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SMEs must go digital for survival

These are unprecedented times, and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are being tested as they navigate these uncharted waters

The global health crisis brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic has changed many business operations as we know it.

As SMEs look at ways to improve productivity by reducing operational costs, hunting down new business opportunities, and transforming to become more competitive over the long term, technology offers a way forward.

The Singapore government has stepped in to provide extraordinary fiscal support during this period, and that includes helping SMEs transform on the digital front.

Business transformation

In the latest Fortitude Budget, the government allocated more than S$500 million to boost digital transformation for SMEs, with the funds targeted first at the food and beverage (F&B) and retail sectors.

This includes a Digital Resilience Bonus of up to S$5,000 for businesses to adopt PayNow Corporate, as well as to bring about a digitalisation of business processes.1 There is further support for businesses adopting advanced solutions too.

The need to survive brings an opportunity for reinvention. With this strong level of government support, SMEs can accelerate their digitalisation efforts to gain a competitive edge. As it is, more than 120,000 businesses in Singapore have adopted PayNow Corporate.2 Others are set to follow.

With the impact of COVID-19 continuing to disrupt economies worldwide, it is likely that a climate of uncertainty will continue for some time. A recent survey by global information services company Experian showed that some 60 per cent of these SMEs here have already seen lower credit ratings.3 This means that many of them are more exposed to short-term vulnerabilities in adverse economic conditions.

So with this context in mind, it is more important than ever, for SMEs to take action now, to plan ahead in order to navigate the tough times.

They can start by having a clear visibility of cash flows. This will allow SMEs to know how much cash they have to last through this difficult period, especially as sales have slowed to a trickle in many sectors. Businesses can then make better decisions about redeployment of funds or additional financing they might need to tide them through these times.

Digitalising your finance function

Designed to meet the needs of SMEs, HSBCnet, a digital banking platform provides companies with cash, trade and FX tools to manage their business finances, globally, 24/7. Photo: GETTY IMAGES

"Digitalising one's finance function is one such way that businesses can look into to improve operational efficiency, better control in finances as well as minimise today's disruption in work processes," said Ng Li Lian, Head of Business Banking at HSBC Singapore. "Our re-designed digital banking platform, HSBCnet offers our SME customers global access to their accounts with us via a streamlined platform. With its intuitive and easy to navigate interface, it will be easier and faster to manage their banking needs online."

HSBCnet also provides a smarter way that can help SMEs achieve clear visibility of their cash and liquidity position to aid the deployment of funds. For SMEs with operations in several markets, this integrated platform provides an overview of all account balances on a single dashboard. Raising, authorising and tracking of payments can be done seamlessly through this single platform including e-payments such as funds flowing through via PayNow Corporate.

To support Foreign Exchange (FX) payments, customers can easily access FX rates across 26 currencies on the platform, and get a peace of mind from the price transparency when dealing with FX conversion where mid-market rate is provided for reference.

One clear result of the Covid-19 pandemic is the new emphasis on robust business continuity plans and remote work will become more commonplace. Employees around the world are adapting to the flexibility resulting from work-from-home arrangements and showing how digital connectivity can improve productivity.

With that, HSBCnet and its mobile app help SMEs move seamlessly towards paperless transactions to manage their businesses wherever they're located and facilitates the flow of businesses on the go, with support provided through live chats and virtual assistants.

And as SMEs go digital, the risk of online fraud remains a concern hence the all-important factor of cybersecurity has been incorporated into the platform through the use of biometric and mobile authentication.

Beyond making banking easier for its customers, HSBC Commercial Banking connects businesses to an international network across 53 countries and territories covering 90 per cent of global trade flows.

With more than 140 years of experience in Singapore serving SMEs and corporates, HSBC is committed to help Singapore SMEs through these uncertainties with additional support and advice from a dedicated relationship manager for each business client.

  • SMEs can look at ways to improve productivity by using digital tools to manage cash and hedge forex risk to survive an unprecedented crisis
  • SMEs can tap on fiscal support and HSBC to digitalise their business
  • With remote working the "new normal", SMEs will need to enable more paperless transactions for their employees, clients and other business stakeholders

Visit HSBC Commercial Banking Digital Banking Solutions to learn more.


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