Support tomorrow’s business winners
In the last couple of decades, as global trade has evolved, midsized corporations have also come to play a much more important role in supply chains. Whereas in the past, they would have focused on domestic markets, these days many such companies are fully active in overseas trade as suppliers and distributors.
This is especially true for emerging markets where trade is growing more rapidly than in theWest. The world’s fastest-growing trade corridors are “south-south— such as trade between Asia and theMiddle East, Latin America and Asia, and Asia and Africa.
Today, by the time a company reaches the mid-size bracket, it is likely to be well underway to internationalizing, looking for opportunities and support to further innovate and push into new markets. This is a crucial stage in the corporate lifecycle, and one which can make or break a company’s future.
Unfortunately, this is also the time when mid-sized corporations tend to hit something of a confused space in the banking industry— too big and complex to be served alongside small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and too small to be fully on the radar of wholesale bankers.
Most financial institutions cater for mid-sized corporations, but the definitions of “mid-sized” vary dramatically, and services are often fragmented by geography, while what these clients really need is the full complement of international banking services.
Many have the same banking needs as large companies— such as crossborder payment collection or help to access capital markets for funding. Indeed, in a number of markets in Asia, includingHong Kong and Singapore, more companies are now issuing debt or equity well before they hit the “large corporate” banking bracket.
Most mid-sized corporations already use basic cash management services, but— as they internationalize— many need advice on how to manage their cross-border cash flow or how to use more advanced treasury products, such as commodity or financial derivatives, to help manage their risk.
Increasingly, mid-sized corporations also require advice from banks as to where and how they can they tap opportunities on offer outside of their home markets. Many are willing to look far afield— for example midsized Chinese companies looking to sell their products in Sub-Saharan Africa, or vice-versa.
This represents a massive opportunity for banks to build a larger business with mid-sized companies beyond simple credit and banking products. But, until now, the industry has not quite kept pace with this shift in demand.
Traditionally, mid-sized corporations have posed something of a challenge for banks. Though they have made it past the volatile start-up phase, these companies are still inherently riskier to serve than large corporations: their cash flow is less stable, because they depend on fewer clients and— because of their smaller balance sheets— they are unable to absorb the same fluctuations as large companies. This makes them more vulnerable to defaulting on their loans, and more price-sensitive.
However, by seizing on internationalization to serve mid-sized corporations in multiple markets with multiple products and services, banks can create a more stable and profitable income from these clients.
By doing more business with midsized corporations, banks will be supporting a sector that is increasingly vital to economies around the world, but the rationale is not merely an altruistic one.
Companies forge long-term, loyal relationships with their banks when they are still young— often triggered by a “moment of truth”— for example where the bank provides a muchneeded loan when no one else is willing to.
By supporting companies at the early stage of their lifecycle, banks can build a pipeline of large corporate clients for the future. It is all about staying focused on the long term, making sure you have the pro-active risk management and capital strength to support clients through good times and bad.
Mid-sized corporations are vital to trade, vital to growth and job creation, and vital to banks. They are the innovators and business winners of tomorrow, and they deserve all the support we can give them. The author is global head of Commercial Clients, Standard Chartered.