A new survey by AFEX, one of the world’s largest non-bank providers of global payments and risk management solutions, has found that despite global market uncertainty and volatility, close to half (48%) of Australian SMEs expect to increase their international payments over the coming year.
As a result, one-third of Australian SMEs plan to start using or upgrading their automated international payments tools in the next 12 months, with the main reasons being to speed up the payments process (40%) and reduce costs (38%).
AFEX’s first annual State of International Payments Report polled more than 500 financial decision makers at SMEs and corporations from across the globe who engage in an estimated US$230 million worth of international transactions per month.
AFEX Asia Pacific General Manager Mr Richard Poulton said it was encouraging to see an increasing number of Australian SMEs realising the benefits of automated payments systems.
“Importers and exporters want to focus on growing their business while keeping overheads to a minimum. As a result, many are turning to automated payments systems. Increasing globalisation means greater competition, and payments is an area where firms can cut costs, save time, improve service and manage their exposure to international markets more effectively,” Poulton said.
Australian SMEs anticipate international trade growth
According to the survey, Australian SMEs cited foreign exchange volatility (49%), cost (28%) and ensuring timely payments (20%) cited as the major challenges when managing international payments.
Poulton said firms needed to balance international exposure with thoughtful risk management and hedging strategies, especially in light of a volatile currency markets.
“The international marketplace is thriving and Australian SMEs are well aware of the opportunities cross-border trading presents. However, with a greater weighting to international payments comes greater complexity. Australian SMEs need to be mindful of the currency exchange risks, the associated costs and the different banking systems that can make international trade more expensive and time consuming than anticipated.”
Payments should not be a set and forget process
Over half (51%) of Australian SMEs surveyed do not review their payments process unless there is an issue or an increase in transaction volume. Moreover, 15% of these SMEs indicated they have never reviewed the process.
“Payments should not be a set-and-forget process. Taking a passive approach means SMEs are unnecessarily expositing themselves to currency issues, fraud, payment delays and high fees. There is no need to wait for something to go wrong and learn the hard way – it’s best to review and take action on a regular basis,” he said.
Ease and efficiency
For over 44% of Australian SMEs, automation and ease is their main consideration when managing payments.
“Automation is really the first step of the payments process and we’re already seeing broad take-up and interest by SMEs in Australia. The next evolution is the integration of payments technology into existing business systems. Ultimately, payments should be a simple and efficient process that doesn’t always require a huge investment in separate infrastructure. For SMEs, it’s about deciding what is best for your business – there are solutions for every size of organisation,” Poulton concluded.
Inside Small Business