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Mutualism in Maritime: Western Union, Mersey Maritime, and the Export Club

With global political uncertainty rife around many key markets, navigating the global economy is anything but plain sailing. With the increasing volatility of once stalwart currencies, some even behaving like emerging market currencies, Western Union can help support the growth of UK businesses by providing bespoke solutions to improve their cashflow or ease international treasury management.

By Graham Smith, Head of Partnerships, Western Union Business Solutions

One sector where we can really make a difference is the maritime industry. When considering national economic factors, the maritime sector in the UK often gets overlooked and underestimated. However, according to the Department of Trade’s Maritime Annual report 2017-2018, the industry generated £14.5 billion in 2016 and directly supported an estimated 186,000 jobs.

Western Union works with and supports the maritime industry across the UK. An example of this is our partnership with Mersey Maritime. Since January 2019, we have been working towards our mutual goal of playing our part in supporting international trade, engaging with the maritime sector and promoting Liverpool as a world class Centre of Excellence.

I feel fortunate to be driving this relationship and working with the team at Mersey Maritime. From day one, they have supported what has been an education process for me, providing insights on the importance of this sector and particularly the Mersey area. Liverpool has deep ties to the industry, with Merseyside recognised as one of the UK’s maritime clusters, and we take pride at Western Union to be able to help promote businesses on Merseyside and the maritime industry at large.

The Maritime 2050 report, published earlier this year by the Department for Transport, focuses on making sure that suitable resource and importance is given to driving innovation and development in the right areas such as, enhancing our UK competitive advantage in the provision of maritime law, finance, and insurance management; strengthening our reputation in maritime technology; growing the maritime workforce; and transforming diversity. It also provides a blueprint for keeping the UK at the forefront of the global maritime sector. The importance of this cannot be understated, and at Western Union Business Solutions, we are committed to align the work we do in the sector to some of the key initiatives detailed within the report.

By helping maritime businesses to trade more efficiently and effectively, we can help them to take advantage of international opportunity. We help make business planning easier by supporting our customers to understand their currency exposures and payment patterns with various suppliers and currencies. We use our vast foreign exchange network to help simplify currency conversion. And we can help mitigate risk and protect the bottom-line by providing tools that give our clients instant access to cashflow projections, upcoming invoices, holding balances, and forward positions in one consolidated view.

The shipping industry is a critical element in the UK economy with around 95% of British imports and exports being moved by sea. This includes 25% of the UK’s energy supply, and 48% of the country’s food supplies. When impacts on the wider economy are accounted for, including the rest of the maritime sector, this rises to nearly £5 billion1. As such we believe Western Union can make a real difference to the wider UK economy through key partnerships in this industry where day-to-day business operations are intertwined with currency exchange.

One of the most important short-term goals outlined in the report is the creation of “Export Champions”. As such, in the coming weeks we will be launching the “Export Club” in partnership with Mersey Maritime. This initiative is designed to stimulate new trade opportunities and encourage business growth within the sector. It will also help businesses understand the challenges they may face when exploring new international opportunities, such as the heightened currency volatility in the UK due to political uncertainty.

The “Export Club” is just the first of our numerous plans to support the sector and help ensure its direction of travel stays consistent with the aims of the report.

Not only do we feel that this work is important, but we are also excellently placed to drive this change. As well as the wealth of knowledge we have been building through our partnership with Mersey Maritime, we have a history of working with the Department for International Trade on the “Exporting is Great” campaign. We have a unique appreciation of the fact that the future is global, and we are excited to continue helping businesses grow their international offerings and promoting the importance of the UK’s maritime industry at the global scale.

I look forward to updating you with more information in the near future.

This article has been approved for distribution by Western Union International Bank  GmbH,  UK branch (Branch Address: 131 Finsbury Pavement, London, EC2A 1NT) is a branch of Western Union International Bank GmbH (registered in Austria, company number FN256184t, VAT Number ATU61347377, with its registered office at Schubertring 11, 1010 Vienna, Austria)  which is subject to limited regulation by the UK Financial Conduct Authority and Prudential Regulation Authority.

[1] Maritime 2050 report: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/maritime-2050-navigating-the-future