The role of technology in supporting the SME economy

July 7, 2020
The role of technology in supporting the SME economy

Forward looking and innovative businesses that aim to thrive and grow at a fast pace have been implementing technology into their operations long before the pandemic. However, the speed of digital adoption has drastically increased in the past 4 months. Will this trend continue? Denis Dorval, our Chief Operating Officer, has discussed the current role of digital in business operations with Emily Hogg, Head of Lending & Investment Operations at Innovate UK, Nigel Walker, Head of Innovation Lending at Innovate UK and John Davies, John wears many hats including his post as the Chairman at the Association of Alternative Business Finance. The panel looked at how the attitude toward technology adoption has changed as well as what role Open Banking is likely to play in the nearest future.

Is being digital now critical to survive and thrive? 

The dramatic impact of not being able to engage with your customers in the digital dimension has already caused a dramatic impact on the businesses. Emily Hogg said: "Before the crisis, digital transformation was on everyone’s agenda, it was never something urgent. It was a 3-5 year strategy to transform digitally. But now you have to be digital to survive.” John Davies said: "The first role of a business is to satisfy your customer… as we are still in a lockdown, digital delivery of product or services is at the forefront.” Now is a good time to reconsider the methods of delivering business. The leaders of the SMEs have to think innovatively and make use of digital and the softwares available out there to be able to stay in the businesses. “This pandemic could be with us for another 12 months. So, we are, as a business, are assuming it is going to be with us for the next 12 months.”

The post-covid-19 world will rely on the digital heavier than ever before. The journey to being fully digitised is not optional anymore. It also might be a complicated journey, especially for smaller businesses, however, this is something that has to be done and embraced. One of the ways of dealing with the lack of resources is to partner up with companies that enable digital transformation. 

Will Open Banking become a widely embraced concept in the nearest future? 

SMEs start to share more information in return for a smooth customer journey. Hence some of the open data schemes, such as Open Banking, could be one of the concepts that progressively come to play a more important role in moving the business world into the digital dimension.

Innovate UK, as a lender, uses a number of sources, including DueDil, to have a holistic picture of a company with a view to increase the decision-making process. Nonetheless, information on smaller companies, especially those with turnover of £10m and below, is fragmented. In order for SME to be willing to share its financial information with financial service providers, such as lenders will require an establishment of trust between the SME and the provider. “Lenders need to give SMEs the evidence that giving that data over would actually help them rather than hinder them” - said Emily Hogg.

“Open Banking will make the lending so much easier, provided you are seeing the right kind of information” - said John Davies. Technology makes all of the aspects of lending easier and brings transparency to the business world. If you want your business to grow and thrive, you need to adopt technology and embrace transparency. 

The UK SME economy will eventually get through the pandemic and will only become stronger. Covid-19 pushed business to explore digital in greater depth while reconsidering existing operational models. The ultimate outcome of this situation is a sped up innovation and digital transformation across industries. One of John Davies’s favourite quotes is by former Intel CEO Andy Grove who said: “Bad companies are destroyed by crises; good companies survive them; great companies are improved by them.” Technology is there to support businesses and make them more resilient and successful. 

To hear the full discussion, watch "The future of transformation and innovation in the SME landscape" on-demand webinar.