International payment concerns stop SMEs from expanding overseas 

New research showing that concerns around international payments are a leading barrier stopping UK SMEs from exporting overseas.

The research found that more than a quarter of business not already exporting overseas have plans to do so in the future but concerns around international payments are preventing them from taking the plunge. 

Payment problems 

Many businesses surveyed find starting to trade internationally daunting – citing everything from worries about finding overseas customers to concerns about tariffs and other charges when explaining why they hadn’t yet exported. However, over a third of businesses currently not exporting said that they choose not to do so due to worries about the complexity of making and receiving international payments. This made payments the third most commonly cited answer. 

Within this group, over half say that they are concerned about being exposed to currency fluctuations and foreign exchange risk. Additionally, 49% of businesses are concerned about payments security and 45% were worried about the speed of payments. Another 43% cited the cost of making and receiving payments as being a key barrier.2 

Interestingly, of the 51% of SMEs surveyed who are already exporting, whilst a third still find international payments a challenge, they are less of a problem than dealing with tariffs or, customs and red tape. This suggests that businesses that are not yet exporting are underestimating the very real challenges that navigating customs and tariffs can bring. 

Pathway to growth 

With 49% of small business not yet exporting, there’s potentially considerable revenue to be unlocked for providers who can alleviate their concerns and help them overcome perceived payments barriers. 

Interestingly high street banks may be in a prime position to do exactly this. Almost half of those SMEs already exporting surveyed use their high street bank or building society to send and receive payments, and over a third of all respondents have tried to access support with exporting from their banks. This was second only to the government / Department for Business & Trade and Brexit with regulatory issues. 

Currencycloud’s Head of Product, Piers Marais, who commissioned the research, commented: “These figures show that international payments are a key concern for businesses looking to export overseas. However, it’s also clear that there’s growing appetite to export and that banks are in a key position to support SMEs. 

“So, we need to move away from the standard ‘banks vs fintechs’ rhetoric and focus more on how the industry can collaborate. It’s also clear that if the Government wants to boost Britain’s global business ambitions, it needs to take concerns around red tape, customs, and tariffs seriously”.