Berkeley Trade Finance, a new non-bank trade finance provider, has started trading in London.

Led by co-founders Steven Pleace and Soheill Sarkoob, the firm says it aims to be the first port of call for SMEs seeking funding for international trade transactions. Berkeley can provide funding facilities of up to £1mn to startups, sole traders, established small companies, as well as larger companies that may require additional support alongside their existing banking facilities.

The launch comes amid trying times for UK SME exporters as Brexit-related uncertainty exacerbates risks and challenges related to managing cash flow and working capital, exporting goods and supply chain management. Meanwhile, although the UK government has ramped up support for SME trade in recent months through initiatives including the bond support and export working capital schemes, figures from UK Finance show that the amount of loans and credit outstanding to small businesses has fallen by nearly £6bn in the past five years.

Speaking to GTR, Sarkoob explains: “The banks know how to do trade finance, but because of their infrastructure and their size, they won’t look at smaller deals. A £100,000 transaction means the same amount of paperwork for a bank as a £5bn one, so they just can’t do it. Everyone has a sweet spot. We are willing to look at those smaller deals, and because of our experience and because our business is owner-managed, we can truly make our own credit decisions.”

This isn’t the first time Pleace and Sarkoob have ventured into trade finance. In 2008, they set up Sterling Trade Finance, which offered similar specialised services to SMEs. They subsequently sold that firm to Scottish Pacific in 2017.

“Berkeley has already commenced funding a number of new clients. We look forward to catching up with our many friends in the industry, as well as making new contacts, to discuss how Berkeley’s flexible trade finance solutions can help support businesses involved in international trade,” says Pleace.