by Thomas Clemens, Head of Cash and Risk Management, and Heike Nine, Head of Trade Finance Operations, REWE Group
At REWE Group, we have embarked on a variety of cash and trade finance initiatives in recent months, with a view to optimising trade finance, cash management and liquidity planning and integrating financial information more effectively. Around 18 months ago, we restructured our finance department, which includes both treasury and trade finance, and put in place a new team. Since then, working with SEB, we have made a number of substantial achievements to enhance our internal and external processes.
Partnering with SEB
We decided to work with SEB as our banking partner for a variety of reasons. SEB is one of the partner banks in our syndicated lending facility, which comprises 28 banks, but we found that not every bank presented itself in as convincing a way as SEB. Cost is inevitably an issue when selecting a banking partner and SEB was highly competitive on price. More importantly, however, the team has brought significant problem-solving skills and specialist knowledge to support our trade finance requirements. For example, they have been quick to understand our challenges and provide solutions, and have shown significant commitment to our business. We have found that SEB asks the right questions, suggests detailed solutions and delivers what they commit to.
Import finance requirements
Letters of Credit (LCs) are a major part of our business, and our needs in this area can be quite complex. We work with a German importer which delivers on large orders for electronic materials including working with distributors in the Far East. As a smaller firm, the importer has less financial flexibility than REWE, so we wanted to support the company with an import finance arrangement but without adding substantial risk to our business by providing lending or guarantees. This was a complex arrangement and we needed significant support in putting together a structure and contract appropriate to each jurisdiction to facilitate the relationship between the importer and distributors. With SEB’s help, we achieved a finely balanced structure, effectively resembling an escrow agreement, which provided greater financial assurance to distributors and enabled the importer to conduct its business more effectively, ultimately benefiting REWE.