The Zurich UK Commercial/Insurance Times SME survey reveals SMEs are worried about late payment and the internet. But safety concerns are waning

Twelve months have passed since the last survey was reported and we are now able to make true comparisons between the results. 2001 proved to be a difficult year for all businesses and these results provide the first indication of what effect this has had on SMEs

Key messages from quarter one, 2002:

  • 80% of small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) believe their markets are more competitive than they were six months ago. This is higher than at any time during 2001

  • One in three companies feels the increase in competitiveness is due to the number of new entrants to the market. Price wars are an ongoing concern with 21% of companies feeling under pressure to bring prices down

  • The problem of red tape is still an issue for 63% of companies questioned in quarter one of 2002, compared to 55% 12 months ago

  • A further concern for SMEs is late payment of bills, one in five companies thinks this issue has worsened over the last year, compared to one in ten this time last year

  • Concern over legislation has reduced over the last 12 months. In quarter one of 2001, 53% of companies were concerned about health and safety legislation, whereas the latest figure is 41%

  • The internet and e-business has failed to make the anticipated impact on SMEs, with only 32% feeling it had brought major benefits to their businesses, while 61% believe the impact of e-business has been exaggerated