The German Desk helps German SMEs sell their production goods in new markets abroad. Often this support goes far beyond financing since cultural and language barriers must be removed as well.
Support for SMEs
How German Desk arranges business relations and builds up trust (KfW Group/Fluglinse).
The transaction seems simple at first glance. A German machine manufacturer would like to sell excavators in Peru. A Peruvian construction company would like to purchase them. But the South American country is an unfamiliar world to the German company, and the party interested in purchasing the machines lacks the funds. This is a case for Kerstin Holland. "I'm familiar with the needs of both companies," she says, "I can build a bridge".
The bridge has a name: German Desk – Financial Support and Solutions, a project by KfW subsidiary DEG – Deutsche Investitions- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft, in cooperation with the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce, with support from the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. Four of these bridges already exist in Peru, Kenya, Nigeria and Indonesia. A fifth will be opened in April 2018 in Bangladesh. Kerstin Holland has the most experience as Director of a local office. She has been working at the very first German Desk in Lima since February 2017.
About Mr Helsper
Klaus Helsper is head of DEG’s German Business department, which oversees the German Desks.
In the beginning, we saw everything through our "German exporter glasses", says Klaus Helsper. But in Peru, we quickly noticed that the German Desk idea "works in both directions". Mr Helsper heads the DEG "German Business" department, which oversees the German Desks. They use various approaches to help German medium-sized enterprises sell production goods in new markets. Companies also need support during this process because "financing solutions for projects under EUR 5 million are nearly always lacking" (Helsper). That is where German Desk comes in as it always works with a local partner bank in the country.
In Peru, this is Banco Financiero. In the example described above, it grants the Peruvian construction company the loan it needs to purchase the excavator from the manufacturer Wacker Neuson. German Desk thus helps the Munich-based company overcome a competitive disadvantage. Generally, potential customers are also offered financing in international competition.
"Everything made in Germany is valued very highly."
About Ms Holland
Kerstin Holland is working at the very first German Desk in Lima. Before that she had already lived in Peru for three years and is familiar with the market.
Before Kerstin Holland began her job at German Desk, she had already lived in Peru for three years. The banker, who worked in corporate business at GE Capital for several years, is familiar with "the Peruvian market and the interests of German companies".
She knows that Peruvian companies struggle repeatedly with market swings. And, on the other hand, she also knows about the fear that German companies have about payment defaults. But experience has also shown her that "everything made in Germany is valued very highly". Peruvian business people accept that items made in Germany are more expensive than those made in China, but acquisitions can often only be made when they are financed by third parties.
According to Ms Holland's experience, a lot can be achieved with intercultural competence, multi-lingual talents and frequent conversations, as also demonstrated by another example. A Peruvian company wants to purchase measurement technology from Germany. The seller requires advance payment, which is not common in Peru. The buyer wants exclusivity for the Peruvian market, which seems premature to the German seller. German Desk takes care of the issue. Ms Holland is able to act as a liaison and build mutual trust, here in Spanish, there in German.
The result: the German company has a new buyer in a new market; the Peruvians receive the equipment without advance payment and are able to sell it exclusively. The idea for this form of SME support developed as a natural extension to DEG's own work. "We have a close relationship with foreign chambers of commerce", highlights Phillip Kuck, who also works at DEG in the "German Industry" department. "And we finance over 200 banks worldwide." So they thought that they should pool this expertise. "German Desk – Financial Support and Solutions" was born.
Five locations are currently in the pilot phase. They had to fulfil several criteria, as Mr Helsper explains: a significant trading volume between Germany and the respective country, a reliable banking partner, a local chamber of commerce and, if possible, a DEG office in the area. In this context, there was "a certain focus on Africa" (Mr Helsper), as the German SME sector is opening up for this continent in particular
Unlike her colleague Ms Holland, Eva Roesler is still in the development phase in Kenya. She moved into her German Desk office at I&M Bank in Nairobi in October 2017. She had previously spent over 20 years working for banks in Austria, Spain and France, as well as for "Doctors Without Borders". Having lived in the country since 2016, Ms Roesler is also familiar with Kenya, which has one of the continent's strongest economies.
The German Desk in Nairobi primarily generates interest from mid-sized machine and equipment manufacturers. But Ms Roesler also receives "many requests from the Green Economy sector, for example, from companies in the solar energy industry". Just as I&M Bank is active in Tanzania, which borders on Kenya, other German Desk partner banks also offer financial services in neighbouring countries. This simultaneously broadens the catchment area of the respective German Desk.
With this type of bilateral business development, DEG has established a model that is unique in Europe. Ms Holland and Ms Roesler talk about China and Russia being involved in corporate financing in the countries where they work; however, they are not aware of any offerings like those of German Desk from EU member states like France, the United Kingdom or Spain.
Mr Helsper also says that feedback from the economic and political arenas has been "extremely positive" so far. There were also requests to establish additional German Desks as soon as possible. However, the team first wants to take stock of the experiences gained with the first five German Desks. Having said this, based on the current state of affairs, Mr Helsper expects that there will be many factors in favour of continuing the German Desk project.
Published on KfW Stories: Thursday, 12 April 2018
The described project contributes to the following United Nationsʼ Sustainable Development Goals
Goal 8: Promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all
The economic growth of the past decades has come at the expense of natural resources and the global climate, and has long since reached ecological limits. If all people were to be given access to the quality of life that people accept as a matter of course in Germany, several planet Earths would be required to sustain it. Sustainable economic development reconciles social, ecological and economic development goals.
All United Nations member states adopted the 2030 Agenda in 2015. At its heart is a list of 17 goals for sustainable development, known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Our world should become a place where people are able to live in peace with each other in ways that are ecologically compatible, socially just, and economically effective.