Sometimes it takes days, weeks, or even months for a small company to find the right financing to support its export business. Today, thanks to technology, companies can find the money in a matter of seconds.
The U.S. Dept. of Commerce's International Trade Administration (ITA) recently unveiled a new Web site that enables exporters to find firms that can finance their sales to overseas buyers.
At the Export Finance Matchmaker (EFM) Web site, a company fills out an online application. EFM searches its database for a financial company that matches the loan needs of the company. When the search is completed, the company is provided with a list of financial firms with the name of the bank, the bank officer, the phone number, fax number, and e-mail address.
If the company contacts the banker through e-mail, the information that the small-business owner provided on the EFM online application is electronically transferred to the banker. That automatic online application electronic transfer does not occur if a company decides to contact the banker by phone or fax.
"At the end of the process, when they submit their inquiry and get responses back, they are pretty well-matched so that they can get down to business," says T.S. Chung, acting deputy assistant secretary at ITA in Washington. "It's a time-saver for both sides in that the bankers know that this is a company that they want to talk to and vice versa."
The database lists more than 30 banks. An additional 10 banks have expressed an interest or are making a commitment to sign up on the Web site's database, according to ITA officials.
"Over the years that I've been at the International Trade Administration, the No. 1 complaint from exporters has been finance," Chung adds. "So this [Web site] has been designed to meet their No. 1 concern."
For companies that are just breaking into the export business, the new Web site features a comprehensive frequently-asked-questions-and-answers section with real-world examples that shows how other companies landed bank loans. This section also explains what types of financing are available, payment mechanisms used in international trade, how to protect your company from foreign exchange risk, and how to determine if you need foreign credit insurance.
The Web site also lists dozens of resources including export financing and loan guarantee programs that are available in most states.