One in five (21%) medium-sized businesses in the UK believe that automation will help them compete with larger rivals, according to research from international payments, treasury management and foreign exchange specialist Centtrip.

Seen as both a threat and opportunity, automation – the execution of a task or process without human assistance – is having a ripple effect across industries and companies. According to Centtrip’s study, nearly one in three (33%) medium-size businesses believe new technologies will save them “significant sums of money”, with almost three-quarters (74%) already using automation in some or all areas of their business.

The study of more than 500 decision makers has also identified that two in five medium-sized firms (42%) say automation would save them a significant amount of time and more than one-third (37%) agree that it would allow staff to focus more on strategy.Currently, larger firms are more likely than medium-sized companies to reap the benefits of automation fully, with 32% of large vs 24% of medium-sized firms using it throughout their business.

A report from the World Economic Forum suggests that while automation is likely to displace 75 million jobs, it will also create 133 million new ones that will be “more adapted to the new division of labour between humans, machines and algorithms.”

The Centtrip study is not aimed at either confirming or dispelling this forecast, but nearly one-quarter (23%) of businesses the fintech company interviewed said they would reduce their headcounts as they introduce more automated services. However, this also means that these firms may have to hire new staff with more specialist skills.

Brian Jamieson, CEO and co-founder of Centtrip, said: “Automation represents the onset of the digital revolution across sectors and industries. It is already transforming the way companies operate, boosting productivity and innovation in the fields that long relied on old-fashioned and often inefficient processes and systems. While potentially bearing considerable initial costs, once implemented, automated services have the potential to pave the way for smaller and medium-sized companies to catch up with their larger competitors that may employ more people and have better resources. This new level playing field is not only good for the wider economy, but also for customers as they have more choice of and access to better financial services.”