SMEs are significant drivers of job creation and economic growth. Yet, unlike in the developed world, where they are treated as the goose that lays the golden egg, it is survival of the fittest in Africa.
African Development Bank data shows that SMEs account for up to 90% of businesses and almost 70% of employment in Africa. However, they are grappling with a $421 billion financing gap. The inability to access credit and other challenges have meant a high mortality rate for SMEs.
Frédéric Oudéa, CEO of Societe Generale, contends that for a continent full of opportunities undergoing profound changes, SMEs should not suffer a lot. “We are convinced that growth in Africa will come primarily from the private sector,” he says, adding that for this to happen, SMEs are essential.
Societe Generale wants to help Africa’s SMEs grow and prosper. With SMEs representing two-thirds of its corporate clientele, the bank has adopted multidimensional support as a critical focus of its strategy. This, coupled with its Grow with Africa initiative and the Women in Africa project, has seen the bank raise over $100 million that can be loaned to SMEs.
Over the next three years, the bank intends to double its loan book to SMEs. This stems from the understanding that these businesses represent Africa’s future in responding to the continent’s long-term challenges, particularly regarding job creation and innovation.
OCBC Bank has been recognized as the Best SME Bank in the Asia-Pacific region by Global Finance, acknowledging the bank’s outstanding support of the SME ecosystem.
It has fostered digital and sustainable financing in the region amid an increasingly challenging business environment.
The bank succeeded in opening 98% of SME accounts digitally and performed 86% of SME banking transactions digitally, and it continues to help SMEs unlock the value of their data to obtain better business outcomes.
In Singapore, OCBC has integrated business financial-management capabilities into its digital business banking platform. It allows SMEs access to a 360-degree view of their sales, expenses and cash flow trends, enabling them to identify patterns and obtain insights key to better business planning.
The bank has also launched the OCBC SME Sustainable Finance Framework to simplify access to less costly green loans to help SMEs shift toward sustainability.
It also rolled out the framework to its core markets in Malaysia, Indonesia and Hong Kong, adapting it to the relevant local certifications and standards.
Meanwhile, the bank launched the OCBC SME Index in Singapore to consistently track the pulse and performance of SMEs. Available as a quarterly report, the index helps the bank keep a laser focus on areas of growth for SMEs and know where support for them is needed.
In operation since 1941, Banreservas is the largest bank in the Dominican Republic and is the only bank with physical branches in all of the nation’s provinces. Roughly 15% of all Banreservas’ business comes from SMEs, representing $1.02 billion of the bank’s $6.95 billion portfolio.
When a government survey found that 74% of SMEs in the Dominican Republic had to cease operations during the Covid-19 pandemic, and the rest had to reduce operations, Banreservas was tapped by the Dominican government as its partner in implementing a series of emergency financial measures. In addition to issuing and administering pandemic-related loans and lines of credit. Banreservas has created a program called Fomenta Pymes (“Promote SMEs”) to integrate products, services, service channels and other benefits into this vital sector. Products and services offered include electronic payroll services, and insurance policies to protect against fire, accidents, machinery breakdowns, civil liabilities and other catastrophes. Emergency road service and towing are available for corporate vehicles. A pocket point-of-sale solution enables even the smallest businesses to accept credit and debit purchases through any iOS or Android mobile phone.
CENTRAL & EASTERN EUROPE
Based in Georgia, TBC Bank won the Best SME Bank in Central and Eastern Europe award for supporting the growth and development of SMEs and for its innovation and presence in the agriculture, trade, hospitality and leisure sectors. Its efforts captured a 65% market share of newly registered Georgian businesses.
The bank’s strategy includes increased digitization, automation and distance services. In 2021, it shortened the approval process with fully automated approvals on smaller loans. For larger loans, it is automatically generating financial statements for the SME.
Digital services continue to be in high demand, with about 90% of the bank’s active legal customers using business internet or mobile banking, along with open banking so that they can check all accounts from various Georgian banks in one place. TBC implemented innovative features on its business app for automatic payments and transfers in any foreign currency. Its new Payments Space platform helps SMEs manage daily transactions and other payments.
Agriculture accounts for about 7% to 8% of Georgia’s GDP, and TBC has launched various products to support this industry. These include loans available to SMEs that produce, store, process or sell agriculture commodities, as well as working capital to startups looking to develop a farm, and payment cards to SMEs that earn income from agriculture activities. TBC also offers loans cofinanced with the Georgian Ministry of Agriculture to improve farming processes.
BTG Pactual Empresas
BTG Pactual Empresas has seen the future of banking for SMEs, and that future is digital. The Brazilian bank, formerly known as BTG+ business, now conducts virtually all its business in the digital world. Its intensive technology enables low-touch online processes, ranging from SME account applications and onboarding to disbursements and collections. These innovations have been designed to provide SMEs with a wide variety of low-cost products and services. For example, SME customers incur no monthly account fees or setup costs. Ease-of-access is also a significant SME draw: In 2022, 99% of new SME accounts were fully functional within an hour of application.
The importance of accommodating the SME market in Brazil cannot be overestimated. BTG Pactual Empresas estimates that MSMEs represent about 90% of the country’s companies and are the biggest source of job creation in the nation.
SMEs have taken note of BTG Pactual Empresas’ offerings. The bank’s SME portfolio grew 82% year-over-year from 2021 to 2022, with SME loans reaching 18.9 billion reals (about $3.6 billion), 17% of the bank’s total business for the first quarter of 2022. Special programs for rural credit, solar power and green financing, and financing for women-owned businesses make obtaining credit easier for SMEs involved in these sectors. Typical time-to-credit is only about 30 minutes. Additional offerings include insurance services, investment services, and foreign exchange services.
Qatar National Bank
With the largest network of ATMs and branches in the nation, Qatar National Bank (QNB) provides the coverage that Qatari SMEs need. It also offers a dedicated SME center in Doha that meets the requirements of small and midsize businesses. The bank currently serves more than 22,000 of the roughly 60,000 SMEs that operate in the country.
QNB offers these customers a broad array of products and services. These include working capital and trade products, commercial loans and credit cards. Working with the Qatar Development Bank, it also offers programs to finance startups that would otherwise not qualify for loans. Online and mobile capabilities enable invoice payment and other business-management tasks. Notable among these digital services is a trade portal, helping importers and exporters with QNB accounts to complete trade transactions. For retailers, QNB offers a wide range of point-of-sale solutions that can be customized to meet business requirements.
Royal Bank of Canada
Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) has more than 1,000 branches nationwide, but traditional banking capabilities are only the start of the broad array of services offered to businesses, including SMEs. Business registration, legal help, digital transformation services, analytical insights, marketing help, e-commerce help and international trade services are all offered. So is a small-business navigator designed to help people at the earliest stages of business ownership. Ownr, an RBC Venture, is an online platform that has helped more than 55,000 entrepreneurs launch their businesses. RBC Insight Edge enables companies to leverage aggregated data to gain relevant insights into their markets, helping them attract new clients.
With offices in Spain, Portugal and the UK, Santander wins the award for Best SME Bank in Western Europe. SME clients make up over 90% of the bank’s total active corporate clients, with approximately 80% of their SME customers being digital.
In Portugal, Santander focuses on the entire value chain for SMEs with a specialized and proximity-based commercial approach. It has 22 corporate centers with over 90 corporate managers and about 300 business managers in nearly 340 branches who focus on SMEs, as well as an increasing focus on digital channels. The bank has created an ecosystem of portals, financial products, services and tools for an omnichannel experience that helps SMEs operate in an increasingly digital world.
Santander is focused on developing partnerships and offerings that meet SMEs changing needs and the challenges presented by environmental, social and governance concerns, as well as increased digitalization and globalization. The bank offers continued support to SMEs by ensuring liquidity with state aid credit facilities and providing economic support lines for Portuguese companies.
Its digitized solutions, including marketplace Santander Trade, customer-care service International Desk and global payments platform PagoNxt, have made operating across international borders easier for SMEs. Santander also offers tailored solutions to help SMEs become more efficient and sustainable by reducing energy costs.