New research by Barclaycard has revealed UK SMEs have indicated their determination to succeed in 2020, and to build on their strong finish to 2019, when the total volume of merchant transactions was up 5.1 per cent year-on-year.
The research comes as the first anniversary of our dedicated £14bn SME lending fund launch approaches. This fund is part of a package of initiatives rolled out to help local businesses create jobs and growth in communities across the country.
The Barometer combines billions of merchant transactions processed by Barclaycard with research data, giving Barclays greater insight into how small businesses are feeling, and enabling us to understand the ambitions of the UK’s small businesses.
It is crucial that we understand both their performance and their overall confidence, so that we can target support at the areas where it will have the most impact, driving further economic growth, said Rob Cameron,CEO, Barclaycard Payments.
Noting the strong end to 2019 enjoyed by many SMEs compared to the same quarter in 2018, Rob Cameron, CEO, Barclaycard Payments, said: “Small and medium businesses are the engine of the UK economy and a vital indicator of economic wellbeing. It is crucial that we understand both their performance and their overall confidence, so that we can target support at the areas where it will have the most impact, driving further economic growth.”
Barclays initiatives to boost SME confidence
As SMEs faced uncertainty in 2019, Barclays stepped up its support of local businesses by running over 200 Brexit clinics across the UK. These sessions provided guidance on Brexit developments, and suggestions for preparing a business for the future UK-EU relations following Brexit.
Acknowledging that many business owners are time-poor or may not know where to go for information, Barclays ran two UK-wide On The Front Foot initiatives when hundreds of our colleagues hit high streets and business parks in every region to visit local businesses, listen to their concerns, and offer practical solutions for the challenges they face such as managing cash-flow, finding labour, and exporting goods abroad.
Reflecting on the SME Barometer, it is also encouraging to see that owners’ expectations have jumped when it came to their own businesses, with 42 per cent of SMEs feeling positive. This indicates a determination to succeed despite the more balanced outlook for their sector and the broader UK economy.
In another sign of economic growth, 17 per cent of businesses reported that they had started to trade internationally in the past 12 months, with a further 10 per cent intending to start doing so this year. This is hugely encouraging, as there are many benefits for companies who do begin exporting.
Each quarter, we support around 9,000 exporters from the UK, helping them to build relationships in new markets and find new demand for their products and services. Barclays is keen to boost UK exporting and our Trade Centre in Birmingham, launched in 2018, plays a key role in helping more local businesses find their way in overseas markets, by providing the right finance and guidance.
“As they grow and start to trade internationally, SMEs should look for a payments provider who can scale alongside them, helping them to meet the needs of their customers, both today and in the future,” said Rob Cameron.
Interestingly, SMEs report the strength of the domestic economy as both the largest opportunity (19 per cent) and biggest challenge (19 per cent) they face this year. They reported the next top opportunity as technology (11 per cent), while the top three challenges are rounded out by competition (14 per cent) and the availability of skills (13 per cent).
As this year unfolds, we continue to support local businesses taking on the year’s new opportunities and challenges. For example, our new £50m Adverse Weather Fund is specifically designed to help SMEs and farmers impacted by recent flooding across the country. In this way, and many other, Barclays is backing the UK’s SMEs to succeed.