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Bounce back Britain – 80% of UK SMEs confident they will recover from Covid despite gloomy economic forecast

18th August 2020

  • Two thirds (68%) of SMEs believe they will return to pre-Covid levels as early as 2021

  • Two in five (39%) firms have changed their business line to adapt to the crisis

  • SMEs have also faced huge personal sacrifices, with a third (30%) of owners ploughing their personal funds into their businesses to keep them afloat

  • Two thirds (66%) believe their mental health has suffered as a result of the pandemic impacting their business

18 August 2020: Four in five (80%) UK SMEs are confident they will recover from Covid, according to research from digital bank Starling and the Great British Entrepreneur Awards (GBEA).

The survey of more than 300 UK SMEs across a range of sectors also found that two thirds (68%) of the business owners questioned believe they will return to pre-Covid levels or better by 2021.

Despite last week’s warning from the Chancellor Rishi Sunak of hard economic times ahead, the findings suggest that many SMEs are feeling positive about the future and their ability to bounce back. Their outlook also appears to be improving as lockdown continues to ease, with three quarters (75%) of business owners saying they feel more confident than they did a month ago.

One factor potentially playing a part in this sentiment is the adaptability of SMEs, with nearly two in five (39%) firms changing their line of business to survive the impact of the pandemic. Of this group, many have shifted their business model by going online, prioritising digital products and setting up delivery services. One farmer even demonstrated their entrepreneurial flair by setting up a ‘Goats for Zoom calls’ service which allowed customers to ‘hire’ goats to appear in their work video calls. It has raked in more than £20,000.

However, there is no doubt that Covid-19 has been a deeply worrying time for SMEs. One in five (20%) business owners said they have considered closing as a result of the pandemic and nearly two thirds (63%) have seen a decline in revenue, with 19% making no profit at all during lockdown. The research also shows that many business owners have had to make tough decisions during the crisis, with a third (30%) using their own money to keep the business afloat and a similar number (33%) being forced to furlough staff. More than a fifth (21%) are not confident they can pay their bills each month.

It’s clear that these pressures are taking their toll on business owners, with two thirds (66%) saying their mental health has suffered as a result of the pandemic impacting their business.

Anne Boden, Founder and Chief Executive of Starling Bank, said: “Small businesses are essential to the nation’s efforts to build back the economy as we emerge from the coronavirus crisis. Despite the challenging conditions they face, it’s heartening to see that many are proving so adaptable and resilient.”

Francesca James, GBEA Founder, said: “Despite the disruption caused by Covid-19 and the emergence of a radically altered landscape, I’ve been inspired by the innovation, spirit and tenacity of the entrepreneurs we work with in coping with this unprecedented situation.

However, it’s been a deeply troubling time for so many SMEs and they need support now more than ever to create the wealth and jobs that are needed over the next few months.”

Notes to editors

Survey methodology:

  • 314 SME owners participated in the survey. The majority of respondents were either sole traders or owners of businesses with 1-50 employees.

  • The findings are based on survey results taken between 27 July and 13 August 2020.

  • The survey was distributed amongst GBEA’s membership and Starling’s SME account holders.

About Starling Bank

Starling Bank is a digital bank based in the UK. Its banking app offers personal, business, joint and euro, USD current accounts on Android and iOS. The Starling Marketplace offers customers in-app access to a selection of third-party financial services. Starling also offers B2B banking and payments services. Headquartered in London, with offices in Southampton and Cardiff, Starling is a fully licensed and regulated bank, founded in 2014.


The Great British Entrepreneur Awards & Community is a portfolio of products, events and initiatives designed to support entrepreneurs and their ventures.

Founded in 2013, the Great British Entrepreneur Awards acknowledges the hard work and inspiring stories of entrepreneurs and businesses in the United Kingdom.

The Awards have celebrated some outstanding entrepreneurs who have gone on to become household names.

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