Singapore SMEs lagging behind digital economy transition - QBE

Many firms are hesitant or unsure how to adopt digital technologies in their business, survey reveals

Singapore SMEs lagging behind digital economy transition - QBE

Insurance News

By Gabriel Olano

Singaporean small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are slow to adopt digital technologies and are inadequately prepared for the national transition to a digital economy, according to research by QBE.

The insurer’s fourth annual survey of Singapore SMEs revealed that these businesses are hesitant or unable to implement cyber protection measures and digital payment offerings, as well as to take advantage of government support for digitalisation.

While SMEs have indicated that they are concerned about security, fraud, and cyberattacks, QBE found that around a quarter of surveyed firms had no internal processes or policies to protect themselves from such risks – a figure that rises to one-third when looking only at smaller-sized SMEs. This is in spite of an uptick in national-level incidents in the past year, with 90% of SMEs admitting to being aware of possible cyber risks.

Four in 10 (40%) of SMEs said that the high cost of investment was the primary reason why they are unable to digitalise or increase their current level of digitalisation. Other reasons cited were lack of digital skills within their businesses and lack of financing and funds.

There is also a disconnect between awareness and uptake of government support programmes for digitalisation, with the survey finding that 65% of SMEs are aware of the various forms of government support available to help businesses digitalise - only 30% are utilising the support.

Some SMEs have indicated a resistance to cashless payments, with almost a quarter (24%) of firms saying they preferred the traditional ways of cash and cheques, despite the Singaporean government’s push to reduce reliance on these older payment methods. Out of the 71% of SMEs that were aware of the PayNow Corporate peer-to-peer payment platform, only 26% of firms have used it.

Almost 10% of respondents were unwilling to use PayNow Corporate, while 29% were undecided. The main reason behind this was fear of the platform being insecure and vulnerable to hacking, QBE found.

“SMEs form 99% of Singapore’s businesses,” said Karl Hamann, CEO of QBE Insurance Singapore. “It is important that they continue to align to the overall economic direction for Singapore set by the government. While many are still showing hesitance towards digitisation, they should tap on resources available to help smoothen their transition to the digital economy.

“In turn, insurers must also see themselves as part of the digital revolution. In partnering with local

SMEs to underwrite risks specific to digital vulnerabilities, we can help quicken the pace of technological adoption throughout Singapore’s most dominant business community.”

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