North West firms lack skills to combat cybercrime, says new study

According to Lloyds Bank’s latest Business Digital Index, businesses have stepped up their protection against cyber threats – but huge skills gaps remain. Tony McDonough reports

hacking, cyber crime
Cyber crime is an ever-growing threat to businesses


Firms in Merseyside and across the North West remain vulnerable to cyber attacks, a new study reveals.

According to Lloyds Bank’s latest Business Digital Index (BDI), businesses in the region have stepped up their protection against cyber threats in 2019, but more than half of all firms in the region still lack the full set of essential digital skills.

The annual report, the largest of its kind into digital skills, polled 1,500 small businesses across the UK, with more than 100 from the North West. The report combines survey data with businesses’ transactional data to understand their digital behaviours and intentions.

The security index for the region, which outlines whether firms are protecting themselves against hackers and fraudsters, shot up by 13 points on last year to 50. An index reading of zero indicates a lack of online cybersecurity capabilities while a reading of 100 shows robust defensive measures are in place.

The region’s businesses also have a higher-than-average interest in security. Four in five have already invested in their cyber security skills, or are planning to in future, compared with 78% nationally.

But despite these advances in cyber security, a lack of essential digital skills could be hampering opportunities to boost sales or productivity. More than half of North West firms lack the full range of skills, compared with the national average of 44%.

North West businesses had the highest appetite to build their digital strategy and leadership skills of any region outside London, with 55% either having done so already or with plans to do so in future. This compared with 44% nationally.

The region also outperformed the UK average for having skills in social media and marketing (57%, two points above UK average) and customer data analytics (42%, one point above UK average), and was just below average on search engine optimisation (49%, two points below UK average).

Elyn Corfield, Lloyds Banking Group’s ambassador for the North West, said: “Cyber-attacks have become ever more prevalent and the destructive damage they cause can have long lasting effects. So, it’s fantastic to see North West firms increasing their cyber security skills to help combat this.

“However, with more than half of all businesses in the region lacking the full range of essential digital skills, many are still missing out on a huge opportunity. Our research found that an average small business in the UK with strong digital skills and behaviours earned around £260,000 more a year than one without. This is money that could be spent on hiring more staff, training employees and growing the business.”

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