Little steps that can lead to giant leaps

Little steps that can lead to giant leaps

BQ Yorkshire Editor Mike Hughes gets a global viewpoint from Andrew Joy – Santander’s international director of UK Corporate and Commercial.

A little over 2,500 years ago, Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu said: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

Last week, Andrew Joy persuaded me that it should really start with six steps. So let’s follow the philosophy of Joy and see where it takes us. His steps are Santander’s guidelines for global success, and it’s easy to see how beneficial it is for firms to break the journey into these separate, but linked, stages:

  1. Growing
  2. Exporting
  3. Connecting overseas
  4. Coping with growth
  5. Setting up abroad
  6. Becoming a global leader  

“This plan works for everything from an SME considering exporting to an established corporate,” explained Andrew, “they are just at different points on those pillars.”

This is new thinking, based around the extra things Santander are putting in place to support businesses, like Breakthrough and Breakthrough International, which utilises 13,000 branches and 150,000 contacts worldwide to help an export journey reach its destination.

“We also put a lot of time into trade missions – like Spain next month and Poland and Mexico in June. These are markets that we have identified as having strong potential for British exports,” says Andrew.

“Mexico, for example, has seen a 12.5% increase in the British goods it imports over the last few years and there is a bilateral trade agreement between the countries aimed at increasing that trade to just over £4bn this year.

“They want our power generation machinery and equipment, pharmaceutical products, beverages, organic chemicals. While the opportunities identified include aerospace, healthcare, retail, infrastructure, energy and electronics.”

A shopping list like that must cover hundreds of Yorkshire firms, who might well start their investigations by ticking off the items they can supply at the same time as flagging up associated products or services. Then give Andrew’s team a ring and get things rolling....before someone else does.

Having arranged that first meeting, Santander’s Trade Portal is likely to be on the agenda. This is an impressive bit of kit for Santander Corporate and Commercial online banking customers – an online view of how 185 countries trade, what is hot, who the key contacts are – totalling 10,000 pages covering 40,000 trade shows, 60,000 suppliers, 100,000 importers and more than a million public and private tender opportunities. Andrew is proud of the hard work that has gone into trade portal, and its immediate success.

“Portal has gone down very well and has already won a ‘Best SME Innovation’ award from Business Moneyfacts. It really is a unique offering with unparalleled export information pulled together by Santander’s businesses around the globe, and there is an agency in Paris whose sole purpose in life is to keep the thing updated, so nothing gets missed.”

After experiencing that vast database of information, there might not be much more you need, but Trade Club is also available to put business contacts in touch with each other. “So, if you join the Trade Club in the UK, you can log on and browse Santander business customers around the globe who are interested in the same things you are and you can correspond with around 10,000 members safely over the system,” he explains.

This is genuinely exciting stuff and, crucially, will save time when firms are trying to export into a competitive market and will save them money by offering a virtual guided tour of the possibilities rather having to organise flights, hotels and meetings to follow up a sales lead.

And there is little fear of the idea being copied, because of the bank’s footprint, with a ten per cent share of the corporate market in nine countries. That is a lot of market share to compete with and building a critical mass of members would be challenging, to say the least. But there is still no stopping Andrew Joy.

He needs to make sure he has the full attention of clients and potential clients, so there is also Santander Flame (after the corporate logo), an online FX dealing system, offering real-time pricing and inter-bank rates for transparency. All very impressive, but what does Leeds-born Andrew say about the export market from Yorkshire in particular?

“I think Yorkshire has opportunities in all sectors. We have definitely seen increased activity, and it is beneficial for the Yorkshire economy as well as the businesses themselves to start exporting.

“I think there is still an element of fear about exporting, which is why we brought the portal in, but the ideas are there and firms are looking to broaden their horizons. One of the bank’s jobs is to demystify as much as possible and help them get there.”

A fair few years ago, Yorkshire entrepreneurs who dreamed of exporting would make an appointment with their bank and hope the manager had been to Spain for his hols so they could talk about international markets, and would then go to the travel agents next door, book his hotel and throw caution to the wind.

Technology and an open global marketplace now brings them Santander’s Trade Portal and Trade Club.

Times have changed and businesses who keep pace are in for an exhilarating ride.