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Member News: Protecting your cash flow in global markets by Lockton’s Head of Trade Credit Nigel Birney

As originally appeared in the Irish News on Tuesday 23 November 2021

The post-pandemic business environment is shaping up to be one markedly different from the one we were familiar with before March 2020. Despite the challenges that have faced our business owners, entrepreneurs, and employers during the Covid crisis, there are new opportunities for businesses as we come out the other side that must be grasped.

With new, post-Brexit free trade deals being forged by the UK Government with countries around world including New Zealand, Australia, Canada, the US and beyond, as well as the Northern Ireland Protocol granting local businesses unfettered access to both UK and EU markets, export opportunities are growing for businesses in Northern Ireland.

And not just for large, multinational companies who already trade around the globe. More and more, we are seeing SMEs and micro businesses here starting on their own export journeys. For every sector and industry, businesses in Northern Ireland have export and global trade opportunities within their reach like never before.

For example, the latest Irish Government statistics show that imports from Northern Ireland to the Republic have risen an incredible 77% since the UK left the EU. For all its political unpopularity, it’s clear the NI Protocol is protecting and even driving trade between the two jurisdictions on an unprecedented level.

As we begin to leave Covid-19 and its disastrous impacts on business in the rear-view mirror, innovation and doing business in a new way will be key to recovery. Small businesses, independent traders, and online sellers have options before them like never before. But as they enter into new markets and engage with new, foreign buyers, they need to be confident that their cash flow is safe.

Trade credit insurance will be vital in enabling and bolstering global trade as we move past the pandemic. The UK Government recognised the importance of trade credit insurance swiftly after Covid reached our shores and put in place its Trade Credit Reinsurance Scheme, providing over £210 billion of cover for over £575 billion of business turnover, a strong signal and recognition of the significance our industry plays in the wider economy.

This scheme played a huge role in keeping trade and exports flowing in the most difficult of circumstances and kept the UK’s trade credit market afloat. While the scheme has now wound down as restrictions have tapered off and the economy reopened, now is the time for businesses to leverage trade credit and exploit the global export opportunities before them.

Trade credit insurance protects your business from non-payment of a supplier or buyer, political risk, customer bankruptcy or default. But it also provides you with valuable market insight as you prepare to move into a new market, it supports your cash flow, and it can help grow your existing customer base.

The pandemic’s effect on many businesses has been deep and severe. With restrictions thankfully all but gone now locally, firms are ready to get back to business, finding new customers, supplying new markets, making new leads. Trade credit insurance will be a crucial component of the new post-pandemic trading environment, giving local businesses the certainty and insight to export with confidence.