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The future looks bright for UK and Nordic SMEs, reveals Azets inaugural SME Barometer




  • Adapting to a post-Covid world is SMEs’ biggest opportunity and threat
  • SMEs in the Nordics notably appear much more alert to the opportunity – and necessity – of digitalisation and automation than those in the UK
  • 87% of UK SMEs expect to be trading in a year’s time
  • 73% of UK SMEs with staff on furlough intend to bring back all staff from furlough 
  • Over half of UK SMEs expect their profits to increase
  • 60% of UK SMEs intend to invest over the next year and only 20% intend to borrow
  • More than two-thirds (68%) of the businesses that responded to our survey say they expect the economy to improve in the next 12 months
  • 56% of our SMEs will invest in their business in the next 12 months

Azets, one of the largest accountancy and business advisors to SMEs across the Nordics and the UK, has today launched its inaugural SME Barometer findings. 


As Europe went into lockdown last year, governments stepped in to support businesses during the pandemic. Sentiment among SMEs is a valuable indicator of economic confidence. So, as we emerge from the worst of the pandemic and lockdown restrictions, it is encouraging to see that they are overall positive about the prospects for economic recovery.

The research, which surveyed 760 Azets SME clients across the UK and the Nordics (401 in the UK), revealed that despite the economy, Covid-19 and competition ranking in the top three threats for UK SMEs, 68% feel positive about the UK’s economic outlook over the next 12 months and over half (56%) expect their profits to increase. Brexit remains firmly on the agenda in all regions outside London and South East where it was named as the third biggest threat.

SMEs in Finland, Denmark and Sweden are particularly optimistic; their counterparts in the UK and Norway slightly less so. Zooming in further, we found some variations in attitudes by industry, too. Businesses in the professional services and technology sectors, which have been relatively resilient, are more positive about the outlook than those in retail, hospitality, leisure and transport, which were hit harder.

Size is also a factor and we take careful note that micro-businesses generally are feeling slightly less confident. Nearly a quarter of them (24%) expect the economy to do worse, compared to just 11% of medium-sized businesses.

There are further positive signs for SME growth and jobs with over half (56%) expecting to recruit more staff over the next year and 60% intending to invest over the next year.

Chris Horne, Group CEO of Azets, concluded:

“Our first SME barometer was conducted against an unusual backdrop. After a year of deep crisis and upheaval; with the vaccination programme accelerating across Europe and lockdown restrictions beginning to ease, the prospect of an economic recovery feels within our grasp. At the same time, plenty of uncertainty remains. Our research highlighted a stubborn optimism among SMEs about the prospects of recovery, coupled with a pragmatic awareness of the need to adapt to the ‘new normal’ post-covid. 

“The biggest opportunity and biggest threat for SMEs is adapting their post Covid business model using technology and flexible working. Those who get this transition right will be in a better position to survive and thrive. Given the importance of ensuring that the SME sector continues to adapt and prosper as the economy recovers, these findings point to areas where further government policies are vital in delivering the support businesses need post Covid and post-brexit, right across the UK.”

You can downoad the SME Barometer Report below:









If you would like to read the report in one of the Nordic languages, please find it here: