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Trade Finance

Last updated 03 Oct 2021
Most businesses are involved in some form of international trade or commerce, be it production abroad, export sales or importing raw materials. Cross-border trade brings complexities in the form of currency risk as well as often increased business risk.

Trade finance is any form of finance that is issued to support international trade. Products include letters of credit, debtor finance, supply-chain finance, export credit, insurance or any other business loan especially designed with the complexities of international trade in mind. Trade finance companies often act as third parties to remove financial and/or supply risk in international transactions. Trade finance can be provided by banks, online lenders and specialized trade finance companies as well as private syndicates. Certain suppliers and buyers also offer inhouse trade finance products. The use of trade finance is widespread according to the World Trade Organization which estimates that 80-90% of global trade is supported by trade finance.
Key Features
Loan Size
$20k to $2m
Loan Term
30 to 180 days
Interest Rate
5% to 30%
Approval Speed
Common Uses of Trade Finance
Access to trade finance can reduce the risks inherent in doing business abroad including currency movements, difficulties in assessing creditworthiness and the payment ability of counterparties as well as political or geographic risks.
Trade finance is frequently used to relieve competing desire for upfront payments from exporters and the risk of non-shipment for importers by placing a bank or finance company as a third party which can provide a letter of credit to the exporter guaranteeing payment when proof of shipment is received.
Another frequently used form of trade finance is a guarantee posted by a bank or finance company that states that if a party fails to fulfill their contracted obligations (payment or goods delivery), the bank or finance company will step in and pay the beneficiary of the guarantee.
Trade finance can also simplify trade involving multiple currencies and insulate your business from sudden and detrimental currency movements.
Keep in Mind
Due to the inherent risks in international trade, trade finance companies will usually require collateral, be it in the form of property, other assets, or an invoice. In fact, according to the EFIC 2018 International Business Survey, of the 40% of businesses that applied for funding in 2018 but were unsuccessful, 49% were so due to collateral requirements being too high or the business having inadequate collateral.
Other reasons for unsuccessfully securing finance included costs being too high (22% of respondents) and the application process being too slow and cumbersome (21%). A business finance broker can help locate the best pricing in the market and assist in preparing the paperwork to make the application process faster and smoother.
When trading with countries or regions with higher political risks, trade finance may not always be available.
Trade finance is typically short-term financing covering a specific contract or sale/purchase. Borrowers looking for longer term financing should look at secured business loans or a business line of credit.
Who Qualifies for Trade Finance?
Borrowers who quality for trade finance typically resemble borrowers who qualify for other types of secured finance.
The bank of finance company will request financial statements, credit history and information about customers and copies of any contracts or invoices that are to be financed.
If the bank or finance company is taking a third party or guarantor role, they will want information about the buyer and seller to ascertain the level of risk they are taking.
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