UNITED Overseas Bank (UOB) and Santander UK have teamed up to help companies wanting to do business between South-east Asia and the United Kingdom.
The alliance brings together the complementary strengths - such as local market knowledge and regional presence - of both banks in helping companies from their respective markets expand overseas, they said in a statement on Wednesday.
They are looking to help 200 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) expand from the UK into Asean, and vice versa over the next two years.
The two banks are targeting SMEs with annual revenues in the range of S$20 million to S$200 million, or £6.5 million (S$11.8 million) and above.
The SMEs will be able to access each bank's financial products and services, as well as the banks' respective industry insights and business connections, which are relevant and essential for successful market entry, the statement said.
UOB and Santander UK will also facilitate more trade and investment from companies across Asean into the UK. These efforts include helping Singapore companies with their expansion plans in the UK, one of their top business and investment destinations.
Data from Santander UK shows that Singapore was one of the major contributors to the UK's FDI (foreign direct investment) inflows in 2016.
Sam Cheong, UOB head of group foreign direct investment advisory, said that the UK is a global business hub, and is a "springboard for Singapore companies looking to get into the international markets".
Also with Brexit looming, UK companies are strengthening their global trade, said Mr Cheong.
"We're likely to see more UK companies seeking expansion in South-east Asia," he said.
South-east Asia, with its rapidly expanding young and middle class, is very attractive to UK exporters, in particular those in the consumer and food and beverage segments, he said.
South-east Asia's population has grown to 640 million people today from 560 million 10 years ago, he noted.
"With rising incomes and the increasing consumption power of Asean's young, plentiful and skilled workforce, the potential to build a sustainable business in Asean is huge," he said.
"Together with Santander UK, we will focus on engaging businesses - from manufacturers to wholesalers and retailers - to help them seize the opportunities in the region," said Mr Cheong.
UOB estimates that the combined gross domestic product of the Asean countries will expand from the current US$2.5 trillion to US$6.4 trillion by 2030, making it the fourth-largest economy in the world.
Said John Carroll, Santander UK head of products and international business: "We know from experience firms that export and trade internationally tend to be more confident and will benefit from additional opportunities. Through our strategic alliance with UOB, we will engage more SMEs in the UK, helping them to understand the diverse economies and cultures of the region. This will help them to take advantage of the growing number of opportunities that exist."
Set up in 2011, UOB's FDI advisory unit works with government agencies, trade and industry associations, and professional service providers. UOB has nine FDI centres located in China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. From 2011 to the end of 2017, the unit has provided advisory services to more than 1,600 companies from around the world, facilitating close to S$90 billion in business flows.
Santander organises regular trade missions for UK firms to link them up with buyers and to help them network with key stakeholders, enabling them to make connections that will unlock global export and trade opportunities.
Santander has an international presence in 10 major markets and more than 12,000 branches worldwide and a network of international alliance partners.