Fintech financier Ebury has inked a deal with Sace Simest, an organisation majority-owned by Sace, the Italian export credit agency (ECA).

The partnership will enable small and medium-sized (SME) Italian firms to use several solutions, accessible through a secure portal, to help smooth out the international trading process.

Sace, the Italian ECA, is owned by Cassa Depositi e Prestiti, and holds a 76% share of Sace Simest. Other shareholders include banks and businesses in the private sector.

Italian companies will now have insight into credit risks (via products from Sace Simest) and foreign exchange (FX) risks through Ebury’s services, when looking to secure overseas trade. Mauro Miotto, global head of partnerships at Ebury, tells GTR that combining the solutions effectively puts credit and FX risks in one place for firms.

Ebury has seen rapid expansion in the past few years, opening more than 10 new offices across the world in 2017/18. Juan Lobato, Ebury’s co-founder and co-CEO previously told GTR that Ebury’s success is due to it filling the funding gap left by the traditional banking system with solutions tailored to clients’ needs.

The new deal will also build on Sace Simest’s liquidity management offering by integrating it with Ebury’s cash management services to make international collections more efficient. By offering currency accounts in more than 30 currencies and 20 countries, the firms  hope to optimise working capital for SMEs by, for example, enabling suppliers to be paid in multiple currencies.

It is unusual for an export credit agency to partner with a fintech financier company, and Miotto says this is one of the first ECA-fintech partnerships in Europe. He believes ECAs haven’t partnered with fintechs because they are “historically traditional institutions”, more traditional than commercial banks, he says. In collaborating with Ebury, he adds that Sace Simest is more “forward thinking” than most ECAs. Miotto also expects to see “many more collaborations” like this in the future, as in many cases ECAs and fintechs both offer solutions for firms to grow through their exports.

While European ECAs might not be partnering with fintechs just yet, they are partnering with each other. Hermes, OeKB and Serv – the ECAs of Germany, Austria and Switzerland respectively – agreed to join forces earlier this year to improve opportunities for their exporters in the face of increased competition from Asia. The three ECAs say they will now work together to boost their competitiveness by bundling orders, conducting joint road shows in emerging markets and offering complete financing packages to prospective clients.