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Harnessing the horsepower: working with banks to make exports happen

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London financial district

What’s the connection between UK Export Finance (UKEF), UK banks and an Ancient Greek engineer? Well, when Archimedes said Give me a place to stand, and I shall move the world’ over 2,000 years ago, he could have been talking about us! We have to leverage existing support – harness the horsepower – if we’re going to help more UK exporters.

Working with relationship managers

UKEF has potential leverage in the form of our bank client relationship managers (RMs). These RMs hold the banking relationship with our exporters, providing them with services ranging from current accounts and cash management to trade finance and investment banking products.

An RM looking after small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) might have up to 200 customers. At the FTSE 100 level, it could be just 1 or 2 accounts. But, whatever end of the market they’re working in, all RMs need to understand their clients’ needs, quickly identify any potential obstacles and be ready to offer the right solutions.

We rely heavily on our partners to ensure export financing happens. An RM’s toolkit can contain up to 100 products. If the RM isn’t familiar with what we do it’s easier for them to point to other options, like loans or overdrafts, which might not be best for the exporter. It’s so important that every RM knows exactly what UKEF can offer.

How can we make it happen?

We have to be front of mind when RMs are speaking to their clients and evaluating their needs. But it’s not straightforward. RMs change jobs and are replaced, they move to new locations and take on different responsibilities. Building and maintaining this knowledge of our products is a constant undertaking.

What have we done?

Our Head of Communications, Kristian Hibberd, and I met the senior leadership of all the UK banks to secure their support. They know that using UKEF products can help improve revenue, boost returns and increase customer satisfaction. With senior management on side, we sat down with product, communications and marketing teams from the major banks to make sure bank RMs were connected with our regional network of export finance managers.

A common approach

We agreed on some common approaches in certain sectors and pledged to work together on communications, for example, on joint case studies, training materials and regular round table discussions. There’s no point in just sending out an email with set of slides attached once a year. This is a sustained commitment to knowledge-sharing.

We’re 2 months into the journey now and already seeing results. The number of meetings has increased (and they’re more successful). The show of support from senior managers at the banks has been extraordinary. To quote one, ‘They [UKEF] should be pushing at an open door with the trade managers and area directors. If UKEF get any resistance whatsoever, I want to know and I will sort it out.’ That kind of sponsorship from the banks is gold dust.

Cooperation between UKEF and the banks is crucial to the UK’s exporting success. Over the next few months I’ll share some more examples of what we’re doing to make it easier for exporters and businesses with export potential to find the finance they need.

Mike Newing is Head of UK Export Finance's network of export finance managers. Keep in touch. Sign up to email updates from this blog. Follow UKEF on Twitter or connect with us on LinkedIn.

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