Driving trade forward

Export platform: Abrar says the EEA is a comprehensive proposition aimed at helping drive the growth of the country’s exports.

DESPITE global economic sentiments, resilient companies are still growing their business beyond Malaysia’s shores and contributing to the economy through export.

The excellence of such exporters who can thrive in the face of adversity should be acknowledged, via awards such as the Export Excellence Awards (EEA) 2021, said Standard Chartered Bank Malaysia Bhd managing director and chief executive officer (CEO) Abrar A Anwar.

Apart from that, he stressed that the EEA is a comprehensive proposition aimed at helping drive the growth of the country’s exports through a combination of roadshows, networking opportunities, as well as learning platforms to inculcate financial literacy and share information on global trends, macroeconomic outlook and foreign exchange among others.

“The big exporters of today were also once small and medium enterprises (SMEs). If you look at the reasons why large exporters have been resilient over the years, it’s because of their capital position and also their experience in navigating international headwinds.

“These practical learnings are something that smaller, emerging or new exporters can learn through networking and learning from each other’s experiences.

“It’s about providing encouragement, giving courage and as financial institutions, collectively coming together to support these SMEs or mid-market companies to explore new markets, ” he said.

He added that there are many companies that perform ‘exceedingly well’ that have yet to explore, or are now exploring, export opportunities and new markets for resilience.

Besides the potential of Asia and Asean in recent years, he pointed to the supply chain disruption caused by the United States-China trade war, which has seen heavy investments moving out of China and into countries such as Malaysia for risk diversification purposes. Eventually, as local capacity increases, so too will export.

He shared, “I think Malaysia has great opportunities and it’s been proven over the years that in difficult circumstances, Malaysia can come out on top. This is the time to be absolutely on top of opportunities, because when the situation is tough, you’ll also find opportunities.” In the wake of Covid-19, moreover, he believes that banks need to step up not just in Malaysia but also worldwide to ensure that the flow of trade continues, as global trade is currently facing an almost US$3.4 trillion financing gap.

“As a crucial provider of trade finance, banks need to take concerted actions towards reducing the trade financing gap.

“The importance becomes even more pronounced when considering the immense potential for trade, especially in emerging economies, ” he said.

Standard Chartered, which has a 145-year history of facilitating trade and investment in the country, has grown in spite of the pandemic by doing more and being more active in covering its customers through digital channels and transactions, as well as working hand-in-hand with them to help them navigate the pandemic through financial support and relief measures.

The bank announced a commitment of US$1bil not-for-profit financing for companies that provide goods and services to help the fight against Covid-19 and those planning the switch into making products that are in high demand to fight the global pandemic.

To date, four Malaysian companies - namely Chemopharm, BodiBasixs, Knit Textiles and Sin Huat Press - have benefited from the programme.

But financing is not the only area Standard Chartered is helping its customers with, as this forms part of its purpose in driving commerce and prosperity through its unique diversity.

It has also been supporting its customers in opening up new opportunities and markets to combat contraction in demand by connecting people and businesses to markets in Asia, Africa and the Middle East, leveraging on the bank’s capabilities and network in more than 60 countries it operates in.

Beyond that, it has also invested significantly in digitally transforming its activities as it believes the digital way forward will be the new normal - be it in trade, cash management, international connectivity or supporting the customer ecosystem through technological intervention.

This belief that the exponential growth of technology adoption will play an important role in overcoming financing hurdles faced by businesses is supported by data. The pandemic has accelerated the pace of digitalisation, with Standard Chartered seeing more than 95% of its transactions performed online. Over the last five years, its active online banking customers have grown by 155% while its active mobile banking customers have grown by 253%.

Similarly, digital trade through blockchain technology is gaining in momentum.

Abrar said, “A common misconception is that blockchain can only be used by large companies, but it can also be a game changer for SMEs in their quest for trade finance.

“Blockchain eliminates inefficient paper-based processes and ensures regulatory compliance. Its easily auditable ledger function can also improve transparency among transaction parties while preserving data privacy.”

As it recognised this potential, Standard Chartered invested in Contour, a blockchain-based industry platform focused on digital letters of credit.

Recently, it helped Vale International perform its first blockchain transaction for a cargo of 170,000 tonnes of iron ores from Malaysia to China, paving the way towards greater efficiency and cost reduction for all parties.

EEA 2021 is organised by Star Media Group in partnership with Standard Chartered, with the Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation as patron. It is audited by BDO. Submissions for the awards programme are open until July 31,2021.

For more information please visit exportawards.com.my, contact Pei Wen at peiwen@thestar.com.my or call 03 7967 1388 ext 1857 (events department).

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