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A wide breadth of professional advice and support is used by internationalising SMEs, who tend to reach out to different sources as they move along their internationalisation journeys. Government or relevant public agencies (39%) are the most widely used source of professional advice, closely followed by lawyers (35%) and then banks (33%).

Accountants are most likely to be used by SMEs when looking for support on international tax, regulatory compliance, foreign exchange and accessing external finance.

bar chart illustrating twhere SMEs are most likely to obtain international advice. Data source, international trade survey ACCA 2018. Data as follows: accelerator or incubator programme 6%, financial adviser 16%, management consultant 20%, trade association 23%, accountant 23%, industry event 32%, bank 33%, lawyer 35%, government 39%

The diversification question: do practices stick or twist?

Many SMPs are considering their own future strategic direction as new technologies, growing competition and deregulation threaten their existing business models. Some practices see it as a high risk to change a proven business model, but international trade is an area that could lead to new service provision.

And the evidence is pointing in that direction:

  • more SMEs are participating in international trade thanks to developments in value chains, e-commerce and other technologies
  • SMPs are already leaders in the delivery of professional advice 

Understanding the SMEs

However, for those practices interested in offering additional international advisory provision, they first need to understand how SMEs value relevant advice.

Our research found that there is a wide range of reasons for why SMEs participate in international markets:

  • 45% - accessing new customers in foreign markets
  • 35% - increased profitability
  • 33% - faster business growth
  • 30% - accessing new business networks

Meanwhile, foreign regulations were frequently cited by SMEs and practices as among the most significant barriers towards internationalising.

ACCA author - Ben Baruch

Four imperatives for practices wanting to offer additional international support to their clients

Graphic explaining the four imperatives for practices wanting to offer international support to their clients. The four imperatives are: adopt a strategic mindset, specialisation is key, expand your international network, and invest in professional development.

When looking to offer international advisory services, SMPs can gradually adapt their business models. However, this requires practices to use resources more efficiently, proactively expand their external networks and think strategically about which specific client services will generate demand.