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COVID-19 and international banking stalls NZ business global expansion

By Shannon Williams
Wed 12 Jan 2022

New Zealand businesses have global ambitions but COVID-19 and international payments are the most significant barriers to expanding overseas, according to new research by Wise Business.
 
The new research from Wise Business, which saw YouGov poll more than 4,800 MSMBs across the world, found that half of all New Zealand MSMBs operate internationally, slightly more than the global average of 46%.

In addition, 17% of Kiwi MSMBs reported ambitions to expand internationally within the next five years.

The research considered the state of small and medium-sized businesses operating abroad, classed as micro-multinationals - and found that almost half of all micro-multinationals, have had to cancel or put international expansion on hold due to the pandemic.

Interestingly, more than half of New Zealand's MSMBs, who reported feeling prevented or discouraged from either venturing or further expanding overseas, cited the cost and complexity of international banking as a major deterrent.

Wise New Zealand country manager, Tristan Dakin, says that the findings are unsurprising.

"For most business owners, they use their bank to manage currencies, handle foreign exchange rates, set up foreign bank accounts, and pay invoices," he says.

"They deserve support - not slow services, hidden fees and endless friction."

 Dakin says it is not a problem unique to New Zealand.

"International banking is a struggle for small businesses across the world. In fact, payment related factors came out on top in all the countries surveyed, with the exception of Japan," he says.

"The data shows us that most micro-multinationals rely on bank transfers or card payments with banks for sending or receiving international payments because it is easier to stick to the same provider for both domestic and internal payments. Businesses all over the world are simply pouring their money down the drain in unnecessary fees."

The COVID-19 pandemic has shone a light on how embracing and adapting technological tools can help small businesses navigate the pandemic, but most are still using old, outdated systems for international payments and banking.

The research found that 20% of Kiwi micro-multinationals use banks because they are not aware, or don'/t know enough about, digital services or payment providers.

"The old world of international banking is slow, costly, opaque - and still dominant. We know that small businesses seldom have the time or resources to compare payment providers, particularly when these options can seem confusing," Dakin says.

"And yet, it's our small business community that has the most to gain from the time and cost savings provided by modern payment methods - for whom expanding abroad can be the difference between flourishing and folding.

"At Wise, we believe small and medium-sized businesses deserve better - that they should have the opportunity to become a micro-multinational, without a broken system getting in the way."

Wise Business provides an alternative to traditional providers. Businesses can send money abroad for a small, up-front fee, with no fee hidden in the exchange rate - and 40% of all payments arrive instantly. Business-friendly features include Wises local account details, which save businesses having to open bank accounts in other countries.

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