Meet the Judges: Jim Bidwell, NatWest

Ahead of the Export Action Plan Competition final on June 7th, we spoke to Jim Bidwell, Head of Trade Services Product Management at competition sponsors NatWest. We ask him about what he’ll be looking for from the finalists as a judge, and about what delegates can expect from the UK Trade and Export Finance Conference the final is taking place at.

NatWest are sponsoring the UK Trade and Export Finance Conference, with the Export Action Plan competition being part of this. What is the importance that events like the conference and competition have?

NatWest remains committed to helping our customers grow their business through trading internationally. Conferences such as the UK Trade & Export Finance enable businesses to  learn more about the opportunities and benefits from trading internationally and gain insight and best practice from businesses who are successfully growing through trading internationally. Also, it assists businesses in obtaining clarity on where to go and who to speak to, for the right help and advice that they need at their stage of their trading international journey.

What are you looking forward to most about being a judge in the competition final?

Firstly, I have to say that I am extremely impressed with the calibre of businesses that have been shortlisted as our finalists this year. The broad range of business types/sectors will no doubt ensure that each business has a unique angle and approach to their business export plan. I am looking forward to discussing the individual merits of each plan with the other judges. My career in banking has resulted in me having a broad and expansive knowledge in trading internationally. I have no doubt that hearing the pitches from these businesses will also give me a deeper insight into the challenges and  obstacles that businesses face on a day to day basis. This fantastic first hand business insight will ensure that NatWest continues to build and enhance our proposition to meet these growing needs and requirements of our customers.

NatWest are also partnering with the IOE for the Export Clubs project, using the Export Action Plan tool. How important is it that businesses properly plan for international trade? 

For businesses to succeed in meeting their international ambitions, a clear and defined export strategy is an essential component of their wider business strategy. Whether they are new to exporting or established, a structured plan that considers all  aspects of trading internationally will not only help them succeed in meeting their international ambitions, but will also drive effective working capital management for the business.

What do you think are the biggest challenges for SMEs in trade at the moment?

Clarity on where and who to go to seek the right support and advice at the right stage of their export journey. Evaluating the credit risk of a buyer is always more difficult when trading cross border and so the risk of payment default is always greater. This is an area where banks can help to understand how to mitigate payment risk. A further key challenge is to ensure that there is sufficient access to sufficient working capital/finance to support an expansion into exporting, again this is an area where banks can assist if engaged early enough.

What tips would you give to companies who are new to exporting?

Ensure that an export strategy forms part of your wider business growth strategy. Don’t wait until an overseas contract lands in your inbox or via your website, plan for such eventualities. Seek help and advice from the exerts available across the industry whether that is your banker, DIT or your accountant. Plan for growth from the outset.

If you’re interested in applying to one of our future competitions, we’re delighted to inform you that we recently launched the International Business Awards – our first ever international Export Action Plan competition.

Enter your plan for international growth before August 10th and it could be you pitching your business at the WTO Public Forum in Geneva in October for the chance to win $5000.

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