Lending A Hand In Good And Bad Times
Supporting our customers when the going gets tough is good business in the long run.
Author: Joyce Tee, Managing Director and Group Head, DBS SME Banking
As an SME banker at DBS, I get a pretty good feel of what's happening on the ground with our local businesses. And this year the picture has not been a pretty one.
The stories I have been hearing from our SME customers and BusinessClass members all have a familiar ring to them. A sluggish global economy, high operating costs and a difficult labour market means that many businesses are suffering; especially those in industries such as manufacturing, retail and F&B.
Unsurprisingly, with no light at the end of the tunnel more SMEs are feeling that things are only going to get worse; some may even decide to throw in the towel.
After six straight years of optimism, a measure of SME sentiment hit a new low recently. The SBF-DP SME Index fell 1.1 points to 50.0, which indicates that the respondents did not expect to achieve any growth in the first six months of 2016. This situation is unlikely to change anytime soon.
We are seeing this distress first hand as many of our customers were having difficulties meeting the minimum balance in their business accounts.
I made the decision to introduce a new digital account with no minimum balance required. During these tough times, businesses need to keep their cash flow as healthy as possible or risk going bust.
The new digital account also supports SMEs by encouraging them to transact online in order to make their banking a fuss-free affair. This allows them to focus on the important task of growing their businesses.
I learnt how tough starting and running your own business could be early on in life. As a young girl I would help my father sell pens and lighters by standing on a box and hawking them to passers-by. Later on, I helped him sell radios and electronic equipment and even diversified into music cassettes with his blessing. At university, my father's business went bankrupt and I had to work to pay for my university education.
These experiences helped me to better understand the stress that many entrepreneurs go through. I always believe you should treat your customers the way you want to be treated, and I would have welcomed any form of support back then.
With a similar goal in mind, we recently launched an initiative known as DBS Techmatch that aims to match SMEs with technology solutions that can help them with their business problems. This could be in inventory management, customer relationship management or other areas.
Techmatch came about as a natural extension of our existing resources. On the one hand, DBS has a large pool of SME customers, and on the other, we have access to a network of global technology solutions providers through our DBS accelerator programme, Venture Debt team and our DBS BusinessClass network of members.
We then leverage our arsenal of tools to help SMEs take full advantage of these partnerships, such as helping them apply for SPRING Singapore's Capabilities Development Grant or funding them through our Business Capabilities Loan or Venture Debt.
Techmatch is yet another way to support our SMEs as they look for ways to use technology to overcome the challenges they face.
Over the longer term, this is win-win situation for both DBS and the SME community here.
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