Chris Clay, founder of Escalate, an accountancy-led dispute resolution service designed to unlock cash tied up in the SME arena, speaks to Accountancy Age about the reasons for entering the British Accountancy Awards and why the service is transforming the industry.  

The overall goal for the Escalate team is to make the service the number one solution for SMEs. There is currently in excess of £10bn locked up or lost in the SME market, and Escalate, which launched in 2017 after six years in development, has already recovered millions while also bringing a number of strong accountancy firms on board.  

The service won Innovation of the Year at the British Accountancy Awards in 2017, an award which Clay says gives great confidence to clients given the prestige of the awards. 

He says that the main challenge of last year was launching Escalate as a brand new accountancy service. However, the service hit the ground running on launch, seeing 70 cases in the first six months and engaged to recover over £12m in cash for SMEs. 

Clay says he thinks that the accountancy industry is going through great change at the moment, with technology at the heart of the process. He says that technology crept up on the profession but what we are seeing now is the profession embracing technology in a proactive way and trying to integrate it into service offerings. 

Technology is not at the heart of Escalate; the services is about bringing together accountants, lawyers, funders and insurers into a single engagement process looking at how to manage risk collaboratively and how to change delivery models. However, as Escalate grows, technology will be there to deliver that growth.  

At the end of last year, Escalate had access to 250,000 SMEs through accountancy partners, membership bodies and the lending community, but this constitutes only 5% of the SME population. This year, Escalate’s goal is to keep developing its network of partners so it can provide access to justice for all SMEs.  

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