Making trusted connections to secure international growth

For UK businesses seeking to build international sales, forging strong connections with customers and partners in overseas markets is amongst their most crucial challenges.

Trade barometer

Santander’s fourth annual Trade Barometer report shows that for many businesses, making the right connections as they trade overseas can be highly problematic, with the coronavirus pandemic making life even more difficult.

More than one in four businesses already trading internationally (28%) say that finding trustworthy partners, connections and customers is amongst the most pressing operational challenges they face.

  • Of those, more than half (54%) pointed to the difficulty of finding suppliers and business partners in overseas markets.
  • More than a third (35%) worry about finding partners that can help them with the practical challenges of trading overseas, such as trade documentation and logistics.
  • More than a quarter (27%) say it is difficult to find customers.

The pandemic appears to be adding to these issues, with businesses unable to travel to overseas markets as they seek to grow, or to hold face-to-face meetings with the connections they do manage to make. Almost a third of businesses in the Trade Barometer, concerned about finding the right partners (31%), say that coronavirus related issues are causing them difficulties in this regard.

Moreover, for many businesses, these problems are particularly acute in markets such as China and India, which offer exciting growth prospects, but where businesses are often less likely to have extensive experience or enduring relationships.

  • In China, 37% of businesses in the Trade Barometer point to the issue of making trusted connections as an operational challenge.
  • In India, the figure is almost as high, at 36%.

By contrast, in markets closer to home, or those where businesses have had longer to establish themselves, this particular challenge is less pressing. For example:

  • In France, only 14% of businesses worry about finding trustworthy partners.
  • In the US, this issue is a concern for only 17%.

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.

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Providing greater support to businesses

Addressing this issue, by providing greater support to businesses as they expand overseas, is therefore crucial. Third parties such as banking advisers, with access to global networks of partners and connections, may be able to play a crucial role in introducing exporters to trusted contacts that are able to help them expand in markets with exciting growth prospects.

Such support will also be crucial in helping businesses that do not currently export begin to explore opportunities to trade overseas. Amongst domestic businesses with no overseas sales to date.

  • 34% say that a lack of reliable representation overseas is an obstacle to expanding internationally.
  • 32% cite an inability to contact potential overseas customers.

For both domestic only and experienced international businesses, making these trusted connections is a crucial step towards overseas growth. Only when UK businesses build relationships they can rely on, both in the supply chain and amongst customers, will they have the confidence to pursue their international ambitions.

This is where we can help. Working closely with our ecosystem of global partners to support UK business making the right connections in markets around the globe. Alongside this through our connectivity initiatives, we can connect your business with trusted partners in markets that provide the best opportunities for growth. As an example of this, in November, via our Trade Club Alliance network, we will connect around 150 buyers and sellers in the food and drink sector, from 6 countries at a virtual trade fair.

If you are interested about finding out more about how Santander can help your businesses open up global market opportunities, please get in touch at

To hear more, listen to our podcast where we’re joined by Nathalie Lopez-Granier, Business Development Manager, Sutralis and Richard Bartlett Director., Export Unlocked.

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