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A card up their sleeve

A card up their sleeve
The Business Times

SINGAPORE - Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) may usually be short on cash and resources, but they have a frequently untapped tool that can multiply the limited resources available to them: electronic card payment methods.

This is especially so as SMEs seek more bang for the buck in an increasingly challenging environment, and also venture overseas for a larger market, says MasterCard Singapore general manager Julienne Loh.

"We've seen some distinct changes within the SME sector in recent years," says Ms Loh.

"In Singapore, the profit margins are all being squeezed, and the costs of goods are getting higher and higher, particularly for labour."

At the same time, SMEs have become more aware of available business solutions and hold higher expectations of those that they are willing to accept, she says. "They are now hungrier for robust solutions that give them greater efficiencies."

SMEs want cards that not just enable them to pay for items on overseas business trips or to order goods from e-commerce suppliers, but also give them perks such as reward points or discounts with certain vendors, Ms Loh adds.

While more well-known for its personal card services, New-York listed MasterCard also provides the technology and network for corporate debit and credit cards, as well as electronic payment services between businesses.

The firm processed 27.3 billion transactions globally in 2011, an increase of 18.3 per cent from 2010. Revenue from Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa grew 30.1 per cent to US$805 billion (S$999 billion)in 2011.

Its commercial payments segment - comprising corporates and SMEs - made up about 10 per cent of global business volume by dollar amount, but has been growing at a faster rate than that of its consumer business, says Ms Loh.

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