Belfast Telegraph

Offering dedicated expertise to companies trading abroad

Ruth Graham explains why Northern Bank is sponsoring the excellence in exporting prize

Based on the mood of its business customers, what is Northern Bank's assessment of the current economic situation in Northern Ireland?

Throughout the most challenging times Northern Bank has stayed close to its business customers. Despite subdued consumer and business confidence, Northern Bank has approved over £1bn in lending for local customers in the last year. So investment projects are still taking place, albeit at a slower level. Northern Bank will continue to play its role in supporting new and existing customers by providing a range of support from finance to innovative cash flow solutions.

What is Northern Bank’s assessment of the prospects for the economy and sectors over the next few years?

Overall, we forecast that the economy will experience fragile growth in the coming years and this will be contingent on a number of factors. If the local economy manages to weather the pending austerity cuts and conditions for private sector growth, then the outlook is broadly favourable. Northern Bank's research expects the local economy to grow by 2.5% by 2012 and the chances of the economy falling back into recession are 25%. Sectors such as manufacturing, business and financial services along with transport and communications are all performing well. An increase in export-led companies is vital for the growth of the economy; however companies thinking of expanding outside their local market may be daunted by the challenge of managing the associated risks of importing or exporting. For its part, Northern Bank’s Trade & Export Finance team is working with companies on the many issues of exporting, such as finding the right payment method to minimising risk.

The housing market is still sluggish, with a lack of mortgage finance often cited as one of the main reasons for this. What is Northern Bank doing to help get the housing market moving again?

We have an enviable range of very competitive mortgage options for all types of customers whether they are looking for a better deal, thinking of moving house or buying their first home.

To stimulate the local mortgage market we recently announced that we are removing arrangement fees and reducing rates across all of our fixed rate and base rate tracker mortgages. As part of this campaign any customer who switches their residential mortgage to Northern Bank from another institution, or is buying their first home, will not pay any arrangement or booking fees, a saving of £799. Northern will also pay for standard legal fees up to a maximum of £300 and up to £175 for a standard property valuation.

Why has Northern Bank sponsoring the excellence in exporting category in particular?

We support many indigenous companies that are successfully consolidating or branching into new overseas markets. Sponsorship enables us to support exporting businesses further by recognising excellence in this area. Northern Bank has a great deal of expertise and capability to offer to companies trading abroad and through sponsorship of this category we would invite exporting businesses to talk to us about how we can support them. Northern Bank's role is to increase awareness of the financial products that are available in order to minimise trade risk.

Northern Bank is a local bank that is part of a larger international group. We provide dedicated help to assist companies navigate their way through some of the issues surrounding exporting, ensuring that customers reap all the benefits a successful exporting business deserves.

Belfast Telegraph