Group note, Zurich, October 14, 2014

SMEs globally see mixed opportunities for growth

New customer segments and cost/expense reduction are the most commonly identified opportunities for small and medium sized businesses globally in the Zurich 2014 SME Survey, but there is considerable variation across countries and regions.

As in 2013, small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) in most countries surveyed identified new customer segments and cost/expense reduction as the biggest opportunities at the present time. Zurich’s recent SME survey presented a mixed picture, however, with neither of these opportunities ranking in the top in Hong Kong, Malaysia and Taiwan, where diversification of product range or services is seen as the main opportunity.

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Many businesses also see expansion into foreign markets as another opportunity, particularly in the Hong Kong (20%), Morocco (26%), Taiwan (23%) and Turkey (27%). However, even in these countries foreign expansion is not as attractive as it was in 2013. SMEs in Europe (12%) and Latin America (9%) had little appetite for discovering new markets outside of their home countries.

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Attractive credit terms and acquisition of competitors were seen as offering big opportunities in Brazil and Italy but barely registered in Asia Pacific. Moreover, “no opportunities are foreseen for my business at present” was one of the top three mentions in  Australia, Brazil, Ireland, Malaysia, Taiwan, UAE and UK. 

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Meanwhile, regulatory/legislation change was considered to be one of the top opportunities in Austria, Germany and Italy , but one of the least mentioned in Ireland, Mexico, South Africa, Switzerland and  UAE. \nMike Kerner, Zurich’s CEO General Insurance, said: “The diversity of opportunities identified by small and medium sized companies around the world highlights just how much the strategic drivers for these companies may differ. Identifying these differences is key to developing a holistic understanding of the challenges these companies face and delivering products and solutions to help them achieve their business objectives.” 

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In September 2014, Zurich published survey data showing that SMEs were generally more optimistic, with one in five around the world increasing wages and every sixth adding staff in the previous 12 months. That study revealed a strong emphasis on increasing market share and diversifying products and service offerings, while fewer than 5% of companies had considered closing down and only about 6% cutting back their activities.

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Further information

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Zurich’s second annual SME survey was carried out by research company GfK. The leaders of 3,800 small and medium sized enterprises (0 to 250 full-time employees) around the world were asked to identify up to three opportunities for their business in 2014. A representative sample of 200 CEO/owners, general managers, CFO/treasurers, COO/head of operations from each of the following 19 countries were included: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, and the UK. Zurich and GfK continue to monitor SMEs to understand how they are managing the challenges they face and expect to publish further reports in the near future.

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Zurich Insurance Group (Zurich) is a leading multi-line insurer that serves its customers in global and local markets. With more than 55,000 employees, it provides a wide range of general insurance and life insurance products and services. Zurich’s customers include individuals, small businesses, and mid-sized and large companies, including multinational corporations, in more than 170 countries. The Group is headquartered in Zurich, Switzerland, where it was founded in 1872. The holding company, Zurich Insurance Group Ltd (ZURN), is listed on the SIX Swiss Exchange and has a level I American Depositary Receipt (ZURVY) program, which is traded over-the-counter on OTCQX. Further information about Zurich is available at www.zurich.com.

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Zurich Insurance Group (Zurich) is a leading multi-line insurer that serves its customers in global and local markets. With more than 55,000 employees, it provides a wide range of general insurance and life insurance products and services. Zurich’s customers include individuals, small businesses, and mid-sized and large companies, including multinational corporations, in more than 170 countries. The Group is headquartered in Zurich, Switzerland, where it was founded in 1872. The holding company, Zurich Insurance Group Ltd (ZURN), is listed on the SIX Swiss Exchange and has a level I American Depositary Receipt (ZURVY) program, which is traded over-the-counter on OTCQX. Further information about Zurich is available at www.zurich.com.

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