Catch up on the big issues in this week’s Small Business Bites. We cut through the noise to dig out stories that really matter to UK small business owners, from the last month. Here’s our roundup of things you need to know.
Cyber attacks on individual businesses doubled during 2016
Each UK business was the subject of, on average, 230,000 cyber attacks over the course of 2016, claims a report by internet service provider, Beaming. The trend in attacks shifted from company databases early in 2016, to various systems that can be remotely controlled via the internet, such as security cameras and building control systems.
One of the biggest trends that Beaming identified was the 310% rise in the number of attacks on Internet of Things devices from the start to the finish of the year. Another strong trend was the overseas sources of the attacks – just 2% originated from within the UK.
Sonia Blizzard, Beaming’s managing director, said: “There are many more elements involved in cybercrime than a year ago. They are launching more sophisticated attacks on UK businesses and covering their tracks carefully.
“The majority of internet cyber attacks are computer scripts that search the web for weaknesses and probe firewalls constantly for a way in. With the Internet of Things, businesses are punching holes in their own firewalls to provide suppliers with access to devices on their networks. This can open the door to criminals too if not done properly.”
Blizzard goes on to say: “Any business that is connected to the internet needs to take responsibility for cyber security at board level and ensure they are doing everything they can to ensure they don’t expose their people, assets, customers and business partners to greater risk. A modest investment in next generation firewalls, unified threat management devices and intrusion detection makes a lot of sense for most businesses today.
47% of SMEs say advice from their bank has had a negative impact on business
New research from Amicus Commercial Finance suggests that almost half of small and medium sized businesses have received advice from a major bank that has had a detrimental effect on their business. One in six of these respondents say that their business is now in a worse position as a direct consequence of the advice.
In addition, the research shows that over half (52%) of the respondents had ignored advice from major banks in 2016, and that 40% do not rate the banks’ services as ‘good’. Two of the most dissatisfied regions appear to be the West Midlands, with 65% of respondents saying that they wouldn’t describe their bank as helpful, and Yorkshire, where 63% of respondents wouldn’t describe their bank as ‘flexible’.
John Wilde, managing director of Amicus Commercial Finance, said: “The research shows a worrying trend of business advice from mainstream banks being rejected or taken on board with negative consequences for SMEs.
“There is a growing divide between the level of business service and the flexibility required by business owners and the advice being offered by mainstream banks. As working capital and cash flow are, by their very nature, dynamic, most traditional mainstream systems have failed to keep pace over the last few years.’
Natwest says more SMEs are asking about export opportunities
It seems that not all SMEs mistrust their banks. With Brexit creeping closer, more businesses are asking about export opportunities, says Natwest’s managing director for business and private banking, Marcelino Castrillo.
Speaking to Business Insider UK, Castrillo said: “They want to know how to trade internationally a bit more, those who don’t already.”
After becoming Prime Minister, Theresa May created the Department for International Trade, and has prioritised trade agreements with nations outside of the EU. Helping British businesses to export is a clear part of her Brexit strategy, and Natwest have been running workshops to help businesses come to terms with a post-Brexit economic environment.
Castrillo said: “I think there is a role to actually helping small businesses through the practicalities of what trading traditionally applies We need to find role models in the communities who are willing to spend time with those businesses and really facilitate that practical experience as to how you do it.”
Castrillo also spoke about the fallout from negative press around Natwest’s parent company, RBS: “We were quite decisive to acknowledge that, with hindsight, there were some things we regretted having done, in terms of perhaps not giving enough guidance to business with regards to why they were going to GRG and some of the complex fee structures, which we have agreed to refund our customers.
“We didn’t really see any issue with our small business customers. What they really see is the day-to-day value and the willingness to lend. That was the old bank, as opposed to the new bank. From our side, I think it is [over].”