Tuesday, 5 December 2017


We all know that trade finance has historically had difficulties in attracting the attention of school leavers and university graduates. The reasons for this are numerous, but can be summarised as follows:
  • School leavers and university graduates have a negative perception of the industry (less attractive, uninspiring) when compared to more appealing sectors such as capital markets, M&A, hedge funds, etc;
  • Complexity of the industry and lack of coverage at school/university level leading to natural barriers of entry (normally new entrants learn on the job);
  • “Club” mentality of the industry may mean little effort is put in passing on knowledge;
  • Lack of interest from industry players in investing in boosting capacity in what has normally been perceived as being a low earner within the financial industry;
  • Lack of opportunities for young professionals to alter their initial career path in the financial services sector (difficulties in embracing a career in trade finance for those who did not embrace one at the outset).

With a view of changing the course of events and reversing the “inevitable” future where an inverted age pyramid would dominate the industry (with the necessary consequences in terms of its sustainability), ITFA decided to take action and created a Young Professionals initiative to empower young professionals in the industry, as well as to market the industry to those potentially interested in joining it.

One of the many ways in which we are trying to get more people to take an interest in trade finance is by going directly to the source, namely to schools and universities and by developing initiatives that are aimed at promoting trade finance and allowing aspiring trade financiers to be able to better understand the trade finance industry, thus empowering them to choose it as a career path.

The first initiative of this kind post-Edinburgh Conference took place in Lisbon on the 27th October, when ITFA and IBS (ISCTE Business School – an ITFA Associate Member) got together and organised a trade finance seminar. The seminar was not only aimed at the IBS student community but also at Lisbon-based banks, insurance companies and corporates who are either already involved in trade finance, or who are keen to learn more about it.

The seminar was very well attended, with a total of 80 people present.

The afternoon started with our good ITFA friend and now Trade and Export Finance Professor at CUNEF in Madrid, Elvira Bobillo delivering an engaging 1-hour long presentation, where she focused on explaining what trade finance is, with a focus on why trade finance is an exciting career choice. Elvira’s passion for all matters trade-related were the necessary driver to engage the audience in what was perhaps the critical part of this seminar.

The initial presentation was then followed by ITFA’s Chairman Sean Edwards and by the ITFA Head of Young Professionals Duarte Pedreira introducing the association and everything that it can provide to its members, with a focus on the recent engagement in ensuring continuity through the engagement of new and aspiring trade financiers.

After a very engaging and extremely well organized networking break, the room was again filled with curious and engaging minds, who first witnessed Sean’s enthusiasm for supply chain finance and FinTech as he took the audience through his presentation on “Contemporary issues in trade finance – Fintech and the financing of the supply chain”.

The final item on the agenda was a debate on “Trade finance, the oil that keeps the world trade engine going - current challenges and opportunities”. The panel was moderated by Duarte Pedreira and had a number of high calibre panellists. Asides from Sean and Elvira, who were representing the industry as a whole and the industry’s educational arm respectively, the audience heard from Maria Jose Melo, Director of the Portuguese ECA Cosec, Angela Dourado, Head of Trade Finance for Bankinter Portugal, and Paulo Ribeiro, the Chairman of the Portuguese tomato trading company Unitom. Once introductions to the panellists and their institutions were completed, the debate moved on to a lively and rather dynamic stage, with panellists interacting on topics around the current political and economic cycle (Trump, Brexit and the rest) and its impact on trade and finance, and the lack of sufficient available trade finance facilities for the existing levels of demand – where Paulo grabbed the opportunity to take the user’s perspective and challenge Maria Jose and Angela in particular on why his company had to endure such great levels of pain when dealing with its trade finance suppliers. The panel was then concluded with a number of inspiring remarks from the panellists sharing their experience in passing on knowledge to younger generations of aspiring trade financiers.

In essence the main objective was attained – both students and professionals in the audience came out of the seminar with a better understanding of the trade finance industry and excited with the potential benefits of following a career in the subject. As for the educational side of it, IBS is now exploring including trade finance in its existing curriculum and even linking up with some of the conference participants to achieve it – this will make trade finance available to hundreds of students in the future!

Definitely an encouraging outcome, which begs for renewed efforts in this front. If you are interested in developing a similar initiative ad foster the knowledge of trade finance at school/university level, please contact Duarte Pedreira to explore further.

Lastly, may we remind you all that photos taken at the event can be viewed here, however these are available only to ITFA members.

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