Supply chain disruptions and economic volatility have elevated risk exposure for many enterprises, but for small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) operating globally, that risk of exposure can be catastrophic.
Indeed, for some SMBs, it already has, with economists anticipating a wave of bankruptcies and permanent SMB closures ahead.
B2B FinTechs continue to step up to introduce new solutions for their customers with an eye on helping business owners survive this market crisis and persevere into the future. Undoubtedly, many of the digital tools emerging take a global approach to servicing SMBs, connecting them with mobile, cloud-native solutions that support entrepreneurs to continue operating wherever they are, and obtain insights no matter where their partners — or their money — are, too.
But it's also important to take a local approach to supporting SMBs. For Aion Bank, based in Belgium, that means understanding the global operations of SMBs, as well as their local challenges as a company in Belgium and the broader European Union.
Speaking with PYMNTS, Aion Bank Chief Commercial Officer, Head of Corporate and X-Border Krzysztof Czuba identified some of the particular challenges that SMBs in the region face, and explored how FinTech and banking solutions must include both a local and global approach to help SMBs recover.
Balancing Local With Global
There are unique challenges for SMBs operating in Belgium and the broader EU that banking solution providers should consider, said Czuba.
That was important for Aion Bank itself, which recently announced the launch of its SMB banking solutions for businesses in Belgium and broader Europe.
"Many Belgian businesses finance their companies with loans from family and friends," Czuba explained. "Our research showed the core problem they face lies in the availability of financing for [SMBs], and the complexity of credit procedures."
He added that Aion decided to include access to Isabel accounts, which address local and regional compliance requirements, as well as invoice and payment transfer messaging structures tailored to the Dutch market.
Addressing these unique, location-specific points of frictions through technology also enables a FinTech like Aion Bank to address SMBs' global needs as well. For instance, digitization of loan applications not only means SMB owners can move through the application process with less friction than they experience from traditional banks, but supports the continued need to manage money and conduct banking while working from home.
And as Aion Bank looks to expand geographically, Czuba said there are some universal challenges SMBs struggle with today.
There are "three major needs" that small businesses have: "fully-digital app-based processes, including loan applications; tools to help [them] manage their business and accounting; and simple and transparent pricing," he noted.
Recovery Through Technology
Digitization of SMB banking has been a key driver of innovation in this arena for recent years. And indeed, with barriers lowering that allow SMB owners to expand internationally, it's now more likely than ever that an SMB's own supply chain crosses geographic borders.
This evolving ecosystem of SMBs means banking providers must embrace a digital-first approach to ensure business continuity and access to information regardless of where an SMB and its business partners operate.
Yet today, more than ever, that digital-first approach is also critical to helping SMBs get back on their feet after weeks of turmoil.
"It is especially important now" to introduce a fully-digital solution for small firms, said Czuba, "as the time spent on administration diminishes, the time [SMB owners] can devote to business recovery and development."
In Europe, PSD2 regulations have unlocked valuable data for financial services providers like Aion Bank and others to expand their offerings and drive further digitization of their services, whether through automated underwriting and credit decisions, or data integrations with other back-office functions like payroll and remittances. As the SMB banking community looks toward the future, Czuba noted that technology will be a non-negotiable requirement for these clients, even as pandemic-fueled volatility eases.
"Many more companies will seek out digital banking solutions," he said. "A new generation of entrepreneurs will seek to build a relationship with their bank remotely, via their mobile phone, more so than with branches — which we have seen in other industries."