Barclaycard finds cybercrime not Brexit the biggest worry for growing firms
The focus for firms is now on hiring specialists to deal with the digital world, with investment in cybersecurity expertise set to increase by a third next year.
Almost half of businesses cite this as a major concern, compared to 34 per cent worrying about the consequences of Brexit, the findings suggest, as companies juggle a string of new budget demands.
The new breed of advisers small and medium size enterprises (SMEs) are looking for to future proof their companies include next-generation payment professionals and specialists capable of handling tech overload.
UK SMEs face immense pressure to keep up with competitors of all sizes
UK SMEs are now reckoned to invest some £2.9 billion annually on cybersecurity experts to help them stay ahead of the latest threats.
That’s the average equivalent of £1,600 per business but with larger SMEs spending 10 times more.
The same amount is also being channelled into support for implementing new payment innovations such as contactless technology, according to Barclaycard.
Small businesses have increased their spending over the last five years on cybersecurity professionals by 43 per cent, and by nearly 31 per cent on payment innovation.
Next year the spend is expected to shoot up by 32 per cent on expertise and 23 per cent on payment innovation.
In contrast, demand for more ‘traditional’ experts is falling in areas such as procurement, judged less relevant, as well as legal and compliance.
Challenges posed by the uncertain economic landscape and fast changing consumer preferences are making them less certain however about how they handle multiple demands and priorities.
The research suggests SMEs can make their budget work harder by hiring experts who provide support across multiple areas, especially when it comes to technology.
Of the small businesses that increased spending on fraud prevention, for example, a fifth (23 per cent) subsequently noticed a rise in sales and customer satisfaction, likely due to improved customer confidence.
UK SMEs are now reckoned to invest some £2.9 billion annually on cybersecurity experts
Looking ahead, SMEs will need to engage experts of the future to keep up with nascent trends. This includes ‘next generation’ payment specialists who would advise on emerging technology such as ‘conversational commerce’ – which uses digital assistants to make a purchase – and ‘invisible payments’, where card details are saved in advance of a transaction, such as for one-click ordering.
Yet a third (33 per cent) of businesses said they had never heard of these technologies, despite consumers’ enthusiasm for the tech options.
Sharon Manikon, managing director of customer solutions at Barclaycard, commented: “UK SMEs face immense pressure to keep up with competitors of all sizes. As a result, there are more demands on their budget than ever, and these are forcing SMEs to spend smarter.
“One way to make budgets work harder is to engage suppliers who don’t just provide competitively priced products and services – but also offer access to the specialists who provide consultancy to help businesses continue to thrive. This will help SMEs derive the most value from their experts and drive their business forward.”
In 2018, small businesses will pay 32 per cent more on expertise
Beyond the evolution of payments, futurologist David Price predicts that British businesses will need an ever-greater range of experts including: social purpose consultants to work alongside SMEs to ensure they respond to growing demands from millennial customers for a service driven by ethical practices tech overload therapists to support employees who have become overwhelmed by being part of an ‘always on’ society and online experience designers, responsible for improving user experience by incorporating virtual and augmented reality technology into online interactions
“As consumers become more tech-savvy, SMEs are increasingly dependent on their digital presence for survival, and face new pressures from all angles,” explained Price.
“A deep understanding of emerging technologies – like artificial intelligence, and augmented and virtual reality – will all become ‘must haves’, not luxuries, over the next five to ten years.
“The challenges of this changing landscape also extend well beyond the realms of what you might expect. Businesses will need to think outside the box to cater for the demands of more discerning consumers, for whom social purpose, for example, is now a key priority.”