International Trade

Exporting has moved into the 21st century… so why is the banking system that supports it still in the Stone Age?

5 min read

20 November 2017

UK businesses are more global than ever with the "Made in Britain" tag carrying a significant draw for customers from Beijing to Boston.

Exporting has always been an important element for successful British businesses. It’s such a major part of our economy and it’s estimated that 28 per cent of all goods made in Britain are sold to customers abroad. In fact, one of the major characteristics of a FTSE 100 company is their success in building a brand and service that appeals to markets globally.

UK businesses are more global than ever with the “Made in Britain” tag carrying a significant draw for customers from Beijing to Boston. The digital age has also made it easier than ever to sell abroad. Businesses can trade online through their own websites, or even on digital marketplaces like Amazon or eBay, reaching customers far and wide and not limit themselves to one geographical region.

And it’s not just big business doing this. Research we conducted with Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) earlier this year found that small businesses added £11bn to the UK economy in 2016 through online exports. With technological developments in communication, ecommerce and even shipping and logistics, businesses can market to, sell, and distribute goods and services to customers overseas with ease. Commerce has moved online and with it has broken down barriers and borders to international trade.

Why is it then that in this globalised digital world, money remains so stale and immobile? In a world where we can order goods from China and expect delivery the very next day or we can conference call across continents in seconds, the process of transferring money from one place to another is still very cumbersome and often expensive.

Currently, a UK business selling to US customers could spend weeks, if not months, trying to open a dollar account to receive payment from their customers and then lose out when transferring it back to pounds on extortionate transfer fees and charges. This is not an option for small businesses trying to manage with limited resource and little cash.

The current international payments infrastructure, rather than supporting small businesses with ambitions to think global, is actually holding them back. Our research with Cebr revealed that 17 per cent of small businesses identified managing currency as an issue affecting their online export business. 13 per cent of businesses also flagged lack of trust from financial service providers as a hindrance to selling online. This isn’t good enough. As an industry, we’re failing small businesses and hindering their growth which is essential to the UK’s economy flourishing.

This is why we launched World Account, a new international payments platform designed to make international trade easier, simpler and cheaper. Through World Account, businesses – large or small – can quickly open multiple international currency accounts in GBP, EUR, USD and CAD free of charge. All these accounts can then be accessed and managed from one platform or through a brand new app using one single sign-on.

World Account brings to an end the countless delays and complexities encountered by businesses trying to open an overseas bank account which often requires proof of residency or evidence of a local company entity, making the process long and often impossible.

With World Account there are also no hidden fees to send international payments or receive funds from overseas. Businesses will be able to hold balances in multiple currencies at the same time allowing them to manage their funds effectively to reduce foreign exchange costs.

We’re really proud of this product and we’ll be adding more currencies and functionality over the next few months. We set up WorldFirst to help people and businesses who have been let down by the traditional banking system. With World Account, we hope UK SMEs can take full advantage of the opportunities that lie in selling overseas.