How to Reduce Foreign Credit Risk in International Trade

Expanding business to foreign markets presents significant growth opportunities. At the same time, exporters need effective ways to reduce credit risks when entering new economies. The right supply chain finance company can maximize working capital while minimizing the credit risks of international trade through techniques like invoice financing and reverse factoring.

Additionally, preparation, including proper vetting and handling of customers, is essential to avoid a potential credit disaster that could damage a business owner's reputation and future success.

Check the Importer's Credit

One way to prepare is by checking the credit history of new foreign customers, which is important to help ensure a purchaser can pay their invoices. Several different factors can confirm a company's creditworthiness.

  • Company Financials – If a company requests a line of credit, it's critical to ask for profit statements, year-end balance sheets, and income statements that indicate its current financial position.
  • Bank References – Commercial lenders may offer signed releases in conjunction with a credit application from the client. However, some banks have strict privacy restrictions in place depending on the country of operation.
  • Supplier References – Trade reference forms can show how well a company is balancing its credit lines. These references can indicate any outstanding balances, the estimated annual sales, payment tendencies, and the highest repaid credit.
  • Third-party reports – Credit reports from third-party sources such as the US International Company Report (ICR) can reveal in-depth information about a customer. If the company in question hasn't been forthcoming about all of their operations, a commercial credit report can expose them.

Emerging economies can be precarious and may require local or regional teams to evaluate the client's practices more accurately.

Set Credit Boundaries

Setting credit limits for new international customers is an essential step in achieving positive outcomes. Boundaries should be based on the following details:

  • Financial history and credit reports
  • Cash flow limitations
  • Profitability
  • Borrowing capacity based on current debt and bank reports
  • Company financial statements and liquidity

The sales agreement terms should be comprehensive and clarify any potential misunderstandings. Instead of relying on recent purchase orders to outline sales terms, a master sales arrangement will establish a foundation for lending terms from the beginning. Ensuring that new clients fully understand the contract can help prevent any future disputes.

Optimize Working Capital

Optimizing working capital efficiency is another critical step in reducing foreign credit risk. Some ways companies traditionally maximize access to working capital involve:

  • Inventory consolidation
  • Extension of Days Payable Outstanding
  • Cost management restrictions
  • Efficiency ratio analysis
  • Real-time revenue reporting
  • Trade finance solutions like a vendor finance program

Even minimal improvements in payments, receivables, and inventory processing can substantially impact cash flow and expense forecasting.

Arrange a Vendor Finance Program

A vendor financing program, or reverse factoring, can offer an ideal solution for both buyer and seller. Based on approved invoices, suppliers can qualify for early payments, minimizing the supply chain disruption risks.

These off-balance sheet transactions don't count toward credit debt but can increase working capital. Typically, interest rates are set according to the buyer's credit ratings instead of the supplier's. As a result, suppliers often receive lower interest rates that enable more favorable operating conditions.

Businesses entering international trade need onboarding processes that are quick and straightforward. This activity can be streamlined using modern digital solutions that make vendor financing options readily available for entire supply chains.

How to Handle Late Accounts

Despite taking precautions, companies also need to standardize processes in place for handling late payments. Typically, the ideal time to collect overdue invoices is 90 days past the due date. Having safeguards to deal with non-payments is an essential best practice for managing credit risk. Third-party financial institutions can offer additional protection in one of the following forms:

  • Letter of Credit (LC) – A Letter of Credit is a document from the buyer's backing financial institution that guarantees a buyer's creditworthiness.
  • Bill of Exchange – Traditionally, banks would issue a Bill of Exchange guaranteeing payment by a specific date. However, paperless alternatives are replacing these obsolete documents.
  • Promissory Note – These agreements between buyers and sellers typically have non-payment terms and conditions.
  • Export Factoring – An intermediary between the exporter and importer can help cover insolvency risks.

In some cases, shortening the grace period, sending invoice payment reminders, and offering pre-payment options can reduce the frequency of delinquent accounts. These methods help optimize accounts receivable.

Final Thoughts

Business owners wanting to expand relationships abroad shouldn't avoid doing so due to credit risk fears. With concrete risk mitigation strategies and partnerships in place, companies can pursue foreign business transactions confidently. When conducting cross-border trade, an international trade finance company like Tradewind Finance can help eliminate credit risks by serving as an intermediary between importers and exporters.