Now is the time to target new export opportunities, says Mike Mullaney, regional director for the north east at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking.

As the English region that sells the biggest proportion of its exports to Europe, the North East can be proud of its exporting success.

And our international traders have more reason than most to pay close attention to the complex negotiations that will decide the type of trade relationship that we’ll have with Europe.

In the meantime, however, as experienced exporters they also have much to gain by seizing new opportunities to sell their goods and services in new markets.

The deputy governor of the Bank of England, Ben Broadbent, has already said that the UK is currently enjoying a “sweet spot” for exporting and it is heartening to see firms in the North East are determined to get on with doing what they do best – taking these growth opportunities when they arise while keeping an eye on external risks.

Prospects and partners

According to the latest Lloyds Bank purchasing manager’s index (PMI) survey, firms still feel positive about their growth prospects, and the Euro-Sterling exchange is making their goods and services more competitive overseas.

Leaving the EU could also encourage businesses to look again at countries outside Europe, which could grow into lucrative new export markets.

In fact, firms expect exports to increase to all markets, including Europe, but most notably to Asia-Pacific, the US and Canada.

These regions provide north east businesses with fresh opportunities to grow their revenues and a more diverse customer base can also help shield against fluctuations in the domestic market.

But exporting to new markets presents new challenges and risks, with unfamiliar languages and legislation to contend with, while waiting longer to get paid can also increase pressure on working capital.

At Lloyds Bank, we recently launched an online International Trade Portal, designed specifically to help British businesses identify and prioritise the best overseas opportunities for their products or services.

By thoroughly researching potential trading partners and conditions, and by identifying public and private tender opportunities, businesses put themselves in the best possible position to export successfully.

Support to grow

A trusted adviser can also help firms navigate through these challenges and boost firms’ chances of success.

A bank with global expertise will advise businesses on how to identify the best opportunities and prepare their businesses for exporting either for the first time or into a new market.

Only then should they start to look at the wealth of other support available, through traditional trade finance products for example, to ensure that they can properly fund any move into a new market without damaging their cash flow.

Overseas demand for British products and services, together with the current value of the pound, presents opportunities to firms looking to export.

Meanwhile, it is always prudent for businesses in the region to pursue a diverse and sustainable customer base to protect them from any future uncertainty.

But businesses looking to overseas markets for growth don’t have to go it alone.

Our ongoing commitment to helping Britain prosper globally, including by helping 25,000 firms start exporting for the first time by 2020, means we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with ambitious businesses as they work to build a secure and prosperous future for the North East.