SME Confidence Tracker BFSI

88% of Irish SMEs believe government needs to offer greater support, according to new research from Bibby Financial Services Ireland

  • SectorsThe majority of SMEs (80%) plan to invest in their business over the next three months
  • 20% say the UK’s departure from the EU is the biggest challenge they are currently facing
  • More than a third of SMEs suffered from a bad debt in the past 12 months

Almost 9 in 10 Irish SMEs (88%) feel the government should be providing them with more support, according to the latest SME Ireland Confidence Tracker published by Bibby Financial Services Ireland, a leading provider of financial support and funding solutions to Irish SMEs.

Irish SMEs believe that this support should come in the form of tax breaks (81%), a lower VAT rate (78%), additional funding (58%), subsidised staff training (55%) and assistance in growing their company (55%).

Small to medium enterprises in Ireland have returned to investing in their businesses, with 81% of those surveyed saying they have done so in the third quarter of 2018. The key areas for investment are staff training and development (45%), IT (39%), recruitment (39%) and machinery and equipment (25%).

Encouragingly, 80% of SMEs plan to invest in their business over the next three months; in addition to staff training and development (43%), IT (33%) and recruitment (31%), significant areas for investment are new products or services (23%) and overseas trade (14%).

Confidence in the Irish economy among SMEs remains a concern however, with more than a third (36%) claiming that uncertainty around the country’s economic environment is preventing them from investing in their business before the end of 2018. Uncertainty arising from the UK’s departure from the EU is also cause for unease with Irish SMEs; a further 36% say it is a key factor preventing them from investing in their business in Q3. Other barriers to investment include cash flow (36%), rising costs (36%) and the uncertain economic environment within Europe (23%).

Additionally, some Irish SMEs are bracing themselves for uncharted territory, with 20% saying the UK’s departure from the EU is the biggest challenge they are currently facing. Other challenges cited include increased competition from other businesses (14%), late payments from customers (14%), a lack of skilled staff (13%) and rising costs (11%).

More than half of Irish SMEs are planning to take steps in advance of Brexit (56%), with 38% saying they are exploring new markets, 26% are working to diversify their business and a further 24% are getting cash flow in order. 29% of Irish SMEs are however not planning on taking any steps in advance of the March 2019 Brexit deadline.

The SME Confidence Tracker, produced by Bibby Financial Services Ireland, is a national survey of over 200 small and medium sized enterprises across the Republic of Ireland.

The survey also found that almost half (48%) of SMEs saw sales grow in the period of July to September 2018 and a very encouraging 65% expect to see their sales increase over the final three months of the year. A quarter (26%) of SMEs are forecasting sales to remain the same over the next three months.

71% of Irish SMEs utilise on external finance, with more than half (62%) relying on to manage their cash flow. 58% utilise existing company finances and 28% and 25% respectively depend on credit cards and personal savings.

The average number of days for Irish SME’s to receive payment is 33 days and almost a third of SMEs (32%) suffered from bad debt over the past 12 months.

Mark O’Rourke, Managing Director at Bibby Financial Services Ireland, says:

“Our research shows many positive economic indicators and it’s very encouraging to see Irish SMEs investing in growth and development again.  Despite concerns around the knock-on effect of Brexit, there are some constructive efforts taking place within Irish business, which indicates confidence and a healthy economy for the remainder of 2018. 

One factor that is very clear from this research, is that Irish SMEs are feeling exposed and would like more support from the government. As we approach the end of 2018, we are facing into a number of unknowns economically, namely the UK’s exit from the EU, cash flow issues that SMEs are still facing, the rising costs of running a business in Ireland and other political factors from Europe.

The government currently has a number of initiatives in place to help SMEs in advance of Brexit including the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland’s Brexit Loan Scheme. The many Irish SME’s facing challenges with funding are perhaps not fully aware of the broad range of funding options available even though many funding solutions, including invoice financing, are far more suited to their needs than traditional lending options. As financiers, we need to ensure that Irish SMEs understand the options available to them.”

Bibby Financial Services Ireland is a leading provider of financial support and funding solutions to Irish SMEs. The company helps businesses to thrive and grow in domestic and international markets by providing bespoke financial assistance and a wide range of specialist and working capital funding options.

A member of the Asset Based Finance Association, Bibby Financial Services Ireland’s funding portfolio includes invoice discounting, factoring, export finance, foreign exchange services and specialist funding for a range of sectors.

Bibby Financial Services Ireland is part of Bibby Financial Services Group, an independent financial services partner to over 10,000 businesses across 14 countries. The Irish operation was established in 2006 and has an expert team of 30 employees based in Sandyford, Dublin.


The SME Confidence Tracker is a composite index based on SME sales performance over the past three months and expected sales performance over the following three-month period.  The SME Confidence Index for 2018 Q3 is 73. Respondent businesses have an average of 22 employees and operate in wholesale / retail, manufacturing, construction, transport, and services sectors. Research was conducted from 16th August to 28th September 2018 by Critical Research and 200 telephone interviews were undertaken.

Posted on 1 November 2018

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