Meet the MD: Mark Runiewicz of Trade and Export Finance Group

Meet the MD: Mark Runiewicz of Trade and Export Finance Group

Mark Runiewicz's Polish side inspired his interest in global markets and ultimately a career that took him all over the world, but after enjoying a successful career in banking, he set up Trade and Export Finance Group to help SMEs grow. He caught up with BQ to talk business, managing stress and advice for aspiring business leaders.

Describe your role in no more than 100 words

I’m CEO of Trade and Export Finance Group, a collection of companies which provide a gateway for SMEs to support them to grow their business through funding their orders and taking them through the financial maze.


What is it the company does?

Trade and Export Finance Limited (TAEFL) is the consultancy part of the group where we help SMEs to find optimal funding solutions. That can be through peer to peer, traditional bank finance or it can be through a whole variety of financing tools which people haven’t heard about such as pension led funding. Also we have two sister companies, UK EXIM and UK EXIM Finance, and they help SMEs to fund orders. So if an SME has an order that requires funding and needs extra working capital, we will actually work with them, based on their credit rating or their buyer’s credit rating, to fund those orders so they don’t have to decline these any more.


Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?

I joined in the Midland Bank in the early 70’s. I started on the domestic side and I passed my banking exams, then I went into international trade because I thought if the UK was going to grow it needed to export. Having a Polish father gave me an interest in more global markets. From there I went to TSB, I was head hunted to head their international commercial operation in London. Then I went to their subsidiary Hill Samuel, then into consultancy, visiting various interesting places in the world including as an external consultant to Asian Development Bank and to Pakistan to look at one of their big funding operations, and also to restructure their Export Promotion Board. I came back from that and worked with quite a few banks in Europe as a consultant, before joining YorkshireClydesdale bank which brought me to the Midlands and having spent 3 years with that bank I decided it was time to set up TAEFL to support SMEs. We went from being in a spare room at home into Crystal Court, Rocky Lane where we now have a team of 20 people and we are supporting businesses not just in the UK but in Ireland and all over the world effectively.


What do you believe makes a great leader?

Probably taking a few hard knocks in life! Having a mentor - I always believe top sportsmen have a coach. I’ve been lucky in the last 30 years to have a mentor who has been there for me and offered guidance. Always look to develop yourself and being willing to learn and actually take advice that people give you. More importantly take criticism as a learning tool and see how you can do better.


What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?

We’re a very fast moving business, we’re niche so therefore we have really two main challenges. One is getting quality staff. Because we’re growing quickly and are in a specialist area it’s difficult to get staff because on our trade finance side it takes 3 months to train a member of staff, so I’m always looking 3, 6, 12 months ahead. Secondly, funding. We’ve been very fortunate that we have good lenders that have been helping us grow the business but it’s actually balancing meeting the client’s needs supporting their businesses, as well as protecting our own business and managing growth.


How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?

Going for long distance runs – it’s surprising what you think about when you’re running along! And again going to different parts of Europe with running and meeting different people, so that’s a good stress relief! I also believe that a strong home base is important, I am fortunate that my wife understands the business and is so supportive and encouraging of both the business and myself.


When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I started off wanting to be a vet! But when I was 16 I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do. I was having violin lessons and I met my violin teacher’s son who said “Why don’t you look at banking?”. After doing O-levels I went straight into banking, and I’ve been in the finance industry ever since.


Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?

I think lack of honesty is my pet hate, when people just tell you what you want to hear as opposed to what the facts are. I just believe in openness, two way conversations and working as a team. It’s people that don’t want to be on the team that do frustrate me. One of the books I read is Good to Great (by Jim Collins) and I’m often quoted saying “We want people to be on the bus and if those people don’t want to be on the bus, then it’s better for us and better for them if they get off” so that really sums it up in a nutshell


Where do you see the company in five years’ time?

I see it as being the leading trade finance house in the UK. I see that our turnover will probably grow 12 fold, the staff will grow from 18 to round about 40 in that time and we will continue to be a major supporter of SMEs in the UK.


What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?

Patience, understanding, motivation, tolerance and commitment. Having good people around you, so you’re not isolated. It can be a lonely place but if you have the right people around you helping you grow it’s not going to be. If something goes well, it’s the whole team but if something goes wrong then it’s my fault, and I think most business leaders should consider that instead of blaming others, because ultimately the buck stops with me. So those are the sort of factors I would consider