Closure in 2023 feared by 70% of SMEs due to rising costs, survey finds

More than 40% of Irish SMEs say rising business costs or economic turbulence pose biggest threat

Seven out of 10 Irish small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) fear closure next year in the face of rising business costs, according to new research.

The study by global fintech group Wise Business, which polled 250 SMEs across the Republic, found 76 per cent of businesses believe the banking sector requires greater competition to meet their needs.

The research also showed more than two-thirds of SMEs believe there is a “possibility” they will have to shut next year, while nearly half (48 per cent) said it was at least a “moderate risk”. Just one in three said they were in no doubt as to their survival.

More than 40 per cent of Irish SMEs said rising business costs or economic turbulence represent the greatest challenge to their business, with 86 per cent concerned by rising costs.


Nearly two-thirds (62 per cent) are investing in or expanding their online presence. More than half (56 per cent) are planning to expand abroad, either by finding international customers, hiring overseas staff or sourcing from international suppliers.

Expansion hurdles

However, their international expansion faces hurdles. Of those not currently operating overseas, almost half (43 per cent) said they do not have the capital or investment needed to expand abroad.

More than three-quarters of businesses said the banking sector requires greater competition, while 57 per cent said their growth was restricted by poor banking solutions.

Of those that do not operate abroad, 16 per cent said the cost of banks’ international services deterred them from international expansion, while 11 per cent said these services’ inconvenience had put them off.

Almost all SMEs cited frustrations when using banks’ international banking services – while almost a third (32 per cent) complained of the complexity and speed of these services, and more than a quarter (27 per cent) said fees are either too high or too confusing.

Clara Nobre, head of Wise Business, said Irish SMEs need a greater level of support from their banks. “This year has been tough for SMEs, and next year looks set to be similarly challenging,” she said.

“The rising costs of business are creating real pressure on many brilliant businesses’ bottom lines. However, SMEs are resilient and innovative – which is why so many are looking overseas.

“Overseas expansion can offer brilliant opportunities. But Ireland’s SMEs need support, not least from their bank. For too long, banks have only offered inefficient, overpriced international banking services.”

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson is an Irish Times reporter