Ruth Graham, head of trade finance sales at Danske Bank, talks about the bank's sponsorship of a category in the 2014 Belfast Telegraph Business Awards in association with British Airways
Why has Danske Bank chosen to sponsor the Excellence in Exporting award again?
We're committed to helping aspiring and experienced exporters to achieve their full potential and this award is a great way to do that. Export has been identified as the key vehicle for sustainable economic growth in Northern Ireland.
Danske Bank works closely with some of Northern Ireland's most innovative and exciting exporting businesses, businesses of all sizes and from a wide range of sectors. But in order to transform the economy, Northern Ireland needs many more businesses to start exporting or to extend their reach beyond near markets such as the Republic of Ireland or Great Britain.
Tell me a bit about your role within Danske Bank.
Exporting can often seem like a daunting process. Businesses operating outside their local market often have practical issues to deal with such as currency exposure, guarantee of payment, different legal systems and transportation logistics.
They also have to work harder at developing relationships because their customers are further away, in time and distance and often in culture and language.
I head up Danske Bank's trade finance team, which is all about helping customers to help minimise trade risk.
My team is there to provide customers with the best support to enable them to grow their businesses internationally.
This support combines the expertise of highly experienced export specialists with a sophisticated online banking solution which handles all trade products including letters of credit, collections and international guarantees.
What used to be a laborious, manual process for customers, can now be carried out online with far less paperwork and the scope for errors is significantly reduced.
How does Danske Bank support export in the Northern Ireland economy?
We are committed to ensuring our customers are provided with the best support to enable them to grow their businesses at home and internationally. But only 2% of companies here are actually selling into overseas markets. We need many more to do so if the local economy is to be transformed. We are about to start our third year of working in partnership with the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce through the Danske Bank 'Export First' programme, which puts first time and potential exporters in direct contact with someone who has 'been there, done that'. The programme features inspirational thought leadership events with some of Northern Ireland's top exports, as well as a focus on new markets and the development of the skills set required to operate in them. A key objective of the programme is to help smaller companies in particular to develop the knowledge and capability to take advantage of the many opportunities across the globe.
What does Danske Bank think of the present economic climate?
There are a number of positive economic signs as we move into 2014. It looks like recovery is beginning to take hold. Danske Bank expects economic growth in the UK to rise to 2.4% in 2014.
After over two-and-a-half years of very subdued growth in the western world, a gradual recovery in developed economies is now emerging and is expected to gather pace in 2014 and 2015. The US is performing well and the euro area is slowly moving out of recession, with the peripherals also getting stronger.
Although emerging markets are currently lagging, they are expected to benefit from rising exports to the developed world and recover in 2014.