finance they needed. Furthermore, if turned down for finance many SMEs simply shelved their growth plans as they didn’t know where to turn or simply couldn’t face the thought of another torturous round of applications.

But where traditional lenders who controlled 80% of the SME market saw risk, Blenheim Chalcot saw an opportunity. And so was born – an online portal where SMEs could enter a few simple details, instantly see the credit options available to them from traditional and alternative lenders and then apply online.

Before investing in developing and launching this service, Blenheim Chalcot wanted to better understand the nature of the opportunity, determine whether it was a sound investment and, if so, develop a market entry strategy. They engaged Circle Research to support them in this by:

  • Establishing key trends in the SME finance market
  • Sizing the opportunity by volume and value
  • Profiling the target market and identifying high potential ‘hot spots’
  • Mapping the competitive landscape and profiling competitors

Our task was then to make recommendations on whether Blenheim Chalcot should pursue the opportunity and, if so, where to focus their sales and marketing efforts.

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Our approach

To make informed decisions Blenheim Chalcot required fact rather than opinion or perception. This meant that a secondary research approach was ideal.

We began by running a workshop with Blenheim Chalcot’s key internal stakeholders using our DISCOVERY methodology. This ensured that as it progressed the project could constantly refer back to a clearly articulated set of goals and decision-making needs.

Having defined ‘success’ we then identified a comprehensive list of potential information sources. Our approach left no stone unturned and resulted in a library of several dozen documents and data sets including:

The next step was to thoroughly review each of these sources to assess their reliability and extract key points of relevance. The sheer volume of information meant that this required several days of dedicated analysis, but the effort was worthwhile as it revealed a wealth of valuable insights.
This information than needed to be distilled into insight and to do so we linked key facts together to form a coherent story which always related back to the business decisions which Blenheim Chalcot needed to make.

Finally, we translated insight into action by developing a series of evidence-based business recommendations. Our advice was to enter the market as the opportunity is large and growing. In doing so, we advised Blenheim Chalcot to focus on certain segments within the wider SME population as they seemed an especially attractive opportunity. We also made recommendations about how to position the brand in the market and key marketing messages to communicate.

The business outcomes

The research study led Blenheim Chalcot to launch and it is already showing strong early signs of success. The site receives 5,000 monthly visitors looking for financial advice and has enabled over 3,500 lending enquiries in just the past 6 months. Due to their early successes and potential, they won the ‘Jim Mellon Start-Up Prize’ at the 2015 Master Investor Show.

Other case studies

We mapped the buying journey for electrical distributor REXEL and identified a compelling, differentiated proposition.

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The result is a trajectory which will see REXEL triple multi-channel transactions by 2020.

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