German SMEs most optimistic as international economy responds to Brexit

Bibby Financial Services finds that German SMEs are the most optimistic internationally, according to new research

  • German SMEs are the most confident with almost three-quarters (73%) stating their national economy is performing well, according to a new global business study
  • SMEs in Hong Kong are the least confident about local and global economies
  • Almost three-quarters (73%) of SMEs have concerns over the global economy

Germany’s small businesses are the most optimistic about their own economy according to the inaugural Global Business Monitor report from international business funder, Bibby Financial Services (BFS).

Nearly three-quarters (73%) of German SMEs say their national economy is performing well in the global study that surveyed business owners in the US, Germany, UK, Poland, Hong Kong and Ireland.

More than two thirds (67%) of Irish SMEs are confident about the local economy. German and Irish SMEs are also most confident about the future of their future prospects with 57% of SMEs in both markets expecting sales to grow in the year ahead.

Conversely, less than one in five businesses in Hong Kong (15%) say they are confident about their local economy, with less than a quarter (24%) expecting sales to increase in the next 12 months.

Steve Box, International CEO of Bibby Financial Services said: “Germany is often seen as the industrial beating heart of Europe. Our research underlines the confidence of the small businesses in Europe’s largest economy as the EU looks to agree its shape post Brexit.

“It is a different picture for the economy in Hong Kong where the majority of business owners are pessimistic about future sales and the local and global economies.”

The study reveals the sentiment of global SMEs in areas such as investment, confidence, challenges and opportunities, overseas trade and payment terms. In relation to international trade, findings show that small businesses in Hong Kong are three times as likely (69%) to export as those in the UK (22%) and seven times as likely as in the US (10%).

Steve added: “Due to its geographical location, Hong Kong is an important gateway to trading activities between China, the US and Europe. Its economy is highly export driven and this may explain why confidence is subdued during a time of economic change and significant currency fluctuation.”

Across the study, almost a quarter of businesses (24%) said that foreign exchange fluctuations are the biggest challenge they face in relation to international trade. For SMEs in Poland and Hong Kong, figures rose to 46% and 37% respectively.

Despite pockets of confidence in their local economies, the research reveals that nearly three-quarters (73%) of all SMEs have concerns about the global economy, with those in the US (83%) and Ireland (82%) the most concerned.

Steve concluded: “It’s clear that confidence in the global economy has suffered due to macro-economic and geo-political events in the last six months. The real question is for how long will confidence be affected?

“It is likely that the UK’s formal exit from the EU – commencing with the triggering of Article 50 by the end of March next year – will have further economic consequences that will be felt around the world.

“As the world shapes itself with a new US president and an EU without the UK, it is those small businesses that can adapt to changing domestic and international trading conditions that will be best placed to profit and grow in 2017.”

Other key findings of the Global Business Monitor report include:


  • Rising costs are a challenge for half of all SMEs surveyed (50%) – the most frequently cited.
  • One in five businesses describe the availability of finance as poor.


  • Despite concerns over the global economy, 95% of SMEs plan to invest in their business in the next 12 months, with staff training, promotional activity and technology the most popular areas.
  • SMEs in Germany and the US are most likely to invest (98%).

Payment terms

  • Irish SMEs wait longest for payment from customers (38 days) followed by those in Hong Kong (37 days).
  • In contrast, US SMEs are paid two weeks quicker (24 days).
  • Manufacturing (39 days) and construction (40 days) businesses typically wait longest for payment when compared to other industry sectors.

Posted on 2 November 2016

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