UK business leaders remain committed to international trade


Research from American Express and Institutional Investor has found that despite ongoing current uncertainty around the UK’s trading relationships, UK CFOs remain committed to international trade and view it as integral to realising their growth ambitions.

This year’s Global Business and Spending Outlook surveyed 100 senior finance executives in the UK, more than half of whom represent companies that report revenues of $1bn or more. 

The research revealed that 78% of UK CFOs consider exports important for company growth. This was up from 66% last year - a bigger jump than across the rest of Europe. 70% of senior finance executives in the UK also said that they expect global trade policy and political change to strengthen their company’s growth prospects, a sentiment that was shared by their global counterparts. The findings could reflect ‘Brexit fatigue’ and a desire to progress expansion plans as far as possible despite continued turbulence.

The focus on international trade means that 79% of CFOs will be managing their foreign exchange risks more closely due to volatility in currency markets– up from 60% last year. 62% of the UK’s CFOs also report that their companies will withdraw business activities from high risk geographic areas and focus on lower risk areas over the next year.

To fulfil their trade ambitions, CFOs are turning to organic, company-controlled strategies. The most common strategies include setting up or expanding foreign operations with 70% of CFOs saying they anticipate their company will use this method. 69% of CFOs say they will use online media to support sales, marketing and distribution. Only 64% of CFOs anticipated their company using partnerships to expand its foreign trade.

Commenting on the research, Carlos Carriedo, senior vice president, Global Commercial Services Europe at American Express said: “For UK Plc, the road ahead won’t be without its challenges – but it is encouraging to see leading CFOs, who are the bell-weather for UK businesses’ plans and priorities, remain committed to exporting in the year ahead.

Our research shows, however, that CFOs are rightly cautious when it comes to investing abroad. Preparation is vital. There is no substitute for taking the time to gather research about where similar businesses have seen success, and how to contend with new operating environments – including new customers, policies and regulations.’’