Over 5,000 votes were cast during the last few months of 2010, voting for GTR’s Leaders in Trade awards 2010.
The results of the 28 awards are published over the following pages, highlighting banks and financial institutions’ achievements in specific geographic regions and particular product lines.
Once again, HSBC has secured the top spot as best global trade finance bank, but there are plenty of other awards that recognise accomplishments in more niche and specialised areas of the market.
Timed with the New Year, GTR also asked the winners to give their thoughts and predictions on 2011. Will trade finance maintain its new found popularity? Will regulatory restrictions and stricter capital requirements hold back the market? Will trade volumes return to consistent levels of growth? Common themes threading throughout the answers given to GTR is that Asia is increasingly the place to be right now.
Trade teams are being restructured with an Asian focus, and banks are keen to tap into the growing trade flows between Asia and other emerging markets. Most banks have reported a strong 2010 in terms of results and volumes of business, but there is a slight feeling of anxiety that tighter regulation could thwart growth in 2011.
Who is the best global trade finance bank? HSBC
Who is the best global export finance bank? Société Générale
Who is the best global commodity finance bank? BNP Paribas
Who is the best structured commodity finance bank? Deutsche Bank
Who is the best supply chain finance bank? JP Morgan
Who is the best trade finance bank in Latin America (including the Caribbean)? BBVA
Who is the best trade finance bank in South Asia (including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka only)? ICICI
Who is the best trade finance bank in Australia and the Pacific? ANZ
Who is the best trade finance bank in Asia Pacific? Standard Chartered
Who is the best trade finance bank in the Middle East & North Africa? HSBC
Who is the best trade finance bank in Sub-Saharan Africa? Standard Bank
Who is the best trade finance bank in West Africa? FBN
Who is the best trade finance bank in the Nordic region? SEB
Who is the best trade finance bank in North America? Citi
Who is the best trade finance bank in Western Europe (excluding the Nordic region)? Deutsche Bank
Who is the best trade finance bank in Eastern Europe? UniCredit
Who is the best forfaiting house? LFC
Who is the best factoring house? Fimbank
Who is the best Islamic trade finance bank? ITFC
Who is the best boutique trade finance institution? Falcon Trade Corporation
Who is the best trade outsourcing bank? BNY Mellon
Who is the best trade credit and political risk insurance broker? BPL Global
Who is the best trade credit insurance underwriter? Chartis
Who is the best political risk insurance underwriter? Ace
Who is the best development bank in trade? Asian Development Bank
Who is the best export credit agency? K-Sure
Who is the best trade finance software provider? China Systems
Who is the best bank for documentary processing? RBS
Best global export finance bank
HSBC has once again proven itself to be the leading global trade finance bank.
Over the past 18 months the bank has performed consistently well and its reliability has been clearly recognised by GTR’s readers in the 2010 Leaders in Trade poll.
HSBC has been at the forefront of key market developments over the past 12 to 18 months. It has widened the use of Chinese Rmb in trade transactions across the globe. It has also continued to provide exclusive insights into market trends through its global trade confidence index (launched in 2009).
“We take our leadership role in the international trade finance community very seriously. We maintain open dialogue with a variety of stakeholders in the international trade finance community.”
Lawrence Webb, global head of trade and supply chain, led HSBC to its many successes in recent years. However after 30 years at the bank Webb has retired, and as of January 1, 2011, Rakesh Bhatia is the new global head of trade and supply chain.
Bhatia has over 25 years of experience of working for HSBC, and was most recently the chief executive officer of the bank’s Indonesian operations. He was a key figure in the bank’s acquisition of Bank Ekonomi in May 2009.
Looking forward to 2011, Bhatia tells GTR about where he thinks his trade and supply chain team will find the most lucrative opportunities. ”Emerging economies in general and Asia Pacific in particular all offer substantial business opportunities,” he notes.
“Beyond China, which is clearly a key market and focus for businesses around the globe, we see excellent opportunities in Singapore and Australia driven by demand for commodities, and the contribution these two markets present from a trading and producer perspective. Malaysia and Indonesia are also growth markets as is Vietnam with its young labour force.”
He believes that rising confidence levels throughout the Asia region will help drive business in the new year.
“There is no doubt that confidence in trade and intra-regional trade are significant factors in overall global economic activity. In fact, in our September release of the trade confidence index (TCI), while importers and exporters globally reported that they expect trade volumes and their trade finance requirements to either increase or remain at current levels in the next six months, there is clearly a higher level of optimism in the emerging markets,” Bhatia comments.
The increasing internationalisation of the Chinese Rmb is something Bhatia will be keen to further capitalise on in 2011.
HSBC economists predict that within three years, one third of trade associated with China will be settled in Rmb, according to a report released in December 2010.
Bhatia adds: “Our September trade confidence index revealed that importers and exporters within Asia Pacific were looking at an increased level, to Rmb as a primary or secondary trade settlement currency in the next six months. This will boost and enhance the flow of trade settlements and open up new opportunities as customers discover an additional currency in which to trade.”
HSBC first signed Rmb-based trade settlement transactions in the Asean [The Association of Southeast Asian nations] countries, then throughout Asia, and it now provides Rmb services across six continents. All of the bank’s trade and supply chain solutions are now offered in Rmb.
However, 2011 will of course bring its challenges. Reflecting general market sentiment, Bhatia’s concerns surround the potential impact on trade finance of the new Basel III regulations.
“The key challenge surrounding the trade world is the regulation around Basel III and we at HSBC are working towards a favourable treatment of trade under the Basel III framework.”
He adds that HSBC has been a key player in many multilateral discussions surrounding the potential difficulties in financing world trade.
“We take our leadership role in the international trade finance community very seriously. We maintain open dialogue with a variety of stakeholders in the international trade community, including government and non-governmental agencies, providing them with relevant input and advice that plays a role in shaping policies around the globe.”
This high level involvement does in turn help HSBC’s clients, Bhatia adds:“That expertise and leadership also enables us to provide our clients with information and advice on implications of regulations for their businesses.”
Best global export finance bank
Société Générale has been named best global export finance bank for the third consecutive year as voted by GTR readers. The achievement demonstrates the bank’s commitment to providing its clients with first-class service and innovative solutions for their export finance needs.
“Our well-established relationships with exporters, importers, borrowers, export credit agencies and multilaterals have been a winning element in securing favourable financing for our clients,” says Denis Stas de Richelle, global head of export finance at Société Générale.
“Not surprisingly, business volumes are at the same record levels as in 2009.”
Stas de Richelle explains that the bank’s strategy has been to systematically propose ECA-backed loans to all its clients for their debt requirements – not only tied financing tools (available in direct connection with the export of capital goods and services) but also untied loans, generally granted as a counterpart of a strategic interest for the “lending” country.
All major deals that the bank has closed recently have presented such a combination and benefited from official state supports at levels never seen before, says Stas de Richelle.
He lists for example the Papua New Guinea LNG transaction with its US$3bn US Ex-Im and US$900mn Sace tickets; the Nordstream pipeline with a US$2.2bn Hermes commitment; the Jubail refinery with a US$2.2bn commitment covered by six ECAs; satellite manufacturer Iridium’s US$1.8bn Coface-backed credit facility and Belgian wind farm developer C-Power’s €1bn loan agreement with Hermes and EKF support. “Not surprisingly, business volumes are at the same record levels as in 2009,” says Stas de Richelle.
Export finance experts continue to remain in the spotlight as they work with global market players to provide low-risk financing. “We offer our clients reliable long-term financing in times when people need to have concrete solutions during a volatile evolution of economical cycles,” explains Stas de Richelle. “With our extensive global network, we continue to stand by our clients across the world.”
Best Global commodity finance bank
Deutsche Bank has scooped the accolade of best global structured commodity finance bank for the third year in a row.
The bank has managed to prove to the market and its customers that it is fully committed to the structured commodity and trade finance business.
John MacNamara, global head of Deutsche Bank’s structured commodity trade finance business, explains to GTR why the bank stands out from its competitors.
“One of our unique selling points is our ability to syndicate trade-related risk – very few firms have dedicated specialists in syndicating trade-related risks, instead of relying on some general syndications department, and the difference shows in the results,” he comments.
Another key strategy employed by MacNamara’s team is to target the best deals going in the market, rather than secure the biggest volumes of business. “Don’t expect to see us in every deal, but we do aim to be in, and ideally lead, the best deals.
“It’s a competitive market and there are some very high class acts out there among the SCTF cognoscenti, but we’ve had another very strong year ourselves in almost all geographies and commodity sectors.”
Deutsche has been consistent player in this market, signing new deals in difficult sectors and new regions. “We have been one of the first banks to return to underwriting SCTF facilities post-crisis. Now however we’ve expanded the team with some very good people, and really opened up our geographical reach, all largely led by our clients’ demand. If that were easy at a time of widespread retrenchment among banks, everyone would be doing it,” MacNamara notes.
Looking to the future, MacNamara is fairly upbeat, even in spite of the looming threat of Basel III regulations. “In SCTF I am very positive about the outlook for 2011. OK, so Basel III does us few favours, but then for a minority sport like ours, neither did Basel II, so this is situation normal,” he notes.
He argues that STCF provides a viable alternative for the natural resources sector to the mainstream capital markets, when market conditions are unstable. Its performance in recent years has proven that it is a product with much longevity.
“SCTF is a contra-cyclical product, so the uncertainty around the Eurozone and US recovery is, ironically, rather good for our business.“
Best supply chain finance bank
JP Morgan has had an eventful 2010 in terms of the rapid growth of its trade and supply chain finance business. Its ambitious expansion plans have clearly made an impact on the market, with GTR readers’ recognising the bank’s superior capabilities in the provision of supply chain finance.
Over the past 12 months, the bank has recruited a number of high profile and well-regarded experts in the field of trade and supply chain finance. “The expanded trade and supply chain team’s wealth of experience and market knowledge delivers even more powerful solutions to the JP Morgan client base,” Daniel Cotti, global trade executive at JP Morgan, explains.
“Committed long-term investment in this development means a global approach to extending the supply chain finance product through technology and geographical footprint. Combined with our world-class risk distribution capability that allows us to source additional sources of liquidity, JP Morgan can offer true global solutions supporting our clients’ business needs,” he adds.
JP Morgan has big ambitions to be seen as a major player in the trade finance and supply chain finance space in 2011 and beyond. But Cotti is all too aware of the challenges facing the market as a whole, and already devising ways to overcome these difficulties.
In line with other market commentators, he notes that the rebound in trade volumes is still fragile.
“On the economic front, there are questions regarding the nascent recovery in both the US and Western Europe; while in the so-called ‘emerging’ markets there are questions regarding their ability to continue their rates of growth,” he observes.
“Both of these scenarios create uncertainty about the underlying volume of world trade, which is the ultimate driver of trade finance.“
Best trade finance bank in Latin America (including the Caribbean)
GTR readers have once again voted BBVA as the best trade finance bank in Latin America. One of the reasons BBVA has so successfully secured the loyalty of the magazine’s readers over the last few years is down to its consistency and reliability.
“We are there for the customer, which means that we are in their market, we understand their needs across the board, not just for one part of their financial requirements, and we are able to deliver through our global team repeated successes,” remarks Nick Shaw, head of structured trade finance at BBVA.
“We are there for the customer, which means that we are in their market.”
“Sounds simple, but one has to keep in mind that different geographies have different regulators, different political and economical environments, and the financing requirements and comfort is drawn from our capacity to be able to provide an array of solutions across these environments. We are also there through thick and thin and not just flying in when the going is easy.”
Some of the highlights BBVA has seen during the course of 2010 include the growing volume of ECA business.
Shaw outlines to GTR a number of interesting transactions closed in the past 12 months, including a Petrobras deal for a drilling vessel, backed by Korea’s K-Sure, an Euler Hermes-backed facility to Volkswagen in Mexico and a JBIC-supported facility for Pemex. BBVA also closed a deal in the Dominican Republic in the construction sector, backed by Spain’s Cesce.
Looking to 2011, Shaw anticipates that the problems facing the European economies will persist.
“This undoubtedly has an effect on the corporate environment,” he remarks. But, he explains that BBVA is set to grow in the markets it is present in. “We have ambitious plans going forward in areas like the southern states in the USA, where our presence allows us to look at many of the growing cross border opportunities there.”
Best trade finance bank in South Asia (incl. India, Pakistan,Bangladesh & Sri lanka)
As a result of repeated success in the region, GTR readers have voted India’s ICICI Bank as the best trade finance bank in South Asia for an incredible third consecutive year.
India’s second largest bank has come through a 2009 shake-up of its transaction banking group by merging it with ICICI Bank’s corporate branch network to create the highly successful commercial banking group.
“This restructuring led to the establishment of a team of highly-specialised professionals who could deliver effective solutions for the customers,” says Jayan Menon, joint general manager of the commercial banking group.
Throughout 2010, ICICI Bank has focused on perfecting the execution of its commercial banking group strategy. This was achieved by listening extensively to client responses and striving to give customers the best possible products and services.
“This was the year where we implemented our plans and made the necessary corrections in our functioning through an effective customer feedback mechanism and ironed out some of the major teething troubles from the restructuring exercise.
“At ICICI Bank, we believe strongly in ‘Khayal Aapka’ or ‘we care for our customers’. It is about those little things that create a positive impact on our customers. This effectively means going beyond the realms of effective and efficient banking and adding a flavour of extra care in serving our customers,” Menon continues.
The drive for customer satisfaction was a huge success for the bank once the initial challenges were overcome. The bank has achieved a 130% increase in trade banking branches, a 20% increase in the volumes of transactions processed and a 45% increase in the bank’s trade incomes.
Furthermore, ICICI Bank goes in to 2011 boasting of a US$21.4bn trade book – an amount that accounts for 11% of all of India’s trade book.
“These increased figures clearly indicate the belief shown by our valuable customers and an acceptance of our restructuring exercise,” Menon says.
Best trade finance bank in Australia and the Pacific
ANZ has taken a clear majority of votes to win the title of best trade finance bank in Australia and the Pacific for the second year in a row.
The bank has leveraged on its reputation for trade expertise and insight in the market via specialists who understand the importance of customer relationships to become the best-in-class bank in the region.
The structured trade finance team at ANZ has recently provided the bank with a commendable highlight for the year by completing an innovative structured syndicated warehouse finance repurchase facility.
The A$475mn deal saw ANZ act as sole arranger, syndicate agent, ownership trustee, security trustee and calculation agent in a syndicate of five banks.
Mark Evans, global head of trade and supply chain at ANZ, explains what the future holds for the exemplary bank: “I want to see our business growing, making sure that we continue listening to our customers and coming up with the right solutions.”
“Our plan at ANZ is to become a super-regional bank. Our customers need us to support their importing and exporting activities and we see trade as a key component of our end-to-end offering. My business will therefore continue to make a significant contribution to ANZ’s strategic ambitions.”
“We will build on our traditional expertise in agribusiness and natural resources with a dedicated trade focus on these segments in key locations. We will also penetrate the merchandise trade segment further and leverage our specialist structured trade finance and supply chain teams to becoming more involved in the various stages of our customer’s supply chains,” Evans continues.
Best trade finance bank in Asia Pacific
Standard Chartered was the clear winner in the best trade finance bank in the Asia Pacific category. Its strong roots in trade and the experience in emerging markets helped win votes in this year’s poll.
“Asia is where growth is. Intra-Asian trade volumes are at an all time high and this trend is set to continue.”
“Our 150-year heritage in Asia, Africa and the Middle East means that we have the depth of local knowledge and international expertise to support Asia Pacific clients with international ambitions, and at the same time work with clients in OECD countries going east to tap Asia’s growth potential,” remarks Tan Kah Chye, global head of corporate cash and trade, transaction banking, Standard Chartered.
The bank also demonstrated a high degree of resilience when markets were tough. “Standard Chartered Bank stayed close to our clients and remained open for business for them.
“Today, we continue to deepen our client relationships by constantly innovating and pushing the boundaries to give our clients the best solutions as they take the businesses to the next stage of growth,” explains Tan.
In line with market trends, Standard Chartered has been working on ways to improve the management of their clients’ working capital. Indeed, the bank has been at the forefront of such developments.
“Our client-centric focus also means that we are able to customise integrated trade, cash and FX solutions to help our clients maximise their working capital and improve overall efficiencies,” notes Tan.
One of the highlights for the bank reported on by GTR in the past 12 months include the launch at Sibos of its new iPhone app. This product will allow banks to track the progress of letter of credit documents via their phones. The bank has also been one of the pioneers in closing trade transactions in Chinese Rmb.
In terms of the bank’s future strategy regarding, the potential of the Asian market is something Tan is keen to capitalise on. “Asia is where growth is. Intra-Asian trade volumes are at an all time high and this trend is set to continue.”
Best trade finance bank in the Middle East & North Africa
For the third year running, HSBC has managed to secure the accolade of best trade finance bank in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena).
“HSBC is privileged to have earned the loyalty of, and consistent recognition from, importers and exporters across the Middle East as the leading bank for international business,” remarks Kersi Patel, regional head of trade and supply chain for HSBC in the Middle East.
“We sincerely thank our clients across the region for once again recognising us as a market leader in GTR’s poll for best trade banks, and for the business they entrust to us.”
Patel notes that there have been many high points for HSBC in the Mena region during the last 12 months.
In February 2010, the bank launched the HSBC trade confidence index for Mena, a report that surveys the trends and challenges facing traders in particular regions.
Patel believes the index provides “a major economic indicator for the importers and exporters of the region for the first time, and has quickly become established as a source of reliable industry data”.
Other achievements include being the first bank in the Mena region to close a Chinese Rmb trade transaction.
Looking to 2011, Patel believes there is a great deal of promise for the Mena trade finance market. “The UAE recovery is seen to be more modest but building in momentum,” he adds.
But, there are a fair number of challenges to overcome in the trade finance space. Patel notes that pressure on margins is one of the biggest barriers to trade growth in the region (one of the key findings of HSBC’s trade confidence survey). Yet, Patel concludes: “Considering the scenario in the second quarter of 2009, trade business has done exceptionally well this year and we expect a strong 2011 too.”
Best trade finance bank in Sub-Saharan Africa
Making the most of its unrivalled presence across Africa and securing the top spot as best trade finance bank in Sub-Saharan Africa is Standard Bank.
“Trade business has done exceptionally well in 2010 and we expect a strong 2011 too.”
This is the third time that the bank has scooped top honours in this category and reflects its focus on both larger structured trade deals as well as vanilla trade flow business, which is representative of the economies in which it operates.
“Standard Bank is unique in terms of its presence in 18 countries across Africa. This gives us the opportunity to assist our clients in all their import finance and export finance needs, linking them around Africa and the world,” says Anne-Marie Woolley, head structured trade & commodity finance, Africa.
Over the last year, the bank has successfully strengthened its relationship with many clients, and remains able to offer them liquidity and risk appetite across a number of sectors, from cocoa in Ghana, to chrome in South Africa, oil in Nigeria and telecoms equipment in East Africa. Most recently, the bank opened a fully licensed branch in Angola.
Although Sub-Saharan Africa has felt the effects of the crisis, Craig Polkinghorne, global head, structured trade and commodity finance at Standard Bank, believes that the region is starting to see some recovery.
“The effects of that are that the commodity exports are picking up again – so that’s looking positive for the different regions. We have undertaken transactions in a wide range of sectors – energy, softs, telecommunications and infrastructure,” he says.
Standard Bank’s participation in the IFC’s global trade liquidity programme has allowed the bank to continue to meet its clients’ trade finance needs. The bank has also spent time understanding the likely impact of Basel III will be.
Best trade finance bank in West Africa
FBN Bank (UK) has successfully carved out a solid reputation in the trade finance market over the past two years, helping it win the accolade of best trade finance bank in West Africa once again.
With a distinctly African flavour to the majority of its business, the bank has established itself as a reliable partner in structured trade and commodity finance.
“We are delighted to win this award,” comments Peter Hinson, managing director of FBN Bank (UK), to GTR.
“The bank has had a good year. We have broadened our horizons quite considerably from where we started as a vanilla trade finance bank, moving into structured trade and commodity finance.
“We’ve developed a portfolio of quality customers and quality assets and value is being delivered to our clients, customers and the end users, we are excited at the development of our team.”
Hinson is of course referring to the efforts of the structured trade and commodity finance (STCF) team, headed up by John Vowell.
The STCF department was only established in 2009, but it has seen large and increasing volumes of deals flowing through its books. Indeed, the financial crisis played neatly into the bank’s hands allowing Vowell’s team to pick up business that other banks were either too nervous or too illiquid to touch.
The STCF team partly puts its success down to their real local knowledge of the African market.
“While we have developed a very large European commodity trader portfolio we have not ignored the indigenous African borrower,” comments Vowell.
The team often spend considerable time visiting clients in Africa, and travelling out to visit their warehouse facilities or offices beyond the confines of the cities.
Looking towards 2011, Hinson is very happy with the progress of Vowell’s team.
Best trade finance bank in the Nordic region
GTR readers have voted SEB the best trade finance bank in the Nordic region for the third consecutive year.
Operating in a notoriously competitive market, SEB has gone from success to success this year by utilising the strength of its staff.
Lars Millberg, global head of GTS corporates at SEB says: “We are extremely honoured to be receiving this award. Since we are competing in a commoditised area, there is only one factor we can differentiate ourselves with – our staff. This award recognises the calibre of our staff and the strong relationships they have built with our clients.”
The challenges that the bank has faced have been met using innovative approaches to trade finance which have clearly singled SEB out as exemplary in the field year after year.
“The challenge for us is to promote efficiency for corporates and regardless of whether they are using trade finance instruments or clean payments, our approach is always of the same high level of quality,” Millberg adds.
“We are using our corporate financial value chain as the primary way of facilitating this unique approach. Every time we adopt this holistic approach to a corporate’s cash flow, we create a fundamental understanding and value for clients.”
Millberg’s sentiments are evident throughout the bank which has a strong focuses on customer satisfaction.
The bank is expecting a robust year in 2011 and is well positioned to deal with the increased demand for its services.
“In 2011 we believe trade will increase and there will be a renewed focus on working capital in trade flows and more focus on finding alternative ways of self-funding using smart transaction services such as receivable solutions in place of overdrafts and hybrid products that combine trade financing opportunities with efficient cash management processes,” Millberg says.
Best trade finance bank in North America
Citi has secured the title of best trade finance bank in North America, according to the readers of GTR.
The bank has proven itself across all its product lines, including its traditional trade product suite, its working capital-focused products and its export and agency finance capabilities.
“Volatile commodity prices will be a challenge for banks and their importer and exporter clients.”
“We continued to invest heavily in our systems and operational capabilities, which is what our clients would expect us to do,” comments Craig Weeks, global head of trade product sales, at Citi.
Commenting on why so many GTR readers flocked to vote for Citi, Weeks notes: “Being able to deploy resources on both sides of our clients’ working capital challenges has allowed us to close deals quickly and ramp up supplier finance programme efficiently which has provided serious liquidity advantages to those clients in our programme.“
Citi also prides itself in having one of the largest asset distribution engines in the market. “This is a very powerful tool for keeping the trade finance pipeline running smoothly and provides our clients access to previously untapped sources of liquidity. Being able to efficiently distribute both FI and corporate papers is very important for our clients,” Weeks notes.
But, 2011 will bring new obstacles for the bank to overcome in order to maintain its high level of efficiency in service provision.
Weeks notes that the European sovereign debt crises will continue to present problems over the course of the next 12 months. “This is creating tension in the bank funding market and may have impact on credit availability and pricing.”
Fluctuations in commodity prices are also something for the bank to keep an eye on.
“Volatile commodity prices will be a challenge for banks and their importer and exporter clients.”
Best trade finance bank in Western Europe (excluding the Nordic region)
GTR readers have once again deemed Deutsche Bank the best trade finance bank in Western Europe.
“I am proud to win this award for the second year running. Western Europe is our home market and this accolade shows that our strategy to grow the business in the region and to weather the crisis is working,” comments Daniel Schmand, head of trade finance Emea, at Deutsche Bank.
Schmand adds that the bank has really focused on improving the way it delivers products to clients, investing in technology development in the financial supply chain space.
“Furthermore, we have a real passion for delivering best in-class customer service which is witnessed by our focus on ‘ease of use’ and achievements in reducing implementation times,” Schmand adds.
During the course of 2010, Deutsche Bank successfully expanded its local presence across Europe, most notably in the Netherlands, where the bank bought a significant portion of ABN Amro’s commercial banking operations, including the Dutch factoring company IFN Finance.
“Trade finance is and will continue to be a core pillar of Deutsche Bank’s offerings to its clients, and our growth strategy reflects this,” Schmand notes.
Yet, despite Deutsche’s successes in 2010, there are still challenges to contend with in 2011. ““Regulation and Basel III is the ominous dark cloud on the horizon,” Schmand warns. “It will be interesting to see how this impacts the trade finance market next year”.
Not only that, the debt problems afflicting the economies in Ireland, Spain, and Portugal, among others, will inevitably affect the health of European banks and corporates.
“There are also clearly sovereign wealth issues in Europe at the moment and the euro is under strain. However, there is an air of cautious optimism and of lessons learnt as we emerge step by step from the crisis. Trade finance has a key role to play”.
Best trade finance bank in Eastern Europe
For the second year in a row, UniCredit has won the award for best trade finance bank in Eastern Europe.
“We at UniCredit are very proud of this award which underlines our strength in supply chain finance. Thanks to our large international banking network in the region, and profound knowledge of CEE (Central and Eastern Europe) market and client base, our updated IT platforms and highly skilled trade finance specialists, we are able to serve our clients´ needs to the best of our ability,” comments Enrico Verdoscia, head of trade finance CEE, global transaction banking at UniCredit.
“This allows us to provide our clients not only with competitive and innovative products, but also with tailor-made solutions for our exigent global clients,” he adds.
Noting some of the successes for the bank during the course of 2010, Verdoscia tells GTR of the success of a supply chain finance programme established in Hungary with one of the biggest European retailers. The bank is now ready to roll out similar programmes throughout the CEE.
Further to its success last year, UniCredit has really cemented itself as the leading trade finance bank in Eastern Europe during 2010.
Across the CEE region, it has around 4,000 branches and outlets. It operates in Austria, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Turkey and Ukraine.
Best forfaiting house
The London Forfaiting Company (LFC) has once again easily won the award for best forfaiting house in GTR’s annual poll.
Indeed, it has been one of the most active participants in the forfaiting market over the last two years, maintaining a consistent presence despite the challenges of tight market liquidity.
“During this period, we have serviced our long-standing clients, regardless of the difficulty of the credit risk or size of transaction,” remarks Simon Lay, managing director of LFC.
“It is no coincidence that, as 2010 ends, LFC’s portfolio of assets is currently operating at a higher level than at any year-end since 1999, demonstrating our commitment to building our business and to servicing the needs of our clients, even in the most difficult times.”
During 2010, Lay notes that emerging market debtors have returned to the market, and demand for such risks is rising and trade volumes are moving upwards again. “However, conditions remain quite fragile and liquidity has continued to be restricted throughout the year,” he clarifies.
And 2011 will have its own challenges. “Performance of banks in emerging markets diverged sharply during 2010. We expect this to create some challenges during 2011, as many banks try to manage the quality of their assets,” Lay observes.
Furthermore, activity in the secondary market is still lagging. Banks continue to wrestle with a lack of confidence, not helped by the ongoing sovereign debt problems afflicting Europe.
“We expect secondary market confidence to continue to affect liquidity for assets, especially if concerns rise further about debt levels in developed markets like Spain, Ireland, Greece and Portugal”.
Yet, such an environment may be of benefit to LFC’s growth strategy. “We also believe these conditions will provide new opportunities for a specialised forfaiting company like LFC to differentiate itself from banks which have changed their strategy or withdrawn from trade finance and emerging market risk over the last couple of years. This should help consolidate our position as the leading forfaiting company in the world.”
Best factoring house
Fimbank has once again secured itself the award for best factoring house, according to GTR readers.
Commenting on this accolade, as well as London Forfaiting Company’s [part of the Fimbank Group] award success, the bank’s president Margrith Lütschg-Emmenegger states: “These awards, which follow on similar past successes for both institutions, reflect the Fimbank group’s growing reputation as a reliable global partner in the dynamic and specialist world of trade finance”.
Malta-based Fimbank has enjoyed another successful and very active year, with 2010 seeing further expansion of its factoring business.
Towards the end of last year, the bank increased its investment in its Beirut-based factoring joint venture (JV). In 2008, the bank acquired 25% of LCI Factors, and it has now increased its share to 50% and the company has been renamed Levant Factors.
Its partner in this JV is Lebanese Credit Insurer (LCI), which retains 50% share in the factoring operation.
LCI is itself a joint venture between Atradius Participations, part of the Atradius group, and a group of regional insurance companies and investors.
Fimbank has also launched a joint venture in India called Indian Factoring, in conjunction with Punjab National Bank, Italian Bank Banca IFIS and Blend Financial Services. The bank has a 49% controlling stake in this operation.
Looking to 2011, Fimbank is also eyeing up opportunities in Brazil, and is hoping to set up new joint ventures with appropriate partners in the country. Kenya is yet another market that the bank sees great potential in, and would hope to expand into during the coming year.
Best Islamic trade finance bank
For the second year in a row the ITFC has secured the honour of being the best Islamic trade finance bank according to GTR readers.
“By adopting a new diversification strategy, the corporation managed to win new clients.”
The International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (ITFC) has had to adapt to the changing business environment following the global financial crisis as Waleed Al Wohaib, chief executive officer of ITFC explains: “The corporation underwent a series of improvements in order to adjust itself in the aftermath of the financial crisis. By adopting a new diversification strategy, it had managed to win new clients both in existing and new markets. Well-known partner banks were attracted to participate in co-financing operations while agricultural and non-oil sectors were penetrated with the wish to reach out to more markets.”
The ITFC’s adaptability to new market conditions is helping the organisation achieve its mission; to foster socio-economic development through trade, set new benchmarks in trade financing, ethical-based business and world-class standards and developing innovative shariah-compliant trade finance instruments.
“The ITFC’s support for its member countries’ strategic sectors brings prosperity by helping growth and development of those economic sectors. This expands and diversifies business opportunities, enhances our member countries’ export capabilities, which in turn helps sustain and create jobs and in turn alleviate poverty,” Al Wohaib continues.
Through its trade cooperation and promotion programme, ITFC has actively engaged with its multilateral partners in the Aid for Trade initiative which supports the United Nations’ special programme for the economies of Central Asia, Afghanistan and the UN economic and social commission for Western Asia.
Best boutique trade finance institution
Falcon Trade Corporation has once again secured the top spot as best boutique trade finance corporation.
“We have increased our market share when other trade financiers are retreating from global trade,” says Falcon chairman Kamel Alzarka. “It is important for us to be able to step in where the more traditional players fear to go to.”
Falcon has proven itself to be an innovative thinker in terms of both funding and structuring, especially when it comes to south-south trade. The company believes that proposed Basel III regulatory changes support Falcon’s business model by raising the price of trade finance from traditional lenders. Certainly, Falcon has shown considerable leadership during a difficult time for the market.
“We are on track to achieve a target turnover of US$5bn in the next three to four years,” says Alzarka.
Falcon also continues to recruit the best talent to help reach this goal. It has offices all over the world, including Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, the US, London and Dubai, and built strong relationships with its clients.
“At Falcon we are proud of the relationships we build with our clients,” says Will Nagle, Falcon’s CEO. “We have clients from a variety of sectors, for whom we provide complex financing solutions to meet their needs and assist in their growth.”
In addition to its first-class client support, Falcon has also become well-known for its glamorous events, which seek to bring different market players together to discuss how trade finance is evolving and how Falcon can play a bigger role in this evolution.
Falcon’s year began with its annual party at the top of the Gherkin, which was followed by the company’s first trade & corporate finance forum in Dubai.
Best trade outsourcing bank
Winning the award for best trade outsourcing bank for the second year in a row is BNY Mellon, which continues to develop bespoke solutions for its clients. “We don’t expect clients to fit to our machine,” says David Cruikshank, executive vice-president and head of treasury services sales and relationship management for BNY Mellon treasury services.
“Our strength lies in our ability to combine technological innovation with a client-centric approach,” Cruikshank explains, adding that the bank does not target local corporate business outside of its home market. “For regional banks that are uncomfortable outsourcing to global banks that might compete for corporate business, this makes all the difference.”
The bank is currently advocating a more collaborative form of local-global bank partnership as part of its mandate to bring value to its customers, by delivering solutions that respond to ever-changing global and regional market requirements.
“Research conducted for our 2010 treasury services white paper indicates that there is a global appetite and capacity for such partnership,” says Dominic Broom, managing director and head of market development Emea for BNY Mellon treasury services.
Broom explains that unlike the established partnership models, which are often forged out of necessity, collaborative partnership places the needs of the client at the heart of the process delivery, meaning that tangible value is generated for all stakeholders involved – local institution, global entity and end-user client.
Although BNY Mellon has traditionally been viewed as a regional player, the bank is, through collaboration, working towards changing this perception.
“Our partnership approach and enhanced regional focus – particularly in Emea and Asia Pacific – means that we are increasingly being viewed as a global player,” says Alan Verschoyle-King, head of BNY Mellon treasury services Emea.
“Through partnership, we have shown remarkable growth in the past few years, and we expect this to continue into 2011.”
Best trade credit and political risk insurance broker
After a testing period for the insurance market, BPL Global has been voted as the best trade credit and political risk insurance broker for the second consecutive year.
Some reports indicate that the PRI market has paid claims of about US$2.5bn arising from the global financial crisis, though significant recoveries are anticipated.
“While remaining fully alive to the risks of doing business internationally, the PRI market faces the future with confidence.”
“Despite difficult times, it has been a good year for the political risk insurance market,” says Charles Berry, chairman of BPL Global.
“I am delighted once again to thank GTR’s readers for recognising the hard work all my colleagues at BPL Global have put in during the last year on behalf of our clients.”
The insurance broker is adapting positively to the changes that the global financial crisis has brought and is looking to the future with optimism.
Berry continues: “This crisis will be seen as another significant step towards a global realignment, from west to east and from north to south. We at BPL Global embrace that change, as do GTR’s many readers, I am sure.”
The well-established PRI market remains relatively small compared to other insurance markets, but this creates the benefit of the industry being nimble enough to adjust to new situations as they arise.
“We are confident that the PRI market will continue to rise to the many challenges and opportunities presented by the ever-changing global environment. Overall, the market has responded very well to the losses arising out of the global financial crisis.”
This is not the only positive for the industry, as Berry continues: “Additionally, the number of insurers has increased since this time last year and we expect capacity for 2011 to be
up on 2010.”
“While remaining fully alive to the risks of doing business internationally, the PRI market faces the future with confidence.”
Best trade credit insurance underwriter
Following on from the success of last year, Chartis has again succeeded in winning the GTR Leaders in Trade award for best trade credit insurance underwriter.
“We are delighted to have won this award for the second year running,” says Neil Ross, senior vice-president, trade credit at Chartis.
Over the last couple of years, Chartis has built a reputation for offering strong support and protection to its policyholders. “Our non-cancellable cover under our excess of loss credit insurance product provides policyholders with greater certainty of cover,” says Ross.
Ross points to the success of Chartis’s credit management tool, global limits manager, which is designed to set, manage and monitor customer credit limits, and can provide an early warning of potential credit defaults. “In short, it provides market-leading monitoring of credit risk,” Ross explains.
The firm is also pleased with the strong demand for its trade finance offering, which aligns credit insurance more effectively with trade receivable financing from banks.
Chartis believes that the impact of Basel II on banks provides real opportunity for credit insurance to provide additional added value to corporates in helping them underpin their working capital needs.
As the risk environment continues to evolve, and provides real challenges to how insurers are able to meet their policyholder’s needs, Chartis is working towards providing consistent underwriting support. In 2010 the firm introduced its credit loss reserve facility to cover first loss retention under Chartis’s excess of loss credit insurance policy.
Best political risk insurance underwriter
Winning the prestigious title of best political risk insurance underwriter for the second consecutive year is ACE Global Markets.
“We will continue to develop our business derived from the south-to-south trade and investment flows.”
“I am delighted that GTR readers have once again recognised ACE as best political risk insurance underwriter,” says Julian Edwards, head of political risk and credit at the firm.
ACE has overcome an unpredictable and turbulent risk environment to excel in a difficult 2010 market.
“It is at a time like this when our investment in risk management resource comes to the forefront. We used this resource to build an underwriting strategy to navigate our way through the emerging market risk spectrum and also take advantage of the opportunities it presented,” Edwards continues.
Furthermore, ACE has also put a great deal of importance on continuing to support clients and remain a stable platform in terms of capacity, products and financial backing. The company is in the enviable position of belonging to a group that deeply understands emerging market risk while providing a robust balance sheet.
Edwards praises the strength and experience of the political risk and credit team at ACE: “Our team includes experienced practitioners who have seen the extremes of the market over the past 25 years and can write through economic cycles. We also have a strong country and credit risk management team that supports the business and gives us a competitive edge in considering these types of risk.”
With a good team and strong balance sheet, ACE is looking to build up its newly-opened North American and Asian operations, which currently provide 40% of the underwriter’s total revenue.
“As the ‘old’ economies stutter, we will continue to develop our business derived from the south-to-south trade and investment flows,” Edwards notes.
Best development bank in trade
ADB’s Trade Finance Programme (TFP) has been key to its global success and now boasts more than 180 participants.
The TFP, which offers credit guarantees, risk sharing and revolving credit facilities, has been particularly useful in overcoming national disasters in South Asia. The ADB responded to the July 2010 Pakistan flooding by increasing Pakistani bank limits by US$500mn; initially to ensure that essentials such as medicine and commodities got to the disaster areas, but also to help finance the rebuilding of infrastructure with capital goods.
In addition to the emergency flood facility, Steven Beck, head of trade finance at ADB, explains how ADB put into place specially dedicated lines to support oil imports into Pakistan: “Our risk management department worked with Biao Huang in the trade finance team to put together a special facility for Pakistani banks to support critical imports of oil. This has not only allowed companies to get hold of the oil they need, but to ensure the TFP’s capacity in Pakistan is not totally consumed by large oil transactions and has the space to support Pakistani business in other commodities and capital goods.”
Working on such essential projects takes a strong team to respond quickly and effectively and Beck is quick to acknowledge the impressive work that the middle office team put into the TFP: “Our middle office; Eillen Mangampat, Donna DeLara, Donna Glindro, Rachel Ramos and Jami Kho, take pride in how the TFP has grown over the years. It is more than just a job for them.”
ADB is looking to expand the programme in 2011 in a number of countries in central Asia and the Pacific.
Furthermore, larger limits will be rolled out in Bangladesh and risk distribution agreements will be signed with bilateral and ECA partners.
“This will help us extend more trade finance support to the markets in greatest need and strengthen trade relationships between developed and developing markets,” Beck says.
Best export credit agency
Korea’s K-sure has claimed the title of best export credit agency as voted for by GTR readers. The award recognises the ECA’s ability to meet an increased demand for export credit insurance.
K-sure expanded its underwriting volume to US$129bn (W165tn) in 2009 – the year that the agency started to operate under an emergency management plan. “We expect the volume to increase by a further US$160bn (W185tn) in 2010,” says Chang-Moo Ryu, K-sure chairman and president.
As of July 7, 2010 the agency assumed the new name Korea Trade Insurance Corporation (K-sure) from its previous name of Korea Export Insurance Corporation (KEIC).
“We took on a new mission of providing support toward imports and overseas resource development projects on top of our existing services supporting exports and overseas investments,” says Ryu. “In other words, we now can provide comprehensive coverage for trade and overseas investment.”
As global commercial banks reduced their new lending and the project finance market continued to shrink, Ryu explains that Korean businesses are demanding more financial support to continue with their overseas projects.
“To meet this demand, we at K-sure have worked hard towards securing various financial sources by means of efforts such as closing memorandums of understanding with global commercial banks and ECAs.” Meanwhile, the agency took charge in resolving a lack of project finance by mobilising its various guarantee programmes.
In 2010 K-sure provided US$15.2bn (W17.6tn) for medium and long-term export credit insurance in areas including engineering, procurement and construction, shipbuilding and resource development.
The agency also played a prominent role in successfully closing two mega-deals: it committed US$912mn for the Jubail Refinery Project in Saudi Arabia in April and US$890mn for Singapore’s Jurong Aromatics Project in November.
Best bank for documentary processing
Winning the most readers’ votes for GTR’s inaugural best bank for documentary processing category is RBS.
The bank has won the award at a time when technological advances have put documentary processing under the spotlight, and RBS has stepped up to the plate to deliver customers the best-in-class processes in the market.
“We invest heavily in continuing skills development to ensure our staff have the most up-to-date expertise to help our clients. RBS delivers top-quality trade documentary processing through our dedicated high-technology operations centres and continuous investment, facilitating streamlined and efficient round-the-clock processing,” notes Adnan Ghani, global head of trade finance at the bank.
RBS’s continuous investment and proactive approach has left the bank’s clients in the enviable position of working with a partner that is determined in 2011 to make processes more efficient and improve international trade transactions.
“We are focused on helping our clients to simplify international trade and speed up their supply chain. For our SME clients, this means helping them find new markets and making it easier for them to trade internationally. Our new global account service will support both importers and exporters as they look to do business overseas,” Ghani continues.
The bank has delivered a number of firsts and is looking to move into other innovative areas including emerging channels and mobile delivery.
“We were first to market with an automated, integrated cash management and trade finance proposition that delivers a seamless online user experience and enhanced visibility of working capital flows through MaxTrad. In October, we launched MaxTrad Digisuit, a highly innovative array of services designed to streamline cross-border trade for importers, exporters and other financial institutions. The delivery of MaxTrad Digisuit services will be made available in ways to suit the channels preferred by our corporate clients and financial institution partners,” Ghani adds.