Last year was one when Irish business was thrust onto a new level of uncertainty following the Brexit vote and, pending the triggering of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union by March 2019.
Given the prospect of such an occurrence, the focus of Irish businesses working in new export markets has arguably become more heightened than at any point since joining the EU in 1973. To aid SMEs in their bid to grow amidst this period of upheaval, Bank of Ireland has teamed up with WebPort Global to offer free access to the global online portal, which is designed to support SME growth through international trade.
Bank of Ireland SME clients that register for the service will have free access to the portal for 12 months, with the direct goal of helping them to connect with international customers. They will also have six months access to a concierge service, which builds critical information on foreign trade.
“WebPort Global works like social media,” says Michelle Goodwin, Bank of Ireland’s enterprise programme manager. “SMEs will go online and build a profile describing their business and what they do. A representative of WebPort Global will then touch base with the SME to establish their business objectives and export history and goals as part of the concierge service.
“Web Port Global uses that information to assess potential export markets for the SME and then returns with online trade leads,” Goodwin adds. “These are warm leads that will connect with the potential buyer in foreign markets.” This concierge service element is researched by trade experts using direct connections to the World Trade Centres. “There are 90 world trade centres located in 60 countries and through those centres; all the relevant information is mined,” Goodwin says.
“All tax information and legal guidelines on exporting to a specific country are included in the report by WebPort Global and all connections on WebPort Global are also vetted for security before being advised as recommended trading partners.”
As Brexit looms larger into view, the ability to increase an SME’s global footprint through export is set to be paramount and it is this very element that WebPort Global pride themselves on. “A lot of smaller Irish companies may have looked to make these export steps in the past but didn’t know how to go about it,” Goodwin says. “They also may not have had the time or the resources to do so. WebPort Global makes this step possible for companies.
“Part of WebPort Global’s service offers the opportunity to participate in their Global Trade Export Network, that offers trade reports and case studies relating to their export fields,” she adds. “SMEs can also participate in or organise interest groups in order to create discussions or forums to learn from each other online. SMEs can profile their business on the portal, to tell the story of their company to the other subscribers.“All export events organised by subscribers are also advertised on the portal, whether that be by the SME or Bank of Ireland, for example, and this allows ease of access to invite other participants of WebPort Global to your company’s event.”
Membership of the WebPort Global community will expose SMEs to a back catalogue of over four million pages of trade research, as well as that direct concierge advice and the online tools and marketplace to promote products and services.
The goal of the partnership, from Bank of Ireland’s perspective, is to diffuse the difficulty of finding the relevant trade information needed by SMEs, which can often be time consuming and costly and put it all under one roof that can be found online – any time, anywhere.
The fact that the partnership is exclusive in Ireland also gives the bank’s clients unrivalled trade information as they look to build on – as well as expand – trade deals in emerging markets, and forms a key pillar of Bank of Ireland’s overall enterprise development programme.
Already the partnership has developed deals in the United States and has been key in generating trade leads in China and South Korea for food products. Brazil has also been highlighted as a key market for another relevant SME due to the South American country’s needs for a foreign provider, allied to the competitive shipping costs between the two nations.
This support structure provides unrivalled banking support for SMEs in Ireland in terms of both strategic investment and breadth of support, and underpins Bank of Ireland’s key performance goal of helping companies to expand, export and look at alternative markets regardless of experience.
The vision behind the partnership is to give SMEs a fast-track to trade information that their export rivals will not have access to in order to develop bespoke leads and trusted relationships.
One customer who recently trialled WebPort Global is Jason Coyle, CEO of multi-award winning food brand Mr Crumb.
The business supplies retailers across Europe with their range of breadcrumbs, stuffings and frozen snacks. They have identified North America as a key target for business expansion. Coyle participated in a pilot programme with Bank of Ireland with WebPort Global.
The portal’s concierge service helped him connect with influential industry experts resulting in Mr Crumb being introduced to a number of US retail buyers.
Speaking about his experience of using WebPort Global, he said; “WebPort Global has been very beneficial for our business. I found the concierge service particularly useful with weekly communication throughout the pilot, support when it came to completing our company profile and the opportunity to connect with users on the platform.
“The concierge service helped me connect with a North American grocery industry expert which lead to a series of face-to-face and telephone meetings with US buyers.
“Everyone I connected with has been supportive and we are delighted that Bank of Ireland invited us to participate in the pilot programme.”
Source : irishtimes.com