TradeConnect Musings – The mutually beneficial and symbiotic relationship of SMEs and Corporates

TradeConnect Musings – The mutually beneficial and symbiotic relationship of SMEs and Corporates


GlobalLinker Staff

GlobalLinker Staff

240 week ago — 6 min read

In 2019, Singapore FinTech Festival created a special SME track to support and bring together SMEs from around the World. The power of the SMEs was being recognized by the largest fintech festival in the world. TradeConnect, SME learn and cross border trade meetup, was hosted within the SME track at Singapore FinTech Festival. The 3-day event, which was interspersed with networking dinners, SME meetups, and conversations with industry thought leaders, gave 120+ delegates an opportunity to learn from the best, connect with business owners and explore opportunities to grow.

Let’s delve into some of these conversations here.


The golden age for SMEs in the words of Edwin Bautista

Edwin Bautista, CEO and President of the UnionBank of Philippines (UBP) shared the many ways why this as a great time to be an SME. He said walking around the Singapore Finetch Festival, you could feel the excitement of many companies working towards providing financial services to companies big and small. SMEs today have alternative ways to access credit. This was not the case 20 years ago where credit was hard to get and sometimes even harder to pay back. Also, SMEs do not need to to be very big in order to automate. Today automation comes in smaller more affordable units like accounting / HR software, ERP systems, etc. They are able to short circuit the process of growth faster than the SME from 20 years ago.  But most importantly, today SMEs have access to global markets thanks to digital platforms like GlobalLinker and Business Sans Borders. The access to the world is on their fingertips and the SMEs are taking this opportunity with both their hands by harnessing technology, thinking big and thinking global. Thus, digitisation is inevitable. 

The SMEs of course could not have done this without the help of the corporates, and for the corporates, SMEs are a big segment to service and profit from.

Corporates and SMEs – A mutually beneficial symbiotic relationship

Satyam Agrawal, Head of Retail Business Banking from HSBC HK, spoke about the need for a mutual relationship. Neither the corporates nor the SME can work in silos. Although for a long time, the SME segment has been underserved but it is this same segment which will help communities grow and prosper. The banks need SMEs to digitise so they can reach the SME in cost -effective ways, use their data to understand them and serve their needs better. But the SMEs who are also very smart are asking the big benefit question, which is ‘why should we digitise’?

This thought was expanded by Debarun Roy Choudhury, Group Head, UOB BizSmart, Group Retail - United Overseas Bankwho said it is extremely important for banks, digital platforms and enablers is to stay relevant to the SMEs. They need to provide SMEs areas where either they can save cost, grow their market or be operationally efficient. And in that process help the SMEs through their digital journey to become better businesses. It’s not digital for the sake of digital, it’s for digital to be able to provide enhanced value in running businesses and advancing and growing markets, for our SMEs, which they may not be able to do on their own. So providing a value proposition that helps them enhance their business remains critical and providing the right support framework for them to use these solutions properly and not just for the business owner but also for his employees, who are really his key assets, makes a huge difference.

You first, no you first!

John Cary L Ong, Executive Vice President, UnionBank of the Philippines rightly said “Remember that technology is the great equalisier. Never in the history of man has an SME been empowered with so much technology. Please use it and leverage on it and definitely you can compete with the big boys," Matthew Gamser, CEO, SME Finance Forum reminded everyone that it’s not just the SMEs that need to adapt. The big companies, the banks, corporations need to do just as much adapting and learn of ways to service this segment. And in fact, it is the agility of the SMEs that big corporates should be learning about too.

SMEs will go the extra mile, will corporates?

A prophesy made by Edwin Bautista, is exciting and already becoming a reality. Edwin has rightly predicted that SMEs, 10 years from now, will always support that partner (UBP, GlobalLinker, etc) which helped them digitise and provide them with an opportunity to access the global markets. And this loyalty is what corporates should be looking at building and harnessing. Because when you build one successful entrepreneur, you also encourage 5 others. And those become your clients too. We have seen this prophesy come true with many GlobalLinker members and SMEs who will go that extra mile for those who helped them. After all, the journey no longer needs to be lonely and hard.

Join us next year at TradeConnect 2020 to learn, connect and grow. See you then!


Also read: Highlights of TradeConnect 2019 in Singapore


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GlobalLinker Staff

We are a team of experienced industry professionals committed to sharing our knowledge and skills with small & medium enterprises.