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Small Business Ecosystems: Banks’ Next Challenge

There’s a big world beyond core banking services. But do banks have the credibility and the right partners?

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It’s not easy for small companies to grind through the basic operations of running a business. Owners and managers spend substantial time navigating separate platforms for banking, enterprise resource planning, human resources and other activities, each with its own spreadsheets of critical information. Retail merchants must sell through multiple channels, including the online platforms offered by the Rakutens, Alibabas and Amazons of the world. And small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) selling online are heavy users of payments technology.

How can bankers help contain this sprawl? They can devise a simple, easy-to-use package that would integrate banking functions with, say, an external partner’s accounting and payroll software. Integrated technology packages could hold great appeal for SMEs, allowing banks to pursue new business models that would strengthen and expand their role with smaller business customers.

SMEs also look for advice and support at transitional moments such as making acquisitions or starting to export. By offering value-added services that address SMEs’ broader needs, banks can position themselves at the center of an ecosystem of interconnected services. Potential services include sales planning, pricing, procurement, accounting and reporting, payroll, staff management, payments, and liquidity management.