Treasury Management Internation Logo

Late payments put a quarter of UK SMEs at risk of insolvency

Published 
  • Half of all invoices are overdue, study shows

LONDON: Nearly a quarter of all small and medium sized businesses in the UK are facing a potential financial crisis due to late payment of invoices, according to newly-published research.

The average SME is owed £40,857 in unpaid invoices, a survey by Tungsten Corporation revealed, with £20,937 of that total overdue.

When applied across the UK’s 5.2 million SMEs, the total owed could be as much as £212 billion.

Richard Hurwitz, CEO at Tungsten, said: “These figures are a telling reminder of the challenges faced by SMEs in this country. An unpaid invoice can mean the difference between a successful month of trading and a dangerous financial shortfall. In the worst case it could lead to insolvency.”

Of the 1,000 companies surveyed, 23 per cent responded that late payments have put them at risk of closure. The issue was most acute in the technology sector, where almost a third of all businesses (32%) had been impacted financially by late payments from customers.

The survey results suggest that the issue spans customer sizes and types, with 22 per cent of those surveyed saying most of their late payments were from large businesses, 11 per cent pointing to medium-sized firms and eight per cent identifying the public sector as being responsible for late payments. Some 33 per cent of businesses surveyed said that there was no clear pattern.

Hurwitz continued: “The creation of the new role of Small Business Commissioner shows that the government is taking the problem seriously, but it’s clear that there’s work still to be done to ensure that SMEs are paid in a timely fashion.”

“There are many reasons for late payment. Sometimes buyers will wait until the last day before the invoice is due only to tell their supplier that it is missing vital information. This creates unnecessary delays. Advances in technology mean that many payments can now be processed electronically, which ensures invoices have all the necessary information, but e-invoicing was only used by a quarter of the small businesses we spoke to.

“Late payment is a problem to which there are simple, effective solutions,” Hurwitz added. “If companies adopt a modern approach and investigate alternative finance options, coupled with ongoing government support, we can make these business practices a thing of the past.”

Most recent episodes

HSBC’s Sibos Spotlight: Investing in the Future – from Diversity to Green Deposits

In the final instalment of HSBC’s Sibos Spotlight, Eleanor Hill (TMI) invites Nadine Lagarmitte and Suraj Kalati (HSBC) to consider how corporates’ attitudes to...

25:12

HSBC’s Sibos Spotlight: The ESG Landscape – what every treasurer needs to know

In the third edition of HSBC’s Sibos Spotlight Podcast series, TMI’s Eleanor Hill invites Farnam Bidgoli (HSBC) to provide an in-depth overview of the current ESG...

16:24

The Path to Transformational Global Cash Visibility

Davina Bradley (CEVA Logistics) and Conor Deegan (CashAnalytics) join TMI’s Eleanor Hill to explore how treasurers can transform their cash visibility and forecasting within their business in a matter of weeks using a...

33:16

HSBC’s Sibos Spotlight: Embedding ESG in Trade and Supply Chains

In the second podcast from HSBC’s Sibos Spotlight series, TMI’s Eleanor Hill speaks to Surath Sengupta (HSBC) about embedding ESG into trade and supply chains....

20:58

Lost in Transaction: Overcoming Payments Pitfalls

From simple errors to duplicates, fraud and sanctions violations, there are a number of areas where payments can go wrong – especially in the real-time environment. In this podcast, TMI speaks to Andrew Ferrao...

34:25

HSBC's Sibos Spotlight: Central Bank Digital Currencies

The first edition of HSBC’s Sibos Spotlight series sees TMI’s Eleanor Hill joined by Mark Williamson and James Pomeroy (HSBC) to discuss the hot topic of Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs). Our guests discuss...

25:48

Payments Vision 2025: The Inside Track

Wim Grosemans, Steven Lenaerts (BNP Paribas) and Wim Raymaekers (SWIFT) join TMI’s Eleanor Hill to outline their vision for the payments landscape in 2025. Our guests consider how recent developments such as instant...

28:21

Stepping Out from the Shadows

“Treasurers needs to step out of the shadows and into the sunshine in terms of their strategic contribution.” claims Zitah McMillan, Co-Founder and CEO, Predictive Black. In this podcast, hosted by TMI’s Eleanor Hill, our guest declares that the...

16:54

Why the ‘One Size Fits All’ Approach is Outdated - A Cash Segmentation Treasury Masterclass

With the ongoing low interest-rate environment and increasing regulatory change, it’s more important than ever for treasurers...

23:55

Instant Payments: Instant Rewards

TMI’s Eleanor Hill sits down in the virtual TreasuryCast studio with J.P. Morgan’s Global Head of Real-Time Payments, Cyrus Bhathawalla, to discuss how treasurers can capitalise on the evolving nature of real-time payments. Our guest contemplates the elements...

23:55