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Nearly half of all UK SMEs believe technology is more important to their business than people 

New research from Yorkshire Bank, part of CYBG plc, reveals that 46% of small business owners believe technology is more important to their business than people. London tops the rankings with the highest figure of all UK cities with 56%. It also shows that high-growth businesses* are more likely to be tech-driven, with 71% finding technology to be a key driver for growth.

The findings come from the third wave of data released from a unique piece of research from Yorkshire Bank – Expect More – which takes into account the attitudes and opinions of 2,000 small business owners and entrepreneurs from a range of sectors in the UK’s 10 largest cities. The research compares insights into work-life balance, growth ambitions, innovation, dynamism and diversity.

Regional differences are clear in the results, which find Birmingham (64%), Leeds and Edinburgh (62%) leading the way as the cities in the UK where technology is a key driver of growth. Birmingham is also the city where business owners are actively investing the most in technology, followed by London and Edinburgh.

Not only are successful high-growth businesses the most tech-driven, they are also the most aware of their impact on the environment, contradicting conventional wisdom that green concerns often work against profits. Successful high-growth businesses are the most tech-driven, but also are the most aware of their impact on the environment. 57% of high-growth businesses care deeply about the impact of their environmental footprint, compared to the average of 44%.

Similarly, the majority (56%) of high-growth businesses actively review their impact on the environment, compared to an average of 42% across the small businesses surveyed. Regionally, findings show that more small enterprises in Manchester (56%) care about the impact their business has on the environment than anywhere else.

The study also hints that technology may be the winning factor for SMEs when trying to secure funding, with 36% of tech-led businesses** finding it easy to access funding for growth – only 19% of the rest of the businesses feel the same. In addition, nine in ten tech-led businesses have tried to access funding, compared to 80% of the rest, showing that more tech-led businesses are taking advantage of funding opportunities and being proactive with regards to growth.

Gavin Opperman, Group Banking Business Director, CYBG, said ‘’Technology is disrupting many different aspects of our lives, and it is truly revolutionising the way we work. The rise of e-commerce in particular is enabling SMEs to access markets they may never have been able to reach previously. It therefore doesn’t surprise me that high-growth businesses are more likely to be driven by tech. We’ve seen a huge adoption in the SME world of many technologies from digital marketing and social media to AI and the IoT. 5G is set to push boundaries and assist a wide range of interconnected devices, which will include everything from company cars to the office environment. 

“However, we shouldn’t forget the importance of people in a digital economy. It is the personal element that helps to build a rapport, creating the long-standing relationships necessary for a trusting and efficient connection between business and customer. It is clear that technology can open so many doors and help businesses take that extra step in their growth plans and it is great to see so many UK SMEs embracing this. As a bank we don’t underestimate the balance between tech and people.”

Commenting on the research findings, Angela McClelland, Co-Founder of The Extraordinary Club, a company committed to the growth of creative industries, said, “Technology of course helps with digital skills, productivity and processes within the workplace, but I don’t think we should lose focus on the importance and power that people have. People and tech need to be complementary. Tech-led businesses are pushing boundaries with regards to innovation, products and services, and that’s exciting from an investment point of view.”