Aritificial intelligence has captured the world’s imagination throughout the last two years, and companies of all sizes are embracing – having recognised the long-term benefits the emerging technology could offer. In its latest report, financial management solution Qonto reveals how this trend translates for SMEs across Europe.
In the Qonto report, European SMEs revealed their intention to massively invest in tech, such as AI, and digitisation in 2024, especially in Germany, Italy, and Spain. More than three-quarters of respondents share at least some level of optimism about the benefits that fintech and AI could offer their business.
While this optimism for new digital solutions persists, most respondents are also seriously considering putting their money where their mouth is. In fact, around 73 per cent of all the Qonto respondents were at least ‘likely’ to invest in fintech and AI services in the future.
This may come as a surprise to some, especially considering the fact that the majority of EU SMEs have only adopted basic and not advanced technologies – indicating a shift in attitudes toward tech, and the adoption of a more holistic and open approach to business practices.
However, this attitude does not appear to have spread to all aspects of emerging technologies. SME leaders appear far more sceptical about cryptocurrency, Web3, virtual reality and metaverse platforms. Across all four markets, 37 per cent of respondents admitted being ‘pessimistic’ or ‘very pessimistic’ about Web3 and cryptocurrencies. Meanwhile, 33 per cent felt the same way about virtual reality and the metaverse.
Qonto also revealed that when it separated respondents by industry, it found that the finance and insurance sectors were the most enthusiastic about new tech. However, the construction sector emerged as the least hopeful about the potential benefits of new technologies.
Any investment left for talent?
While SMEs prepare to invest in tech, the same does not appear to be true when it comes to hiring new talent. In fact, a majority of SMEs surveyed intended to stop or slow the hiring of new talent at the back end of 2023.
However, Qonto revealed that 42 per cent of SMEs intended to hire more employees in Q4 compared to Q3 2023. According to the survey, the market with the highest proportion of SMEs saying they will accelerate their recruitment is Italy, where 48 per cent said they hired more in Q4 2023.
The random sample of business leaders (CEOs, CFOs and other executive positions) also revealed that women remain underrepresented in leadership roles. Across all four countries studied, only 29 per cent of the respondents were women.
France (38 per cent) and Italy (32 per cent) appear the closest to gender parity of the four markets. However, Germany seems the furthest from it, with women making up 23 per cent of respondents, followed by Spain (25 per cent).