By Daniel Hunter

West Midlands exporters are set to benefit from a new export finance expert with the appointment of an Export Finance Adviser tasked with helping exporters get access to finance for their export needs.

Phill Potter, who brings 34 years of experience in the banking industry to the role, will give local firms support on accessing finance and insurance for trading overseas.

His appointment is announced by UK Export Finance and UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) .

Phill's most recent post was at HSBC, where he developed their international trade strategy for the Midlands. He was born in Worcestershire and has lived and worked in the region all his life, working principally in the SME market, so is no stranger to the challenges currently faced by local exporters.

Commenting on his role as the region's Export Finance Adviser, Phill said:

"I'm delighted to be in this post, as to me there is nothing better than working directly with West Midlands firms, on a one-to-one basis, adding value to their business. With my experience in the banking industry, it means I can give practical, impartial advice from the financial structure of a business to how companies can best approach banks when looking for finance, as I know what they'll be looking out for.

"This is the first time since the closure of regional offices in 1991 that UK Export Finance, the UK's export credit agency, has had a regional presence. Working alongside UKTI advisers means we can offer an even more extensive range of free advice for exporters.

"I'm here to give firms an independent view on how to access finance, guidance on insurance when dealing in overseas trade and give help and support along the way. Most of my time is being spent raising awareness of my role and the government support available to exporters, by both speaking at exporter events, but also travelling around the West Midlands region to meet companies looking for advice, particularly smaller companies."

Phill's top five tips when it comes to company finance and overseas sales:

1. Understand the different impacts on the trade cycle when exporting and therefore the potential impact on cashflow and working capital needs. For example it takes longer to deliver goods to Warsaw compared to Walsall and also potentially longer for payment to be received.

2. Really understand your buyer and their market - do as much research as possible using all sources including UKTI International Trade Adviser. Consider credit insurance to guarantee payment in the event of buyer not wanting to/being able to pay and also the sovereign risks of that country.

3. Negotiate the most secure method of payment for your goods or services to try to keep you in control of timing of receiving your money and potentially keeping control of the goods in the meantime.

4. Prepare an export business plan (in conjunction with UKTI) especially around the finances including all your planning around mitigating the risks in 1-3 above. Use your accountant on the financial aspects if needed - this can give additional credibility to your plan if seeking export finance for the first time.

5. Approach your existing finance provider with your plan and a clear request for what you need. If they are not able to assist ensure you understand why. Ask them whether they have considered the support available from UK Export Finance, especially if they like your plan but do not feel able to support.

Commenting on the new role, Doug Mahoney, UKTI Regional Director for the West Midlands said:

"The addition of Phill to our team and the vast experience he brings will strengthen the range of advice and practical support that companies can already access through UKTI. Ultimately we are always looking to encourage more local firms to trade overseas to boost their long-term profits and help the local economy.

"Finding finance help can be a challenge, so for companies to be able to speak to a finance expert will help remove some of the barriers around finding appropriate insurance cover or bank finance, particularly for smaller firms."

Patrick Crawford, Chief Executive of UK Export Finance said:

"I am aware that smaller exporters face a wide, and sometimes baffling, array of options for insuring or financing their export contracts. Our new Export Finance Advisers, working alongside regional UK Trade and Investment staff will signpost businesses to where to source credit insurance and trade finance, trade support bodies and explain the products of UK Export Finance.

"The aim is for exporters to get all the support they need to help manage their risks and cash flow when exporting."

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