The newly-launched OCBC SME Index (SMEI) is the first data-driven SME-focused index in Singapore based on the transactional data of 100,000 of OCBC’s SME customers with annual sales turnover of up to $30 million. The index is derived from a composite of indicators including collections, payments, cash flow and operating transactions of the SMEs with OCBC.  

SMEs are an important component of the Singapore economy, accounting for 43% of nominal value-add, 70% of employment and 99% of all enterprises in 2020 according to the Department of Statistics.

“The data goes back to 2012 so the first instance of y-o-y data is 1Q2013, and the data is back tested all the way to 2013. The correlation with GDP is 0.82 for the eight year period,” says Linus Goh, Head, Global Commercial Banking, OCBC Bank.

The OCBC SMEI is centred on a score of 50 which represents zero change in the inputs from a year ago. A score above 50 signifies improved health and a score of below 50 shows a deterioration relative to the same period a year ago.  

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In 1Q2021, SME collections from sales and payments were 5% and 4% higher respectively y-o-y, and the proportion of SMEs with positive net cashflow improved through the year and ended at the pre-Circuit Breaker level of 1Q2020.

Among the sectors, the Healthcare industry consistently performed better than the OCBC SME Index across the past 5 quarters. The OCBC SMEI Healthcare value chain exceeded 50 in 3Q 2020 buoyed by Distribution and R&D which were resilient due to the strong demand for general healthcare and Covid-19 related supplies. 


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Transport & Storage turned expansionary in 4Q2020 and continued its positive momentum in 1Q2021, lifted by trade and e-commerce in Land Transport and Freight Forwarders. 

The index for the F&B sub-industry Food Services, which includes restaurants, cafes, fast food, pubs and cooked food stalls, rose to 50.8 in 1Q2021, breaking 50 for the first time since 4Q2019. It reached a low of 35.2 in 2Q 2020, the lowest of any sub-industry during the pandemic, with adverse impact from the restrictions during Circuit Breaker. The growth in this sub-industry pushed the wider industry index for F&B to 51.3 in 1Q2021.

“As an SME banker we would draw learnings and share these with customers, and tailor products for customers,” Goh says.

As for the next few months, the laggards could recover. “Industries to watch for are construction, retail, tourism, and travel-related. We are looking here for signals for a recovery from the low of 2Q2020,” Goh indicates. "These are, in general. sectors due for a K-shaped recovery."