Yesterday ICAEW hosted a roundtable bringing together our members, who serve over 1.5 million businesses in the UK, with Lord Green, Minister of State for Trade and Investment, and senior staff at UKTI.
This was about providing feedback on the government’s work to encourage more businesses to export to non-traditional markets and drive the UK’s economic recovery. It followed a round table hosted by ICAEW on export a year ago.
I believe that there’s a strong case for Chartered Accountants helping encourage the businesses they work for to start exporting, and many of our members around the table said they were doing just that.
The fact is we are expecting a prolonged period of low economic growth in the UK and Europe, and there’s much to be gained by trading with the faster growing markets like Mexico, Indonesia and Turkey. It is the stark reality that improvements in the domestic market are unlikely to happen any time soon. The sooner businesses take this on board and seek out new markets outside the UK and Europe, the better it will be for us all.
We know from our latest Enterprise Survey there’s a clear link between growth and exporting particularly for small firms. But we need more of them to start exporting: currently only around 1 in 5 SMEs do so, and only 6% of those that don’t expect to start over the next 12 months.
ICAEW has over 100,000 UK members. If every one of them persuaded just one business to start exporting, we’d meet the Prime Minister’s target of getting 100,000 more businesses to export in the next three years.
But it’s going to take time to persuade UK businesses to focus on exports. To realise what opportunities are out there. And to find support to start exporting, helping to lower the risks involved. The fact is that many SMEs today are struggling, they are very short of time, and most will be looking at securing their domestic market rather than at new challenges.
From ICAEW’s research we know SMEs looking to export need more information, especially on market intelligence and details of commercial law. We hope that our members can help meet that need along with the other sources that are available to business, such as the excellent support provided by UKTI.
To help members and SMEs with UK Export Finance we’ve published UK Export Finance and Credit Insurance (with the British Exporters Association and sponsorship from PwC); and the report is available here.
Last year we also worked with UKTI to publish International Trade: an Accountant’s Guide. We think succeeding in international markets is a long term challenge but it is a vital part of rebuilding our economy and restoring economic fortunes.
And we can say this from experience. ICAEW only started exporting qualifications and services about 5 years ago, and today we train more than 4,000 students from outside the UK each year and make over £2m from these qualifications and services. Looking at overseas markets has worked for us.