It’s a time of reflection and anticipation at The Fintech Times throughout December, as we look back at developments and trends over the last 12 months and forward to the year ahead.
We’re excited to share the thoughts of fintech CEOs and industry leaders from across the globe to 2023’s key takeaways and what we should expect to be top of the agenda in 2024.
Today the focus is on supporting small businesses through streamlined management, personalised banking, alternative lending, as well as the rise of all-in-one digital banking platforms.
Small business resiliency is alive and well, says Brett Sussman, head of marketing and sales, Business Blueprint and Banking at American Express.
“Our small business data throughout 2023 showed that small business owners are determined to overcome obstacles and identifying new ways to improve their business. Notably, one of our surveys found that 50 per cent of small businesses surveyed agreed cash flow management tool consolidation positively impacts profitability and 71 per cent cited it positively impacts efficiency.
“Amidst challenges, cash flow management was a constant to effectively run a business, and small business owners have prioritised their digital financial toolkit to improve their businesses.”
“Going into 2024, we expect the emphasis on cash flow management to continue. Small businesses are going to continue to need streamlined management with enhanced cash flow tools, including analytics, funding, and banking, to unlock new efficiencies.
“Our data from our inaugural Financial Confidence Report showed 41 per cent of small businesses surveyed said they ‘often’ or ‘always’ turn down potential growth opportunities because they are unsure about their cash flow. Consolidating cash flow management tools can have a wide array of benefits for the small business sector, and the data indicates the importance of it to help garner additional revenue, productivity, and time for small businesses in the new year.”
Looking for the right partner
Yanki Onen, CEO of digital business account provider wamo expects to see a huge shift in the business banking sector in 2024.
“SMEs in particular have had a rough 12 months and more than ever they’re in need of tailored support from banks to help them weather the storm. Banking is a services industry, but often banks forget that part. Relationships, trust, and personalised support are the cornerstones of successful business banking.
“As we move into next year, I think we’ll start to see this prioritised as SMEs search for banking partners that truly understand their problems. As entirely digital products are becoming the new norm, human touch and empathy will define the new era of business banking, empowering entrepreneurs and SMEs to thrive.”
With businesses facing increased costs across the board, the declining appetite of high street banks to lend to SMEs has been a major challenge, according to Richard Prime, co-founder & co-CEO of Sonovate, a provider of finance and payment solutions for the contingent workforce.
“As a result, alternative lenders are filling the funding gap and providing finance to the UK’s innovative SMEs – our research shows that 40 per cent of SMEs are turning to alternative lenders to pursue their growth plans in the current economic environment. These alternative finance options increasingly offer a lifeline for UK SMEs, with 70 per cent admitting they wouldn’t have survived the current cost of living crisis if it wasn’t for these types of lenders.
“Fintech lenders will continue to step up and fill the SME funding gap – these solutions will consolidate market share due to their increased agility, better understanding of the specific needs of SMES and their ability to quickly offer on-demand funding. Over the past year, these lenders have already proved themselves as successful disruptors to incumbents and a vital source of funding. Fintech lenders are no longer an alternative option for SMEs, instead they will increasingly be top of mind in 2024.”
Rise of the super app
Eyal Lifshitz is the founder and CEO of Bluevine, a one-stop digital banking platform specifically designed for small businesses. He predicts that in 2024, small businesses will rely on banking platforms for digitalisation, cost savings and efficiency.
“The digital transformation of small businesses has a long way to go – from digital payments to streamlining financial operations, small businesses will need to tap into the power of digitalisation to curb operational costs and boost efficiency in 2024.
“What we will likely see is the evolution of bank accounts to becoming the ‘super app’ for small businesses, driven by fintech innovation. Small businesses need one platform that does it all for them, that saves them time and resources they could better spend on business development and focusing on the big picture.
“We often talk about the CFO stack, but this tech only serves to support bigger businesses – we need an ‘SMB stack’ and the super app bank is poised to become a core pillar of that essential toolset.”
Key business pressures
SME lender Simply Asset Finance highlights the key pressures many are still looking to resolve as they plan for 2024.
Mike Randall, CEO at Simply Asset Finance, commented: “The last few years have been a tale of unparalleled hardship for UK SMEs. After a seemingly endless grind through Covid, economic stagnation, and spiralling inflation, there is growth on the horizon – and the fact that some many SMEs are optimistic about their outlook is incredibly encouraging.
“But if they are failed now, there will be countless missed opportunities for the future. It’s essential that businesses across the UK don’t just have suitable funding and support available to them, but that they feel afford it and feel confident to use it. SMEs up and down the country are ready to seize on growth opportunities and be the engine of the UK’s economic recovery. But significant action is required to keep UK business on the right track and ensure they’re in a position to seize them.
“Businesses shouldn’t need to hold back cash that could have been invested in growth in order to keep the lights on. Crucially, both their own and the wider economic situation may have shifted since they last structured their financing meaning that it may be possible, beneficial, and in fact advised, that they restructure their debt. This could help give them much welcome breathing room that they just didn’t realise was now available.
“It’s here where experienced and innovative finance providers really show their worth; by looking beyond the balance sheet to understand the unique wants and needs of SMEs – then giving them the on the ground support they need to seize on those hard earned and transformative growth opportunities in regions all over the UK.”