Blog by Abby Bickford, Marketing Director, Surecomp

Trade finance processes have long had a reputation for being slow, inefficient and paper-intensive – but how do corporates really feel about their current arrangements? And are they really taking advantage of the opportunities brought by digital trade solutions? To find out, in April 2022 we ran a survey with CFOs and Treasurers from varying companies across the globe including retailers, manufacturers and energy firms, to learn more about the challenges and pain points corporates are currently facing in trade finance.

The results were eye-opening. Of the 121 respondents who took part, only 6% said they were ‘entirely happy’ with their current trade finance process. Almost four out of ten were unhappy with their existing arrangements, noting that their current processes are error-prone (57%), time-consuming (41%) or too complicated (15%). Other challenges included a reliance on paper (10%) and the inability to use multi-banking options (10%).

Seeking digital solutions

It’s clear from the results that many companies’ trade finance arrangements still leave much to be desired. Two thirds of respondents said that they communicate with their trade finance banks, financiers and trade counterparts by email, while 15% are using fax, and 14% communicate by post.

With so much bank communication involving at least some manual processing, roughly half of the respondents (49%) cite using no digital channel at all. While one quarter (27%) considers spreadsheets and email as digital, another quarter (24%) uses bank portals or similar.

Securing finance can also take a significant amount of time: 63% of respondents said this takes three days or longer, while only 11% are able to secure finance in less than one day. For 7% of those polled, accessing finance takes two weeks or more.

It’s clear from these findings that many companies are still struggling with outdated, error-prone processes in trade finance. With so many still using time-consuming, manual tools, companies have much to gain with respect to improving their liquidity, reducing operational risk and increasing efficiency by adopting a single, digital hub that enables them to centralize communication with the necessary parties and access the information to secure the trade finance they need.

Aiming high

In light of these results, the need for trade finance digitisation couldn’t be clearer. With paper-based processes still widespread, too many companies are continuing to grapple with inefficiencies, delays and higher-than-necessary costs.

The good news is that a centralized trade finance hub has the potential to change all this by speeding up information flows, removing manual processes and giving trade participants easy access to the tools they need.

When asked how they would rate such a hub on a scale of 0 to 10, 46% of participants gave a score of 5 or higher, while a fifth of respondents gave a score of at least 7.

Get in touch to find out more about our collaborative trade finance platform