Two thirds of UK firms say they are confident on three-year business growth plans

  • Two thirds (65%) of firms are confident their businesses will grow over the next three years; more than a quarter (28%) are very confident
  • The latest Santander Trade Barometer1 found greater confidence among firms that export: 66% compared to 61% for firms that are just focused on the UK
  • More than half (52%) of firms that describe themselves as ‘international’ say their business has improved over the past year

Two thirds (65%) of UK businesses surveyed for the latest Santander Trade Barometer1 are confident their business will grow over the next three years; of this, more than a quarter (28%) said there were ‘very’ confident. Just 10% were pessimistic. Four-fifths (80%) of respondents said they were looking at hiring new staff, three-quarters (75%) were actively looking at product development, and two-thirds (65%) at purchasing new equipment.

In addition, the Santander Trade Barometer found greater confidence among firms that export and trade internationally: 66% of businesses that describe themselves as ‘international’ were confident in terms of three-year growth compared to 61% for firms that are just focused on the domestic UK market.

Firms that export are also more ambitious than purely domestic businesses when measured against key indicators such as investing in product development and expanding abroad. Two thirds (66%) of UK-only firms said they were actively looking at product development, for instance, compared to 79% of internationally focused ones.

More than half (52%) of firms that describe themselves as ‘international’ also said their business has improved over the past year. The top two reasons given for this growth were new clients (cited by 61% of respondents) and greater efficiencies in their international operations (31%).

Asked what the main barriers to international expansion were, UK-only firms cited the need to build a strong domestic base first as the key reason (79%). This was followed by obtaining reliable foreign representation (76%), identifying foreign business opportunities (75%), and limited information on overseas markets (74%). Other key reasons were a shortage of working capital to finance exports (70%) and an inability to contact potential overseas customers (70%).

John Carroll, Head of Products and International Business, ‎Santander UK, said: “It’s extremely encouraging that a large majority of the UK’s SMEs and large corporations are predicting strong growth over the next three years. This is great news for the UK economy, particularly given the bullish sentiment towards hiring new staff and indicators such as new product development.

“We know from experience that firms that export and trade internationally tend to be more confident and benefit from additional opportunities. We are uniquely placed to support businesses’ aspirations for growth and expansion with tools such as our Trade Portal, Trade Club and International desk directors. Santander has a strong international presence thanks to its extensive global network in 10 major markets and more than 12,000 branches worldwide and a network of international alliance partners.

“Through our Trade Missions we are giving businesses of all sizes the chance to make connections that will unlock these global opportunities to export and trade internationally. We believe passionately there should be no barriers to international expansion.”

To read more about our Trade Barometer or opportunities for international expansion, visit our website or contact

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Notes to Editors
1 H1 2018 Santander Trade Barometer surveyed 1,075 UK businesses between Dec 7th, 2017 and January 15th, 2018 via an online methodology. Sample weighted using BvD ORBIS database to derive regional and sector counts for international SMEs. Research conducted by EQuant Analytics

Santander UK is a financial services provider in the UK that offers a wide range of personal and commercial financial products and services. It has brought real competition to the UK, through its innovative products for retail customers and relationship banking model for UK SMEs. At 31 December 2017, the bank serves around 14 million active customers with c19,500 employees and operates through 806 branches (which includes 61 university branches) and 64 regional Corporate Business Centres. Santander UK is subject to the full supervision of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) in the UK. Santander UK plc customers are protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) in the UK.

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Banco Santander (SAN SM, STD US, BNC LN) is a leading retail and commercial bank, founded in 1857 and headquartered in Spain. It has a meaningful market share in 10 core countries in Europe and the Americas, and is the largest bank in the euro zone by market capitalization. At the end of 2017, Banco Santander had EUR 986 billion in customer funds (deposits and mutual funds), 133 million customers, 13,700 branches and 200,000 employees. Banco Santander made attributable profit of EUR 6,619 million in 2017, an increase of 7% compared to the previous year.

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