Santander UK and United Overseas Bank (UOB) have agreed to facilitate greater cross-border trade and investment between companies in Southeast Asia and the UK. In doing so, the banks aim to assist 200 UK SMEs expand into the Asean region and vice versa over the next two years.

SMEs will be able to access both banks’ financial products and services, including international cash management, payments and currency exchanges, a Santander UK spokesperson tells GTR. The bank declined to disclose monetary amounts set aside for the endeavour.

Sam Cheong, UOB’s head of group foreign direct investment advisory, says the collaboration will make it easier for UK firms seeking new production or sales markets to navigate the complexities of doing business in Asean. Language, cultural and regulatory barriers can stand in the way of cross-border commerce, he says.

Yet opportunities abound in developing markets of Asia. “With rising incomes and the increasing consumption power of Asean’s young, plentiful and skilled workforce, the potential to build a sustainable business in Asean is huge,” Cheong says. “Together with Santander UK, we will focus on engaging businesses – from manufacturers to wholesalers and retailers – to help them seize the opportunities in the region.”

In turn, Asean companies will be encouraged to focus trade and investment efforts on the UK and UOB will leverage its FDI advisory unit to facilitate this. Established in 2011, the unit promotes regional connectivity between government agencies, trade and industry associations and professional service providers. UOB currently has nine FDI centres in China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.