Belfast Telegraph

Financiers unravel secrets of foreign markets for Northern Ireland businesses

By Clare Weir

A team of ex-bankers is heading to Belfast to advise companies large and small about the pitfalls and opportunities of trading in foreign markets.

Clear Treasury was set up by three former Treasury bankers, two of whom worked for the now-defunct Anglo Irish Bank, and provides a number of services including currency brokering.

With offices in Dublin and London, the company is soon to set up in Northern Ireland and is actively seeking office premises.

It is one of a number of small, independent financial consultancies to pop up in the wake of the banking crisis.

Barry O'Neill, Peter O'Flanagan and Paul Reilly are the men behind the company, and during a visit to Belfast last week, Mr Reilly said the firm hoped to take on three to five new staff in Northern Ireland within a year.

"We're all from a treasury banking background, and for us it is all about relationship management, which a lot of the main banks have fallen down on," he said.

"We basically offer the treasury function of a bank, but with independent eyes and ears."

Clear Treasury's customers include television channels operating in Ireland and buying soap operas from British media firms, and airlines operating in many different jurisdictions where managing currency is vitally important to trade.

They also assist smaller companies looking to export or about to embark on trade missions, particularly in developing markets where making money may not be a cut and dried affair.

"We've had good success in London and in Dublin and there is a lot of interest in what we are doing from companies from Northern Ireland, Mr Reilly said.

"It makes sense to open an office and bring our services to new clients."

He added that while export was key to growth, there were a number of other issues smaller companies needed to be aware of.

"There is a big push on for companies to export their products, Mr Reilly claimed.

"But in developing markets, it is not always as simple as sending products out and getting money back, or of going out there, opening an office, and making money.

"In some countries, particularly in South America, there are restrictions on access to foreign currency and on sending money overseas.

"There are huge opportunities in Brazil, thanks in part to the football World Cup and the forthcoming Olympics, but there are currency restrictions.

"Export can be lucrative, but banks often do not prepare clients for their exposure to volatile currency fluctuations.

"Many of the banks in Ireland also do not supply some of the more exotic currencies, which, because of our interbank experience, we are able to acquire."

Earlier this year, the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce warned that businesses here were not exporting as much in 2014 as they did in 2013, mainly because of serious concern over currencies.

The Chamber, in partnership with Northern Ireland's banks, has launched a number of programmes to help local traders develop into export markets.

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