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News Round-up: UK SMEs remain confident, e-commerce payments surge in Middle East and North Africa, Northern small business owners the happiest

Here are the week’s main news stories in the world of small business and digital payments:

UK SMEs remain confident despite uncertain outlook

Three-quarters of Britain’s SMEs are confident about their growth prospects over the next 12 months despite tough political and economic conditions, according to new research from Barclaycard. Almost 40 per cent describe themselves as ‘very optimistic’, with 70 per cent saying they were optimistic about growth over the next five years. The research showed the heads of scale-up businesses, which have at least 10 employees and average annualised growth of 20 per cent or more over three years, said on average they were looking to invest 30 per cent of turnover to secure progress.

Middle East and North Africa online shopping payments surged in 2018

The number of online shopping transactions in the Middle East and North Africa surged by 44 per cent year-on-year last year, as the region’s fast-paced e-commerce sector continues to expand, according to research by Visa. The payment provider said there was a 27 per cent increase in payment volume over 2017. The region’s e-commerce sector has been growing rapidly and is expected to be worth $48 billion by 2022, with the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia driving its 16.4 per cent growth over the next few years, according to last year’s Fitch Solutions report.

Small business owners happiest in the North

New research from Yorkshire Bank, suggests small businesses in the north of the UK are achieving a better work-life balance than elsewhere, with the country’s happiest entrepreneurs living in Leeds, Edinburgh and Leicester. The majority (62 per cent) in those cities rate themselves as happy in their day-to-day working lives, with 14 per cent very happy. In comparison, 58 per cent of small-business owners across the UK rate themselves as happy. Despite having some of the happiest cities, the north is also home to some of the most-stressed business leaders: Liverpool has close to twice the average level of acute stress, with 14 per cent saying they are very stressed.

Virtual accounts for SMEs launched by NatWest

NatWest is to launch a centralised virtual account management platform for SME and corporate customers serving multiple accounts. The new platform will support regulated professions – such as legal, accountancy and insurance firms – that need to segregate clients’ money to comply with regulatory standards. The platform’s features are also designed to appeal to corporate businesses that want to hold a smaller number of physical bank accounts, improve their payables and receivables processes, and have greater visibility and control over their liquidity positions.

Cybercriminals turn attention to SMEs

Cybercriminals are increasingly targeting small businesses, according to a new report from insurance provider Chubb. According to the report, 21 per cent of cyber incidents reported to Chubb last year by small businesses involved social attacks such as phishing, 20 per cent were due to error and 14 per cent were due to hacking. Cyber criminals typically don’t target specific small businesses, but “increasingly use tools that target their vulnerabilities”, such as unpatched software, poorly configured hardware or employees using weak or compromised passwords or who inadvertently click something they shouldn’t. According to another report, small businesses are looking to increase their security budgets significantly this year.

$35 billion sale of payments provider Worldpay agreed

Fidelity National Information Services Inc. (FIS) has agreed to buy payment processing company Worldpay for about $35 billion, the biggest deal to date in the electronic payments industry. Growth in payment systems has kept deals rolling even as merger moves in other sectors have stalled on concerns about trade tensions and a global economic slowdown. The FIS deal, valuing Worldpay at about $43 billion including debt, comes a little more than a year after US firm Vantiv paid $10.63 billion for the payments firm, which was set up in Britain and spun off from RBS in 2010.

Singtel’s cross-border payments system extended to Japan

Singapore telecommunications operator Singtel has expanded its Via cross-border payments alliance to Japan. The Via alliance is now also partnering with Tokyo-based mobile payment technology company Netstars and its 100,000 stores across Japan. The alliance allows customers of those companies to “pay instantly in their local currency, transact conveniently and securely, and enjoy competitive foreign exchange rates in Japan, and across the networks of all wallet members in Singapore, Thailand, and Malaysia”. Singtel expects the Via alliance to continue expanding.

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News Round-up: UK SMEs remain confident, e-commerce payments surge in Middle East and North Africa, Northern small business owners the happiest
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