Financial Services Sector Set to Lead the SME Covid-19 Recovery

  • Covid-19
  • 24.08.2020 12:19 pm

Financial services SMEs have emerged as the most resilient and confident sector group in the wake of lockdown, according to Sage’s SME Sentiment Index

Businesses in this sector are the most likely to have been profitable by the end of Q2 2020, with 63% expecting to turn a profit by mid-year. They are also the most resilient to future disruption; 55% say a second wave of Covid-19 and tightening of lockdown restrictions would not have a severe negative impact. 

Financial services is the most confident sector, with SMEs rating their confidence in their business’ future an average 6.4 out of 10. The vast majority - 90% - say they are coping well with the issues they face, compared to an average 64% for the hospitality, beauty & wellbeing and creative sectors and 77% across all sectors. 

Whilst cash flow issues have plagued small businesses across industries, SMEs in financial services are among the least likely to have experienced these, and the most prepared for future cash flow and supply chain disruption. 

The Sage SME Sentiment Index ranks each UK SME industry sector based on its average recovery trajectory, growth outlook and ability to withstand further disruption. It is based on data from 2,000 SMEs across the UK. 

The three sectors leading the Index are financial and insurance services, telecommunications and technology; indicating that higher-tech service sectors are best positioned for recovery and growth.  

Notably, these three sectors are also the most likely to be embracing technology, trade and other initiatives to drive growth. SMEs in financial and insurance services, telecommunications and technology are among the most likely to say that technology will be an important tool to help restart business post-lockdown, and among the top four who say they would most benefit from a Government grant to invest further in technology. They are also among the top five most likely to be actively taking, or planning to take, measures to boost export revenues. 

In contrast, less technologically advanced sectors like the creative industries, beauty and wellbeing and construction are less likely to make use of technology and pursue growth initiatives, with overall lower confidence scores. 

Sabby Gill, Managing Director of UK&I at Sage, said: “These figures are encouraging for financial services firms, but the overall picture for all SMEs remains deeply concerning. Small businesses are facing a perfect storm of challenges during the second half of the year - ongoing restrictions, a stalling economy, the winding down of government support and the ongoing threat of a second spike; not to mention Brexit preparations and the continued threat of a no-deal Brexit. Behind the statistics are thousands of individual stories of people whose livelihoods and passions are still under real threat, and we must remain vigilant to the challenges ahead.”

“It’s revealing that traditionally higher-tech industries such as financial services, telecoms and technology are among the most resilient and optimistic. Our data tells us that investment in technology will be a crucial pillar of the recovery for small businesses of all kinds – driving job creation and supporting greater resilience, productivity and innovation. 40% of SMEs, who employ 60% of the UK private sector workforce, believe that a technology grant would increase hiring, whilst 80% say technology will help their business post lockdown. Government must empower businesses and stimulate entrepreneurship through targeted and accessible measures to incentivise digital investment.” 

To download Sage’s Survival, Resilience and Growth report in full, please visit

Sage SME Sentiment Index

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