London, May 2017
In an increasingly volatile world some things remain the same
Globalisation as a concept may be on the wane in terms of popularity, but container ships will continue to cross the oceans laden with goods and raw materials. Bank Leumi (UK) plc's Head of Commercial Finance, Nicola South, explains why financing its customers’ trade cycles have always been, and always will be, fundamental to the Bank’s business.
It can take around 90 days for cargo to travel from China to the consumer. In that time governments can fall, companies can fail, trade agreements can be suspended and wars can break out. But that container full of timber, white goods, dried fruits or T-shirts will in all likelihood continue its progress from factory to warehouse in Shanghai, Shenzhen or Qingdao. From there, when its scheduled container ship arrives, it will be loaded to begin its month long journey by sea to Europe, offloaded on arrival at one of the UK’s specialist container ports, and onward through the supply chain eventually reaching an appropriate consumer outlet.
Bank Leumi (UK)'s Commercial Finance team is involved in the entire trade cycle for financing imports and exports; from manufacture to sale, helping UK businesses manage their working capital throughout the process and managing the transfer of ownership and risk against payment through letters of credit and bills of lading.
We have done this since the Bank was first established more than a century ago. We know that, whatever governments say or do, international trade will continue. Currencies will inevitably fluctuate and barriers to free trade will come and go, but people will continue to consume goods and foodstuffs from all corners of the globe. While shipping may be a constant, the cost of shipping is not. Sixty years ago, before shipping containers revolutionised the way cargo is transported, it took as long to load a ship as it did to sail it across the Atlantic. Costs were significantly higher. Back then, most products and foodstuffs were consumed in the domestic market of origin. Today, as much as 50% are exported.
The trend is only going in one direction. Voters may reject globalisation, but they continue to consume the products that globalisation brings them. Import duties might rise on goods, but the cost of transporting them continues to decrease and the rise of super-containers means that capacity is likely to always be available.
To us, at Bank Leumi, financing global trade is, by any measure, simply good business. Our long term commitment to international trade, and to those of our customers who are engaged in it is of major strategic importance to the Bank.
Whilst the basic techniques and instruments involved in the financing international trade have not changed a great deal over time there are always nuances to every transaction which are more easily addressed when there is a close relationship and understanding between bank and customer. And this is where we have the edge. Not only do we understand the specific transactional needs of our customers, but we are also able to meet all our customers’ trade finance and working capital needs, day-to-day banking and FX requirements.
Our service is personal. From inception, our customers have direct contact with a dedicated relationship manager. We get to know our customers, their business and their banking needs. Our approach to customer relationships ensures we provide flexible solutions, quickly and in line with our customers’ expectations.
Our wider team of colleagues, located in London’s West End, handle all aspects of our customers’ financing requirements, at competitive market rates. In strategic terms, our aim is to finance quality, long standing UK businesses who are importing and exporting globally and for whom we can provide a long term relationship led service.
In short, trade finance is a vital part of our business that we have supported through all market conditions and will continue to do so.
Nicola South, Head of Commercial Finance
+44 (0)20 3772 1662