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U.S. Businesses Set Sights on Expansion Despite Economic Uncertainty

  • US SMEs remain motivated to expand internationally in 2023, mapping out plans for growth
  • Investing in talent retention seen as critical driver for SME growth
  • SMEs rely on strong financial infrastructures to facilitate international growth

A recent study by global fintech platform Airwallex revealed that small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) businesses in the U.S. plan to expand in 2023. While the pandemic and uncertain market conditions have impacted many businesses this year, a vast majority of SMEs (82%) still plan to expand into new markets and are mapping out their strategies to do so successfully.

The independent research, which recently surveyed 1000 US SME decision makers, considered where and how they are planning to invest resources and grow their operations abroad in 2023 and beyond.

Growth opportunities seen in NA, Europe and the UK/Ireland

Of the SMEs who plan to expand in the year ahead, 41% plan to stay closer to home, and only expand in North America. UK/Ireland (27%) and Western Europe (24%) are also target destinations for expansion for next year.

When asked what is most critical to their business expansion, 82% of respondents said that maintaining current talent is a crucial strategy to support future growth plans, with many prioritizing employee retention. Ways to retain employees include increasing salaries (44%), providing better benefits (43%), and investing in career training and development (41%).

In addition to talent retention, the survey also highlighted the top strategies U.S. businesses are leaning on to enable a successful expansion. 43% said marketing initiatives were a key strategy for growth, followed by 40% who cited hiring and talent as critical. Winning customers (39%), starting new partnerships (36%) and identifying new suppliers (36%) were all noted as indicators to support their business expansion.

Accelerated adoption of fintech as businesses modernize the way they operate

Accelerating the move to digital solutions and fintech is high on the priority list of companies wanting to expand globally after recognizing that their current solutions are not up for the task. Many SMEs around the world recognize the several pain points of moving money and making payments across borders through a system that is often costly and slow, with little transparency during the process.

The data shows that many U.S. SMEs are now considering digital and fintech solutions to overcome those hurdles, with 91% of them saying they would consider a digital/fintech solution over traditional banking services.

Additionally, for businesses considering expansion nearly half (46%) of SMEs feel they do not have an adequate financial infrastructure in place to do so. However, research also found that businesses are looking to make the shift towards digital platforms with 78% of respondents saying they believe a fintech platform would be helpful in managing international growth - clearly demonstrating the strong trend toward fintech over traditional banking solutions.

“It has been a challenging few months for businesses in the U.S. and globally as they maneuver through a volatile economic climate,” said Ravi Adusumilli, Airwallex, GM of the Americas and Head of Partnerships. “SMEs are key contributors to the U.S. economy and the survey findings clearly demonstrate the need to find better solutions to encourage their growth, remove friction, facilitate expansion, and ensure success in the long term.”

“Seamless technology will also continue to play a key role in enabling innovative change by creating faster, safer, and more convenient solutions for those looking to do business internationally,” adds Ravi. “At Airwallex, we’re focused on helping organizations realize new growth opportunities and we’re doing this by offering embedded finance and customized API solutions that enable companies of all sizes to scale at pace. Together with our global payments and proprietary infrastructure, we are empowering businesses to pursue their ambitions and grow beyond borders."

The recent survey also revealed how these organizations intend to grow, with 54% looking to investments from VC, angel and crowdfunding, followed by 49% citing through partners and affiliates, and 43% electing to reinvest profits.

High marks for job satisfaction and productivity in remote work

Recent reports have cited “The Great Resignation” as an ongoing economic trend of employees leaving their jobs during the past few years. Survey findings, however, found that 52% plan to stay at their company, with the top three reasons being ‘job enjoyment’ at 64%, followed by ‘like working with their teams’ at 50% and 49% noting that they have a high level of job satisfaction.

23% of respondents said they will look for another job in the next 7-10 months. When asked why they would leave, the highest percentage, 43% said they would leave for better opportunities elsewhere; 30% said time for a change; 24% had no reason, and 23% saying their company was not growing. The survey also found that remote work has proven successful, with 50% feeling just as productive, 34% more productive and only 10% feeling less productive.

“Our people are our greatest assets at Airwallex. We are committed to supporting the needs of our growing team across the globe, and are continuing to hire across all teams and levels,” said Adusumilli. “Working in a start-up environment can be especially grueling, and we want to ensure our team is appreciated, passionate about their work, and excited about our mission to help companies extend their reach across the globe. We do this by creating an environment of creativity, support, and teamwork.”

Founded in Melbourne, Australia in 2015, Airwallex is a fast-growing global fintech platform. The company first launched in North America in August 2021, at the height of the pandemic. It was this time when Airwallex saw the opportunity to support businesses in the U.S. in need of cross-border payment and finance solutions, and saw a more than 200% increase in customer growth. Most recently the company was also named the US Fintech Awards’ “Startup of the Year”.


This survey from Airwallex - carried out by Censuswide between September 11th - 17th 2022 - surveyed over 1,000 business decision makers in US SMEs (companies with 50-500 employees).

About Airwallex

Airwallex is the leading financial technology platform for modern businesses growing beyond borders. With one of the world’s most powerful payments and banking infrastructure, our technology empowers businesses of all sizes to accept payments, move money globally, and simplify their financial operations in a single platform. Established in 2015 in Melbourne, Australia, our purpose is to connect entrepreneurs, business builders, makers and creators with opportunities in every corner of the world. Today, Airwallex has a global footprint across Asia-Pacific, Europe, and North America. Find out more at





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