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Financial inclusion for Europe’s SMEs

Building a circle of Trust

The story of financial inclusion among Europe’s sMEs is a complex one. As we discuss in this paper, there are plenty of support mechanisms available, but what they offer falls within very narrow parameters and is not necessarily what SMEs need or indeed want.

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While policy-makers and financial institutions discuss access to flexible funding mechanisms, many traditional institutions remain averse to providing merchant accounts to sole traders, extending credit to small businesses, or simply providing basic business bank accounts. This is despite the size of the opportunity. There are more than 24 million SMEs in Europe. They make up more than 99% of all the region’s businesses, account for two thirds of all employment, and contribute more than half of all business turnover in the non-financial business sector. In 2016, the value add generated by all SMEs totalled €4,030 billion, which represents 56.8% of total European value added that year.

Not everybody is behind the curve. In March 2019, paypal announced that its working capital programme had provided £1 billion in cash advances to UK small businesses against future online sales and had increased the upper limit for advances in response to demand for this alternative form of finance.