Export finance

Short-term loans and bonds to help UK businesses fulfil orders from customers overseas and receive payment.

Exporting goods comes with large upfront costs, which can put a strain on your business’ finances and working capital. Export finance eases that burden by taking on some of the risk of trading abroad.

This type of finance is designed to help UK businesses sell overseas. There are different products that can help you get paid and access short-term loans and bonds to be able to fulfil orders from other countries.

If you're looking to sell your product or service abroad, there are different types of export finance available to you.

Bond or guarantee

As part of the terms of the contract, many overseas customers will ask for your bank to issue a bond or guarantee in return for payment. This allows the customer to 'call' the bond from the bank if you don't fulfil your side of the deal.

These finance products can take the form of:

  • advance payment bonds
  • performance bonds
  • warranty bonds

Letter of credit

This guarantees that you'll receive payment on time, for the full amount agreed in the contract. If you're unable to make a payment in full or in part, the buyer's bank will cover any shortfall. This reduces the risk for you, as seller, and any potential finance providers.

Working capital loan

There are many providers in the UK that offer loans to help businesses fulfil overseas contracts and orders.

When securing a loan, you can borrow against assets, including invoices.

If you're finding it difficult to secure export finance because of the risks involved, you may be able to get a guarantee or insurance from a third party, reducing the lender's risk and making securing finance more possible.

When you apply for export finance, the provider will assess your business. Before they make a decision, they will look at things such as:

  • your credit history
  • your ability to repay
  • assets on your balance sheet
  • your finances

You can use export finance to:

  • diversify and increase sources of revenue for your business
  • grow your customer base internationally
  • make your international offer more competitive

Defaulting and your credit report

As with any loan, if you default on your repayments (in other words, fail to make them), you may have to pay charges. This might also affect your credit report.


There might be a charge for arranging letters of credit and bonds and guarantees. You need to be aware of the full cost of any services you require.

Business stage

Established, with assets and a trading history

Annual turnover






UK Export Finance (UKEF)Link opens in a new window is the Government's export credit agency. It can help you sell your product overseas, by providing export insurance and guarantees to lenders.

In overseas markets, it may be more difficult to get payment upfront for a product. This means if your business wants to trade abroad, you might need to put down significant security before you're approved for finance.

UKEF mitigates that risk by insuring loans with a guarantee to reimburse the finance provider if you, as the borrower, fail to make your repayments. It does this through the Export Working Capital Scheme.

What is the Export Working Capital Scheme?

The Export Working Capital Scheme Link opens in a new windowhelps exporting businesses with their export contracts before, and after, they ship their products. It is run by UKEF.

It works like this. Your business takes an export finance loan from a finance provider (such as a traditional bank or another lender). Through the scheme, UKEF gives the provider a guarantee of up to 80% of your loan. UKEF then charges a premium for its guarantee, which it receives via the interest you pay the finance provider.

This all helps to reduce finance providers' risk and increase their appetite for lending.

Other finance options

Equity Crowdfunding
Using an online platform, investors buy shares in a company to help it grow.
{"mTitle1":"EQUITY CROWDFUNDING","mTitle2":"Investors like","mPara2":"Businesses of any size who sell their product or service in a compelling way on Crowdfunding platforms.","mTitle3":"You're looking for","mPara3":"Either large or small sums of finance to create new products, for acquisition, to develop products, fulfil projects or enter into new markets.","mCTATxt":"FIND OUT MORE","mCTAUrl":"https://www.british-business-bank.co.uk/finance-hub/equity-crowdfunding"}
{"section1Name":"ABOUT EQUITY CROWDFUNDING","section1CTA":"LEARN MORE","section1URL":"/equity-crowdfunding","section1LearnTitle":"Discover more about ","section1LearnAria":"Discover more about Export Finance","section1Rows":{"row1":{"Title":"Purpose of finance","Content":"Creating new products, acquisition finance, product development, project fulfilment, entry into new markets"},"row2":{"Title":"Amount of finance","Content":"Up to £4.3m without a prospectus, higher with a prospectus"},"row3":{"Title":"Duration of finance","Content":"Dependent on the business being funded"},"row4":{"Title":"Cost of finance","Content":"This is platform specific. Platforms often charge a success fee (usually a percentage of the amount raised) with a listing fee. Others will charge a percentage of profit"},"row5":{"Title":"Time to finance","Content":"Once your documents are in order, it can take as little as a month"}},"section2Name":"ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS","section2CTA":"LEARN MORE","section2URL":"/equity-crowdfunding","section2Rows":{"row1":{"Title":"Business stage","Content":"Pre-revenue through to more established businesses"},"row2":{"Title":"Annual turnover","Content":"Any"},"row3":{"Title":"Sectors","Content":"Any"},"row4":{"Title":"Regions","Content":"Any"}},"applyItems":{"item1":{"txt":"view the journey to finance","url":"https://www.british-business-bank.co.uk/finance-hub/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Equity-Crowdfunding.pdf"},"item2":{"txt":"view the application checklist","url":"https://www.british-business-bank.co.uk/finance-hub/equity-crowdfunding-checklist"}}}
Private Equity
Private Equity firms invest in established businesses in return for a large or controlling stake, to help them grow to the next level.
{"mTitle1":"PRIVATE EQUITY","mTitle2":"Investors like","mPara2":"Mature, growing and profitable business with an annual turnover typically between £10m and £100m.","mTitle3":"You're looking for","mPara3":"Finance in the region of £10m to £50m to shake up your business through management buy-outs, acquisition, product development or entry into new markets.","mCTATxt":"FIND OUT MORE","mCTAUrl":"https://www.british-business-bank.co.uk/finance-hub/private-equity"}
{"section1Name":"ABOUT PRIVATE EQUITY","section1CTA":"LEARN MORE","section1URL":"/private-equity","section1LearnTitle":"Discover more about ","section1LearnAria":"Discover more about Export Finance","section1Rows":{"row1":{"Title":"Purpose of finance","Content":"Change in shareholder ownership, management buy-outs, acquisition, product development, entry into new markets"},"row2":{"Title":"Amount of finance","Content":"£10m-£50m"},"row3":{"Title":"Duration of finance","Content":"3-5 years"},"row4":{"Title":"Cost of finance","Content":"Monitoring and director fees; loan note interest"},"row5":{"Title":"Time to finance","Content":"Minimum of 3 months but can take up to a year"}},"section2Name":"ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS","section2CTA":"LEARN MORE","section2URL":"/private-equity","section2Rows":{"row1":{"Title":"Business stage","Content":"Mature and growing; profitable"},"row2":{"Title":"Annual turnover","Content":"£10m-£100m"},"row3":{"Title":"Sectors","Content":"All sectors"},"row4":{"Title":"Regions","Content":"All"}},"applyItems":{"item1":{"txt":"view the journey to finance","url":"https://www.british-business-bank.co.uk/finance-hub/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/private_equity_purple_teal_yellow_white_disclaimer.pdf"},"item2":{"txt":"view the application checklist","url":"https://www.british-business-bank.co.uk/finance-hub/private-equity-checklist"}}}
Start Up Loan
A government-backed loan that helps people who are starting their own business.
{"mTitle1":"START UP LOAN","mTitle2":"Providers like","mPara2":"Businesses within the first two years of trading or that have yet to start.","mTitle3":"You're looking for","mPara3":"Up to £25,000 unsecured loans to help start or grow your business.","mCTATxt":"FIND OUT MORE","mCTAUrl":"https://www.british-business-bank.co.uk/finance-hub/start-up-loan"}
{"section1Name":"ABOUT START UP LOAN","section1CTA":"LEARN MORE","section1URL":"/start-up-loan","section1LearnTitle":"Discover more about ","section1LearnAria":"Discover more about Export Finance","section1Rows":{"row1":{"Title":"Purpose of finance","Content":""},"row2":{"Title":"Amount of finance","Content":""},"row3":{"Title":"Duration of finance","Content":""},"row4":{"Title":"Cost of finance","Content":""},"row5":{"Title":"Time to finance","Content":""}},"section2Name":"ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS","section2CTA":"LEARN MORE","section2URL":"/start-up-loan","section2Rows":{"row1":{"Title":"Business stage","Content":"Yet to start or trading for less than two years"},"row2":{"Title":"Annual turnover","Content":"Any"},"row3":{"Title":"Sectors","Content":"Some exclusions apply (see <a href='https://www.startuploans.co.uk/am-i-eligible/' target='_blank'>here</a>)"},"row4":{"Title":"Regions","Content":"Any"}},"applyItems":{"item1":{"txt":"view the journey to finance","url":""},"item2":{"txt":"view the application checklist","url":""}}}

Regional support

Enter your postcode to find business support and case studies from businesses within your region. You'll be taken to our interactive map.