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By Liubov Danylina Sales Director, Acting Country Manager for Ukraine – Payoneer

The human impact of war is devastating and the war in Ukraine has been no different. It is through difficult times like this that the country’s digital business and freelance community have needed the support of the fintech industry. Whilst it may seem like the last thing on people’s minds, being able to continue to do business is crucial way to support the communities of Ukraine.

Operating under the shadow of war unsurprisingly, has a huge impact on business. However, we recently polled over 4,000 of our customers in Ukraine and found an astonishing amount of resilience. 70% of Ukrainian SMBs are continuing to operate during the conflict, with 63% of businesses able to retain most, if not all, of their staff and 38% of Ukrainian SMBs intending to hire more staff this year. The message from the business community is clear, they are looking beyond the struggle and want to continue to do business. In the current situation, this demonstrates an unbelievable level of determination and that should be met with an equal level of effort by the fintech sector.

Financial services companies have a responsibility to enable these businesses and individuals to continue operating and providing services to customers across the world. Our role as enablers of global digital commerce is never more important than in times of crisis. Making cross-border payments as quick and easy as possible is a crucial way in which we can help to drive growth for these businesses and support them. Ukraine has a vibrant freelance community and a maturing fintech market which means that thankfully when traditional finance becomes a challenge, businesses can continue to pay and be paid.

In volatile markets where business operations are subjected to crises, finding a reliable means of accessing the global market is key to survival. When unprecedented events threaten markets, fintech companies can move quickly to address the reduction of mobility gaps, both social and economic, and facilitate immediate financial support during times of crises. For example, after the outbreak of war, The Ministry of Social Policy of Ukraine introduced eDopomoga, a platform allowing donors from around the world to make an online donation which can then be turned into grocery vouchers for Ukrainian citizens in need of basic supplies. This is a perfect example of the power of digital payments in times of crisis.

Fintech also provides a huge opportunity for developing nations with limited access to traditional methods of banking to be included in a global trading network. In these markets, accessing the digital economy via traditional banking methods often entails a disproportionate cost, less competitive interest rates and fewer digital services. This can price out small businesses in these less mature markets. The only pre-requisite for payment technology is access to digital networks, and with over 4 billion mobile phone users in the world[1], the digital gap is closing. This presents opportunities to drive digital commerce and soften the impact of borders for SMEs, facilitating an inclusive global environment that is helping all businesses grow.

Even in leading markets such as China, we’ve witnessed the transformational impact of digital commerce for independently owned SMBs. Fintech products such as Yu’ebao have been integral to the country’s recovery from financial recession. When harnessed correctly, these solutions can level the playing field by enabling SMBs in the remotest parts of the world to access a global marketplace through an easily accessible online platform.

Collaboration between new technology companies and long-established financial institutions will be key in enabling businesses to flourish in more complex markets. When it comes to global payments, fintech companies have been built with globalisation at their heart and therefore can work seamlessly across borders. The ecosystem should work in close partnership with banks and established financial institutions in the region to make the processes as easy as possible for small business owners who are already time poor and often under immense stress.

Recent economic shocks have underlined the key role played by SMBs in economic development and global market recovery. These companies create jobs, nurture local economies and support communities. Our recent research into the state of e-commerce merchants in the UK showed that 36% of small-medium e-commerce merchants believe their number of employees will grow over the next twelve months. It is, therefore, key that we give these businesses the platform to flourish. A barrier for SMBs is financing growth and this is something fintechs are addressing. Previously, for businesses to receive adequate funding they were faced with rigorous in-person application processes, often resulting in fund refusal. But new technology has facilitated online lending and innovative digital-first cash flow solutions, simplifying and accelerating the process for smaller businesses to access capital funding.

The interconnected nature of global digital commerce today means that global events which previously brought businesses to a standstill, no longer stop them from reaching customers. In markets such as Ukraine, where businesses are going through crisis, digital finance is ensuring trade can continue. Fintech has been key in ensuring Ukrainian businesses can continue to operate as they look to survive unprecedented disruption to their operations. As businesses show remarkable resilience, the fintech sector must work to ensure their global prospects are not confined by geo-political circumstance or local economic opportunity.


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