Wholesale trade platform Alibaba has partnered with two alternative lenders to provide trade finance services to its UK buyers.

The Alibaba.com e-Credit Line will allow UK small businesses to secure loans from lenders ezbob and iwoca for the purchase of goods from China-based suppliers on the platform.

With iwoca, companies can apply online and get loans of up to £50,000 for up to six months. With ezbob, a similar online application process can help them borrow between £50,000 and £120,000 for up to 15 months. In both cases the funds are disbursed directly to the suppliers in China.

Wei Duan, Alibaba.com’s European marketing and business development director, tells GTR: “We found out that finance is one of the key issues that small businesses face, that’s why we were actively looking for partners. We had our first conversation with lenders a year ago.

“[With this service] we can serve our customers better, which is key for us. We can increase our engagement with our buyers, because we are an original information platform, so the buyers can spend more time on and use our platform more often. We will also capture more data, which will filter back to our partner lenders, which can improve their product and therefore benefit our customers in return.”

Both e-lenders expect a surge of UK business on Alibaba.com as a result of the partnership.

“Small business have been failed by the banks due to lack of available financing. This has held back UK economic growth,” says Christoph Rieche, CEO of iwoca.

“This deal gives small businesses the muscle they need to quickly finance deals and trade in the global market. The partnership with Alibaba.com highlights the dramatic growth in alternative forms of lending and the economic shift away from established bank lenders. We expect to finance over £100m worth of deals over the next 12 months.”

Alibaba launched its first trade finance partnership in February, with US peer-to-peer lender LendingClub Corp, and is looking to expand the number of countries in which to offer this service.

“We are definitely looking to provide the same services to our global customer base. There are some discussions, and other countries in the pipeline,” Duan adds.