UK businesses paid £2.3 billion in fees for payments involving non-EU countries in 2014, according to a report by FXcompared Intelligence.
According to the research, UK companies incurred £670 million in direct currency-related transaction costs in 2014 – as well as more than £1.6 billion in costs for importers sourcing goods from non-EU countries.
The figures may be of particular concern to SMES, as since the financial crash many more are exporting early in their lifecycle. Figures from Barclays suggest more than 60% now do this within one year of starting – compared to 30% pre-2008.
The report suggests the main cause of the payments incurred is a lack of awareness of new financial services over the traditional banking routes.
A separate report by FXCompared revealed 40% of consumers still favour traditional banking products over new fintech companies when making international transfers.
Commenting on the latest research, FXCompared Intelligence chief economist Jonathan Hyman said that smaller businesses – especially in specialist sectors – “often do not have the scale and capacity to manage their international transactions and currency risk effectively”.
“And they are often not well served by their banks. This significantly adds to the cost of doing business with customers and suppliers outside the UK,” he added.
Daniel Webber, managing director at FXcompared, said that SMEs often cite “currency volatility and foreign payments risk” as barriers for international growth.
“[They] are too often seen as ‘inevitable’ costs of dealing with foreign currencies. This does not have to be the case, however,” he continued.
“As SMEs continue to increase their international footprint, understanding how to manage international payments more efficiently – and how to access risk-mitigating currency products and services – will be key in limiting foreign exchange-related costs.”
Further reading: Tech investment up 18% in 2015 Q1