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As a nation with a relatively smaller domestic population, Singapore businesses have always thrived on being able to enter global markets. This ongoing trend of internationalisation is largely driven by Singapore’s advancements in innovation. Lazada, TWG, Razer and BreadTalk are examples of successful businesses. With the spread of innovation and knowledge democratised through technology, internationalisation is no longer dominated by larger corporations.In fact, SMEs are now going global at a faster pace than ever. According to the Singapore Business Federation (SBF) National Business Survey 2017/2018, companies engaged in overseas business activity has risen to an all-time high (83 per cent), and this mostly consists of SMEs. This can be attributed to the efforts of the Singapore government where Enterprise Singapore offers programmes such as the Market Readiness Assistance grant and Enterprise Development Grant.

Going Global: SME working capital financing for cross-border trade

Despite this trend, SMEs are facing new challenges when entering the international arena. One of the biggest challenges they face is gaining access to additional working capital. According to the latest Singapore Working Capital Study by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC),medium-sized companies (with turnover of S$10 million to S$100 million) are struggling the most when managing their working capital. Hence international expansion will further strain their financial resources as keeping up with global payments are hard to manage and predict; financial institutions could also overlook the SME segment. To compound this problem, SMEs also face concerns on cross-border transaction fees, as well as foreign exchange rates.

SMEs need to resolve these issues to be able to compete globally and access new markets. Traditional versions of trade finance that have worked well for larger corporations are not very accessible for SMEs. Therefore, at the intersection of internationalisation and access to financial resources abroad, SMEs are looking for new options. This pertinent need will be driving a revolution in how cross-border payments and trade finance are done.

Emergence of online FX and remittance solutions

Bank transfers, SWIFT charges, andFX markups have typically been a pain, but with newer web-based solutions, SMEs have more clarity on how much to send, the speed of transfer, as well as the best FX rates. Because they are technology-enabled businesses, they are more scalable to best serve SMEs and are not as afraid to put forward the best rates. Market leaders such as Transferwise, Airwallex and Instarem are already available for most currencies, and other more niche platforms may provide favourable rates for currencies channels that they specialise in.

While this may not solve the financing aspect of cross border trade entirely, it does segment and simplify the problem by focusing solely on the FX. This allows SMEs to work on solving working capital concerns from a more domestic perspective, instead of having to tackle both FX and financing at the same time.

Increasing ease of access with global accounts

Another option for more globally minded SMEs comes in the form of global accounts. There are two variations of this service: 1) Service providers offer a multi-currency domestic account allowing businesses to transact multiple types of currencies from one location such as Revolut or DBS; and 2) help companies set up foreign accounts in other  locations (US, UK, HK, etc.) in a more decentralised method, like Payoneer.

The former option is more suited for businesses that do not foresee too much expansion in other locations or have many currencies to deal with, whereas the latter can facilitate growth in new regions with a dedicated account in that location. Having access to global accounts gives you flexibility in obtaining finances in a specific currency that is needed, whether it’s from a domestic or foreign financial institution.

Alternative payment financings

There are ways to find sources of financing that will allow someone to pay on behalf of the SME when performing purchases overseas. Historically, banks and bigger financial institutions offer this type of service, which would be considered as a trade finance credit.Getting access to the credit, however, can be difficult depending on the assessment of the current financial status, amount, collateral and guarantees, all of which could make the process very complicated for SMEs. In recent years technology has allowed the source of these funds to come from newer, more accessible sources. For example, peer-to-peer lending can now be applied to cross-border trade financing.

In addition, SMEs can now directly use existing credit cards to pay globally, regardless of whether the recipient can accept this payment mode. This allows for seamless, secure and instant cross-border payments using interest-free credit for up to 58 days, without having to negotiate with banks for FX or suppliers for longer payment terms.

Driven by the need arising from a changing SME landscape, alternate businesses models and financial technology are re-shaping payments services and trade financing for more globally minded businesses. Traditional payment methods such as direct bank transfers and collateral based trade credits are gradually falling in popularity as newer solutions come to market (even beyond what is mentioned here), offering simpler, cheaper and safer global commercial transaction methods.

If you want to know more about working capital, download our working capital calculator here.

放眼全球:中小企籌組營運資金作跨境貿易之用

儘管如此,中小企在走進國際舞台時仍然面對很多新的挑戰。其中一項最大的挑戰是尋找門路以獲取額外的營運資金。根據羅兵咸永道會計師事務所(PwC)最新做的新加坡營運資本研究報告,中型企業(營業額為1千萬新加坡元至1億新加坡元)在管理它們的營運資金時是最苦惱的一群。因此,擴充業務的國際版圖將進一步令他們的財政資源顯得緊拙,因為要做到全球支付在管理和預測上都是困難的;金融機構也往往會忽視中小企這板塊。同時中小企更要關注跨境交易費用以及外匯匯率等煩惱,均令問題加劇。

中小企需要解決這些問題方能在環球市場上保持競爭力並且開拓新市場。傳統的貿易融資對大型企業來說非常湊效,但對中小企來說這未必是一條可行的門路。因此,在步向國際化和尋求海外融資方案的十字路口,中小企正在尋找新的出路。這種相關需求將帶動一輪改革,令跨境支付和貿易融資出現新景象。

網上兌換外匯和匯款方案的興起

銀行轉賬、國際匯款收費和兌換外匯時支付的溢價通常都令人感到頭痛,但隨著網絡方案推陳出新,中小企可以更清楚了解匯款時的實際金額、轉賬速度以及最佳的外匯匯價。因為這些網絡方案的供應商都是技術型企業,它們可以說是較容易擴展到支援中小企,並且無懼以最優惠的價格為它們提供優質服務。 Transferwise,Airwallex和Instarem等具市場領導地位的企業,它們的服務範圍已經涵蓋大多數的貨幣,而坊間一些較專門的平台甚至會為他們重點使用的貨幣提供較優惠的利率作為交易渠道。

雖然這可能無法完全解決跨境貿易的融資問題,但專注解決兌換外匯一環確實令問題得以分類和簡化。這樣,中小企業就能夠加強力度,在國內的層面尋求解決營運資金問題的方法,而不必同時解決外匯和融資兩大難題。

環球賬戶接通世界

對於具全球化思維的中小企來說,另一個選擇是開立環球賬戶。這項服務有兩種不同做法︰1)服務供應商會在國內為你提供一個具多種外幣的綜合賬戶,允許企業從一個地方(如Revolut或DBS)處理多種貨幣;2)它們會幫助企業以較分散的方式於國外其他地方(美國、英國、香港等)開立外幣賬戶,如Payoneer。

兩項選擇中,前者較適合那些預計不會在海外其他地方大規模擴展業務或有多種貨幣需要處理的企業,而後者則適合想在新市場中大展拳腳的企業,讓它們能運用當地貨幣融入新的市場。透過環球賬戶這渠道,不論是循經國內抑或是國外的金融機構,你都可以靈活地取得特定貨幣應付所需。

其他應付開支的借貸方案

坊間有另外一些借貸融資途徑允許其他人代表中小企當它們在海外進行採購時代為支付費用。以往銀行和大型金融機構都有提供這類服務,這類服務被視為貿易信貸的一種。然而,申請信貸要就企業當前的財務狀況、貸款金額、抵押品和擔保等作評估,這些申請過程對中小企來說都非常複雜,令獲取信貸變成一項艱鉅任務。近年來,科技進步促使企業可以從新興的途徑更容易獲取資金。例如︰朋輩間點對點的貸款現在亦可以應用於跨境貿易融資之上。

除此之外,中小企業現在可以直接使用現有的信用卡在全球任何一個角落繳款,不論收款人是否接受這種付款方式均無問題。付款人在無需與銀行就外匯匯價進行協商或與供應商周旋於付款寬限期的情況下,即可享最長58天免息信用額,以最直接、安全和即時的方法進行跨境支付。

中小企的領域不斷變化,在它們的需求帶動下,另類的營運模式和金融技術應運而生,為有意開拓環球市場的企業重塑新的支付方式和貿易融資方案。傳統的支付方式,如直接從銀行轉賬和以抵押品換取貿易信貸等方法都不再像舊日般備受吹捧,隨著市場出現新的方案(甚至超出此處提到的範圍),更簡單、更便宜和更安全的全球商業交易方法將大行其道。

如果你想知道更多關於營運資金的資訊,請在此下載我們的營運資金計算器。

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