After a year of high profile instances of online crime, new survey findings have found the threat of cyber attacks to be among the greatest business fears for the year ahead.
For its annual SME Hopes and Fears Index, researchers at Barclays Business Banking asked decision makers at small UK firms which factors they believed would help or hinder growth in 2018.
Overall, small business owners remained split on whether 2018 will be a year of opportunity or challenges, with 46 per cent expecting positive growth and 49 per cent braced for difficult times. A closer look at the responses revealed which areas owners were keeping an eye on.
Only inflation was believed to pose a greater threat to business growth than cyber attacks, and online crime was cited ahead of both economic uncertainty and low consumer spending power as a danger to small firms.
Cybercrime in 2017?
Throughout 2017, hackers showed greater sophistication in their methods and capabilities. This was demonstrated in the ransomware attack on the NHS in May, and a subsequent breach of parliamentary IT networks.
The increased threat of cyber attacks is also set to create a surge in demand for cyber security workers in 2018, with recruitment experts predicting labour market availability will fall short of demand among employers.
Meanwhile, a recent parliamentary report identified at least two million instances of online fraud in 2016, making it now the most prevalent type of crime in England and Wales.
In the same survey taken ahead of 2017, cybercrime did not feature anywhere in the top five business fears of entrepreneurs.
Factorsowners expect to hinder growth in 2018
1 (43 per cent)
2 (41 per cent)
State of the UK economy
3 (40 per cent)
Fraudsters targeting my business
4 (39 per cent)
Price inflation outpacing wage rises
5 (36 per cent)
In terms of where business owners were positive, greater demand for goods and services among UK consumers and availability of better technology were expected to help firms prosper in 2018.
Factorsowners believe will have a positive impact on growth in 2018
1 (50 per cent)
Availability of better technology
2 (48 per cent)
3 (42 per cent)
Investment in the local area
4 (34 per cent)
International marketing opportunities
5 (28 per cent)?
Commenting on the findings, Ian Rand, Barclays Business Banking CEO, said: The research reflects small businesses being empowered by new technology and ecommerce. Compared with a year ago, more think these developments will have a positive impact on their business.
inflation is clearly a worry, and in particular the potential for prices to rise faster than wages. Business owners are clearly taking a prudent and cautious approach to the year ahead. However, there are positive signs of SMEs investing more and hiring more staff.
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