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Wesleyan Bank enables Gentle Dental to expand leading practice despite COVID-19 challenges

Wesleyan Bank enables Gentle Dental to expand leading practice despite COVID-19 challenges

The business

Gentle Dental Care Group (Gentle Dental) comprises eight dental practices across Bromley, Croydon and Sutton that have been providing high-quality treatments for over 40 years in a kind, caring environment. The Group's highly qualified dentists use the latest technology to deliver outstanding results, with a particular expertise in treating patients with a dental phobia.

Gentle Dental are experts in cosmetic dentistry including dental implants, veneers, crowns and teeth whitening as well as the transformative, and discreet, Invisalign clear aligners which are a popular alternative to traditional wire braces.

The challenge

Dentistry, just like all other industries, is trying to manage the immense challenges following the impact of coronavirus which led to the majority of dental practices temporarily closing due to social distancing measures.

While some practices were able to commence a phased reopening from June 2020, principals and practice owners have faced the ongoing balancing act of protecting the health and well-being of their staff and patients against the financial impact of reduced operation on their business. However, the pandemic has also afforded a period of reflection for forward-thinking practices to contemplate their future viability so that they are in a strong position to rebound when COVID-19 eventually subsides.

Managing greater demand from patients for cosmetic treatments and evolving legislation means it is necessary for dental practices to invest in specialist equipment to modernise their existing premises on an ongoing basis.

"We utilised the lockdown to re-evaluate our business strategy and improve our services to patients. We have streamlined our internal processes by purchasing software to move everything online and have virtually eliminated paperwork. We also identified which of our practices we wanted to develop to expand our range of modern cosmetic treatments to remain the leaders in our field," explains Alan Carvil, Head of Finance at Gentle Dental Care Group.

Gentle Dental wanted to grow its busiest practice in Sutton by expanding it from a two-surgery to a five-surgery practice. It also wanted to refurbish the practice, both aesthetically and in terms of technology, to better convey the high quality of the cosmetic treatments it is offering.

"We had reached an advanced stage with the refurbishment works when the pandemic escalated in March and had no intentions of shelving the project. But it was essential that we had the right level of funding in place to alleviate the strain on our cash flow during the period caused by the enforced closure of the practice and a significantly reduced income," comments Alan.

The solution

Historically, dental practice owners have been able to choose from a pool of established high street banks and a growing number of alternative funders to access finance.

Recently, there has been a shift in attitudes within the banking sector with some lenders becoming risk averse and operating more rigid, blanket policies in light of COVID-19.

"We've had dealings with high street banks before but they don't necessarily provide the product that we want, certainly not for larger funding requirements. In our experience, it is always worth speaking to specialist lenders with a proven knowledge of the dental industry who can offer more flexible finance solutions," suggests Alan.

Wesleyan Bank has supported the dental sector for over 25 years with tailored short, medium and long-term finance solutions, to facilitate everything from practice acquisitions to funding the purchase of new assets (IT software and hardware, specialist equipment etc) to practice development and refurbishments. Even in these uncertain times, the specialist commercial provider remains dedicated to the healthcare market and its customers, ensuring they have access to vital funds.

Wesleyan Bank was able to provide an unsecured loan facility over a term of five years to enable Gentle Dental to spread the cost of its refurbishment and equipment in a convenient and affordable way.

"We've got a good relationship with our dedicated Healthcare Relationship Manager at Wesleyan Bank, Sarah Jarvis, who has worked in the dental industry for a long time. Through her, we've found that Wesleyan can be relied upon to always deliver the bespoke finance solution we need in the quickest possible timeframe," says Alan.

"We are obviously driven somewhat by rates for equipment finance but have found Wesleyan to be the perfect fit for us and very competitive. They understand our requirements and are experts in their field," he continues.

The results and benefits

A positive first impression is an important start to building a relationship with customers in any industry, but particularly in dentistry where individuals are putting the way they look in someone else's hands. With this latest investment, Gentle Dental is confident that it will not only provide existing and new patients with the best possible experience, but also given them a reason to refer their friends and family.

"Like everyone else, we didn't anticipate COVID-19 coming, but we believe this will prove to be a very worthwhile investment and support our future growth, we anticipate seeing the full benefit in 12-18 months' time. First impressions tend to stick, particularly for new patients. We want all of our practices to have the same look and feel with the highest specification of equipment so we can offer exceptional, value-for-money treatments whilst making patients feel comfortable and at ease," concludes Alan.

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'WESLEYAN’ is a trading name of the Wesleyan Group of companies.

Wesleyan Assurance Society and Wesleyan Bank Ltd are authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Wesleyan Financial Services Ltd, Wesleyan Unit Trust Managers Ltd, Practice Plan Ltd and DPAS Ltd are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.  Advice about investments, insurance and mortgages is provided by Wesleyan Financial Services Ltd.

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