Dealing with the practicalities of international expansion

Our new research has found that the coronavirus pandemic has only served to increase the importance of international trade.

Setting up overseas

Our Trade Barometer research shows:

  • that more than a quarter of UK businesses (26%) believe international markets will play a more central role in their future growth as a result of the coronavirus
  • just 5% of companies say overseas trade has become less important.

A significant proportion of the UK business population sees new international opportunities as one way to mitigate the impact that the pandemic has had on demand and operational issues this year. Many businesses see red tape and post-Brexit regulatory changes as major obstacles to international trade and need to work out how best to approach new markets.Our research shows that almost half (48%) of those businesses planning to start operating internationally in the next 12 months, think that difficulties concerning how to choose the optimal market entry route have been a major barrier to their overseas expansion.

Trade Barometer

Why not visit our latest Trade Barometer page to learn more about our research and how we provide unique insight into current business attitudes.

Read more


Businesses are looking for support

The Trade Barometer research also asked these businesses what kind of support from government and third-party organisations they’d like to receive to boost their international aspirations. As well as financial assistance, such as tax breaks and help in negotiating red tape, almost a quarter (23%) said they’d like to get guidance relating to in country set-up. 26% want assistance in working out the total cost of set-up in a new market including the likes of entry, logistics and marketing.

Meanwhile, some 28% of these aspiring international businesses would like help in dealing with cultural or language barriers, for example in localising their brand. 23% say they’d benefit from assistance in conducting due diligence on potential suppliers to make sure they’re working with partners that meet their ethical standards.

Looking at how businesses typically operate in overseas markets, the research found that the most popular option for internationalising a brand is by working with a distributor, joint venture or franchise partner. This is a route likely to be taken by 54% of aspiring international businesses. However, other options are also popular.

  • 41% said an online marketplace 
  • 34% via the firm’s own website 
  • 17% of this group would consider setting up a physical store or concession in the target market.

A third (31%) of businesses that already trade overseas do so via an ecommerce platform. This is an option that’s only likely to become more popular as a result of the movement restrictions that have arisen in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Another key consideration at the moment is how businesses can visit new markets and forge relationships with overseas customers and suppliers in the face of coronavirus related travel restrictions. A third (31%) of businesses say they’re facing problems in making this kind of contact.

These findings make it clear that businesses will benefit from targeted support, both in establishing connections in new territories and then in deciding how best to operate in these new markets. Businesses can seek guidance from a range of sources, including their bank to support them with this. As a global institution, we have a role to play in supporting UK businesses get the right support on the ground when either setting up overseas or choosing the best route to market. With the right guidance, businesses will be able to make the most of the vital opportunities that international trade has to offer.

How we can help

Through our International Desk service we offer support for companies who are looking to establish and invest abroad. With access to our and alliance banks' complete product offering, including:

  • the possibility to open overseas accounts remotely
  • specific products and services for companies’ overseas needs
  • connecting you with the right people, and guide you through unfamiliar, sometimes complex local financial, legislative and business processes.

For more information please email:

Protecting your money - Financial Services Compensation Scheme (Opens in a new window)