Already we are seeing business models adapt to immediate areas of concern, as well as reposition for what will be the ‘new normal’. One sector that has had to radically adapt a centuries old model has been education. The industry was required to evolve overnight with huge pressure from parents and students. But the industry has reacted impressively, especially when you consider how long it has run on an easily repeatable formula, with very little upheaval. Its future will embrace soft skills and industry skills alongside core STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects. Future skills, including financial literacy and capability, have long been a focus for HSBC, where we have supported leading educational organisations and government ministries across the Middle East.
Another area of society that has faced the challenge of overnight adaption is the small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) sector. The entrepreneurs and companies in this sector are often the very definition of community-focused businesses and, with communities in virtual lockdown, have found themselves with an urgent need to pivot their business models. Doing so requires not just financial support and the loyalty and consideration of customers, but also a willingness to hear that there may be different ways for a business to meet customer needs. The global lockdown is helping shape that conversation – one that HSBC has been part of for quite some time.
We’ve responded in this region by increasing the support to our entrepreneur-targeted programmes, such as the Social Impact Accelerator (C3) and the TiE Mentorship Programme, by supporting a shift to virtual sessions. This development has allowed us to increase our number of participants as well as the one-to-one time we have with the entrepreneurs we support – even though that means through webcam. We’ve also been offering tailored sessions on how to manage cash flow in such challenging times, to help give entrepreneurs the best guidance possible to chart the right course.