International trade secretary Liam Fox has announced that small businesses can now access Government-backed export finance directly from their banks.
UK Export Finance (UKEF), the UK's export credit agency, has launched a new partnership with five major high street banks allowing smaller businesses to access millions of pounds in Government-backed trade finance.
UKEF provides financial support to help UK companies sell to international customers. The new partnership with Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds, RBS/NatWest and Santander allows companies that supply exporters to access UKEF-backed finance for the first time, helping them become part of major export contracts.
It means that the UK's SMEs can quickly and easily access the funds they need to sell British products around the world just by speaking to their bank manager. And companies that aren't yet selling overseas, but are supplying products directly to those that are, will also now qualify for UKEF support.
With this new partnership for finance up to £2 million, SMEs can access UKEF support directly from their bank, without the need to apply separately. Provided that a transaction meets UKEF's criteria, the bank will notify UKEF through a new secure digital platform.
Where previously it could take weeks in addition to the banks' own turnaround times to access this support, it could now take a matter of seconds as long as the transaction is eligible.
UKEF provides guarantees to banks to help businesses access bank finance, even when they've reached their credit limit or where the deal is considered too risky for the banks to take on alone.
The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has welcomed the scheme. National chairman Mike Cherry said: "The success of the UK economy rests on helping more small businesses to export, and export more. FSB research shows 20% of UK small firms already export, and with the right support this could double.
"Our research highlights that one in six of all UK small businesses also form part of a supply chain of which the end product is exported, so opening up export finance to this group of firms is great news."