WebPort Global and Bank of Ireland: How SMEs in Ireland Expand Their International Reach
August 14, 2017 8:36 PM
Almost all banks are happy to have you as a depositor and a borrower, and of course, happy to see your business succeed. But the extent of their involvement in your success typically is limited to offering you the bank’s products and services (and, perhaps, the occasional free toaster).
Bank of Ireland has decided to go much further than the proverbial extra mile. It’s helping its SME customers go a few thousand extra miles, into new-to-them international markets where they can develop lucrative partnerships. And it’s doing it via a strategic three-year partnership with WebPort Global (WPG).
Working with Mary Daniels, director of Global Trade with WebPort Global and the World Trade Center Dublin, the Bank of Ireland is offering all its SME customers a 12 month WPG membership.
Daniels explains the significance.
“WebPort Global is the epicenter for International trade. The online platform is a fantastic tool with over 40,000 pages of insights and resources in our library, that any SME can access when it comes to regulation, barriers, and general information on any of the markets, and how to enter them,” she says. “In addition, there's a marketplace that connects a buyer here in Ireland, or indeed anywhere, with a seller internationally.”
But as rich, deep, and diverse as WPG’s online resources are, she says, that’s just a portion of what the Bank of Ireland is offering its customers. With free premium WPG membership for 6 months, SMEs get a dedicated Global Trade Specialist who provides customized intelligence they can use to expand into new territories and develop new relationships.
“We determine, through a trade analysis, what they do, what their focus is here in Ireland,” says Daniels. “Then we guide them through their expansion plans.”
The guidance begins with a customized report on the markets that are compatible with their product or their service.
“We'll go back in again every month and create a report with dedicated leads of buyers for their products in each of the markets,” says Daniels. “Their Global Trade Specialist is available for them throughout their journey to answer any specific questions and do custom reporting. It is an intensive, very committed program and lends itself to the best opportunities when it comes to global expansion for these SMEs.”
Some SMEs might be more focused on making connections with international suppliers, says Daniels. “We can also help identify import channels for new markets. Every SME has a different challenge. That is the job of our Global Trade Specialists, to overcome those hurdles for them and dig into our resource, our library, our own network and solve the problem for them.”
The profile of participants in the Bank of Ireland/WPG program ranges from the one-person startup to 300-employee companies in a wide range of industries, with the greatest participation, to date, from food and beverage, ad consultancies, and software and engineering companies. “We're a small country with big ambition 98 percent of our businesses are SMEs,” Daniels says. “We have a population of just 5 million people in Ireland, but we have a global diaspora of 70 million worldwide. Irish businesses are a limited commodity. We have a ready-made International audience of buyers for our products. We just have to cultivate those relationships in the right way.”
The program started in early 2017 and so, is still in its infancy. The bank’s goal is to extend the program to as many as 30,000 Irish SMEs over three years. “We expect the numbers to double every quarter.”
The Bank of Ireland/WebPort Global partnership comes at a particularly crucial moment. Traditionally, the UK has been the biggest market for most Irish companies. But BREXIT throws a number of variables into the mix with the potential for significant turmoil.
“It is a concern, especially if you're exporting into the UK and your buyers are in the UK,” says Daniels. “But the key is to prepare properly for BREXIT. There are huge amounts of innovation and new markets that we can find from this. We just have to look for them.”
For more information about the Bank of Ireland/WebPort Global partnership,
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