Need export support? Here's the UK Export Finance insider's guide

Tim Reid, CEO of UK Export Finance, explains what's on offer for your firm
Tim Reid
Tim Reid
Tim Reid talks to a British exporter

In the 12 months leading up to November, over £870 billion in exports left UK shores. International trade can bring big rewards, but it doesn’t have to be the preserve of big businesses.

With the right commitment, product and financing support, going global can help scale any business and create new jobs, unlock product innovation and benefit local communities.

That said, it’s not easy. This is where UK Export Finance (UKEF) can step in. As the world’s longest-serving export credit agency, our job is to ensure that no viable UK exporting project fails due to lack of funding or finance.

With a specific focus on SMEs – 80% of the businesses we support are SMEs – we make sure that viable export projects happen.

Whether its financing guarantees on behalf of UK companies to support their fulfilment of high value contracts, providing loans to projects to ensure they buy supplies from the UK, providing working capital to increase turnover or underwriting export insurance to mitigate risk, we exist to help UK businesses propel themselves on to the world stage.

Fulfilling orders

Whether you’re a high-growth business, or finding the market challenging, many companies can find themselves struggling to fulfil orders at some point in their exporting journey. This can significantly limit the growth of a healthy business.

UKEF can step in to give SMEs the confidence to continue to take on more contracts, increase turnover and continue a positive trajectory through provision of working capital. Our General Export Facility – or GEF – can help with this, guaranteeing up to 80% of a new trade finance facility.

Take the example of Jay-Be, a furniture manufacturer based in Dewsbury. It wanted to maintain its impressive momentum and build on its existing foothold in 15 overseas markets, including USA, Canada and the UAE. We stepped in with a government GEF guarantee and helped them to secure a £2.5 million Santander financing facility, allowing the business to realise its potential in exporting high-quality beds and mattresses overseas.

If on the other hand you already have a specific, high-value export contract which you want to fulfil, UKEF’s Export Working Capital Scheme can help you to access more capital with a similar government guarantee.

We can even help smaller business – right down to micro-SMEs – as they negotiate key hurdles in the exporting process with vehicles like advanced payment guarantees and the bonding scheme. Last year, for instance, we helped a small cleantech firm in Surrey secure a £4 million order to supply to a major solar energy plant in India. To secure the order, it had to assure the buyer that it could deliver the product on the agreed scale by making a cash deposit through its bank. However, in doing so, the company would have lost the very funds it needed to fulfil the order. By issuing a £465,000 guarantee under the Bond Support Scheme, UKEF provided the guarantee to the buyer, while allowing the company to put its own funds towards the order itself.

This is also a good example of the work we are doing to support firms making the most of opportunities in the renewable energy and clean growth sectors

Winning contracts and getting paid

We also create new contract opportunities by helping overseas projects secure finance. We facilitate loans for overseas buyers, with the caveat that they source supplies or expertise from the UK to ensure the flow of millions of pounds into the economy. Going one step further, we also matchmake through ‘supplier fairs’ which bring buyers and UK businesses together. We often host over 100 UK suppliers at these events helping them access projects as varied as solar farms in Turkey to road-building in Angola that they would not have been able to before.

We also know that exporting can be difficult. When ambitious SMEs take on new markets, they can struggle to find insurance when the private market does not have the risk appetite. We can step in to underwrite your projects to ensure that you get paid – for instance, if your buyer becomes insolvent or a contract is terminated early.

Accessing help

Last year, we reported that we provided £6.5 billion in financial support, supporting over 55,000 jobs across a range of industries

If you’re a business looking for support, assessing the options and the help you can get can feel overwhelming. Our network of experienced and knowledgeable export finance managers, specialising in different regions of the UK, is on hand to provide free information and guidance on payments risks, the types of finance available and what might suit your business best. UKEF can partner with your business and ensure your exporting dreams become reality.

It goes without saying that the time taken to secure financing varies depending on our specific product line, your business needs and the lender in question. However, we can fast-track access to up to £10 million in working capital, supporting smaller businesses which need funds quickly. It means they can access support with a simple request through their bank, with no need to for manual intervention from UKEF.

We’re passionate about helping your business and always endeavour to meet any deadlines surrounding any exports you’re looking to secure. If you’ve got a product or service you think should be sold across the globe, we want to hear about it – get in touch!

Written by
Tim Reid
CEO UK Export Finance
March 18, 2024