Fashion to Finance

A blog by Victoria Davis

Walking through the doors on my first day I saw a fresh, bright office space. Without a dress rail, mannequin or tape measure in sight, I knew that I was on a different journey. Friendly faces greeted me at the door for my new temp position and helped me find my place within the company. My first job was to answer the telephone. “Thank you for calling Trade and Export Finance Limited, Victoria speaking… How may I help you?”….

With a background as a Fashion Retail Clothing Buyer for ten years I have travelled the world, worked for several different businesses presenting and persuading management to buy my ranges which were negotiated and built to make a profit. With only a peripheral knowledge of finance the last place i thought I would find myself was in a Finance company.

Little did I know this is not just any finance company; Trade and Export Finance Limited is owned by husband and wife, Yin and Yang team Mark and Mary; M&M as I like to call them. Mark, with a background in banking and international trade, recognised straight away from my CV that I could have a permanent place within the company. Mary, with nurture in nursing outlined a vision and an ethos that really fits with my own: they like helping people.

Trade and Export Finance is the gateway to the group and is primarily a consultancy to SMEs to help with their financial needs. here are two sister companies called UK EXIM and UK EXIM Finance which support client companies with trade finance.

Turning leads and prospects into clients

My favourite part of my buying career was meeting hundreds of suppliers all around the world; finding out about their businesses and what they have to offer, not to mention the free clothes of course! A permanent role was offered to me as a Business Development Manager and sounded like a very attractive prospect. Leads and Prospects are now my territory; this means a big part of my role is to source new business by building and maintaining an introducer network.

I am new-client-facing and have the greatest interaction with them during the initial stages before they are signed up to be a client. While helping to relay what services we can offer from the two parts of the business, I also liaise with the team to get the prospect converted into a client.

A couple of weeks ago I sat with two guys who had built an air freshener company. They source their materials from China. With China being my old stomping ground, my ‘buying head’ kicked in and I was asking them about their supplier base; how much commitment they had with one supplier; how they interacted with their buyers, and giving tips on how to handle them. It felt good and made me realise that I could contribute to their business in a way I had not realised.

There is a wealth of knowledgeable people within the business and I know I still have a lot to learn without any direct experience in finance but I always say “I may not have all the answers but I will endeavour to find them”. Four months later and with great support from the team, I’ve raised £1m worth of new business and counting. . .

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Above: Victoria (left) briefs colleague Chloe Millington on action points for the coming week.