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To get a better sense of the shift in businesses’ attitudes and behaviours as we emerge from the pandemic, as well as payment pain points, Mastercard surveyed leaders of over 3,000 small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) from around the world for the Mastercard Borderless Payments Report 2022.

Rasika

Rasika Raina, Senior Vice President, Mastercard Cross-Border Services

The past two years have been devastating globally not only from a health perspective but an economic one too. Small businesses, in particular, have been hit hard – with the Mastercard Economic Institute estimating that a third of small and medium sized businesses in the world that closed in April 2020 remained closed six months later, and one in five remained closed 12 months later. This means small and medium sized businesses were more than three times as likely to close than large companies.[1]

Yet, there have been some pockets of light in the midst of this crisis – one of which has been the ongoing functioning of the international payments network. Cross-border payments provided beleaguered businesses with a lifeline during the COVID-19 outbreak, helping to lessen the economic impact of the pandemic for the world’s entrepreneurs. Although if small business owners’ growth aspirations are to be fully realized, these payment systems still need to become faster, cheaper and more secure.

The global picture

To get a better sense of the shift in businesses’ attitudes and behaviours as we emerge from the pandemic, as well as payment pain points, we surveyed leaders of over 3,000 small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) from around the world for the Mastercard Borderless Payments Report 2022.

The report shows that – finally – business is generally improving. Globally, almost half (46%) of small business owners said their business is making more money compared to before the pandemic, which is a significantly higher proportion that in our previous report in 2021. The biggest growth has been seen in South Africa (17% higher), the UK (a 13% increase), and Singapore (a 10% increase). 

Whilst the broader picture is looking more positive, it’s important to point out there’s still a way to go, even in the markets which are seeing a return to growth. For example, in February 2022, ICAEW research found business confidence in the UK had actually decreased for a second quarter running, receding to average levels not seen since 2014.[2] Businesses are taking nothing for granted in today’s volatile world, even if over half (53%) say they have grown more than anticipated during the pandemic.

This growth has largely been driven by online sales, with nearly seven in ten (68%) SMEs recording an increase in this area, and a similar proportion (72%) saying they have made a strategic decision to look for new opportunities in new markets.

Onboarding international suppliers is a major part of this new global strategy, with nearly half (47%) saying they now use more overseas suppliers and services than they did in December 2020. And in line with this growth, 68% said the fact the cross-border payments network kept running during the worst of the pandemic has allowed their business to survive.

Changes are here to stay

The unprecedented disruption ushered in by the pandemic has realigned global economics, with many small businesses now looking keenly at new cross-border prospects. In total, 64% said COVID-19 has changed the way they do business forever, and 43% now do more business internationally as a result. Interestingly, over a third (37%) said they would have folded if it wasn’t for new business with SMEs in developing markets, such as Brazil, India and Mexico.

In order for this positive sentiment, and growing ecosystem, to continue to flourish, the cross-border payments network - the essential plumbing that runs through global business - needs to work even better than it has been.

Websites and apps are now much more widely used than in-person transfer methods, with 85% of small businesses using cross-border payments feeling confident in online solutions, citing security, speed and receipt confirmation as key benefits.

That said, there are elements of cross-border services that need refining. Concerns remain about fraud, with 43% of global small businesses worried about becoming a victim. Nearly half (45%), meanwhile, highlighted poor foreign exchange rates and high transfer fees as another cause for concern, with calls for more transparency. 27% of businesses also said a top concern was around the lack of transparency on how much a cross-border money transfer will cost, being unsure how much money will actually arrive with the recipient.

Last year, the G20 made enhancing cross-border payments a priority, targeting four key challenge areas – transparency, cost, speed and access. On transparency, payment service providers will be targeted to provide a minimum level of information to payers and payees (by 2027), including the transaction amount and time to deliver the funds.

There’s also still a lack of universal connectivity and the ability to send funds instantly across borders, though this is beginning to change through technology such as Mastercard Cross-Border Services, which allows businesses and individuals to send and receive money securely and with the certainty they crave from a single, secure point of access. By partnering with Mastercard to integrate these services, banks and non-bank financial institutions can offer a far better experience for their business customers and consumers alike.

Mastercard is also playing a key role in delivering fast, multi-currency account to account payments, such as the work it is doing in the Nordics with P27. The P27 Nordic Payment Flow is providing real-time and batch payments across the Nordic markets – connecting people across the cluster of markets seamlessly and efficiently.

With the world’s small businesses growing their international networks at pace, especially online, it’s crucial that financial institutions have the right cross-border solutions in place to support them.

Mastercard’s Borderless Payments report is available to download at: https://b2b.mastercard.com/news-and-insights/borderless-payments/borderless-payments-report-2022/

[1] Mastercard Small Business Reset Report, 2021

[2] https://www.icaew.com/insights/viewpoints-on-the-news/2022/feb-2022/business-confidence-declines-to-prepandemic-levels

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