Trade finance: A guide for Australian SMEs


Empty truck drives in front of stacks of shipping containers

Trade finance is a crucial part of both domestic and international trade that Australian SME business owners must understand.

It provides businesses with the necessary financing to buy goods and services from overseas and local suppliers, while mitigating trading risks.

This guide will explore what trade finance is, its benefits, and how it can help Australian businesses.

What is trade finance?

Trade finance is a type of financing that helps businesses manage the cash flow and risks associated with international and domestic trade transactions.

For Australian businesses, trade finance can help facilitate trade with international partners, such as importers and exporters, by providing financing for the purchase or sale of goods.

It can also assist with managing domestic trade transactions, such as buying and selling goods within Australia.

How does trade finance work?

Trade finance works like a BNPL (Buy Now Pay Later) system, but for business transactions.

It enables businesses to obtain financing to pay for goods and services purchased from suppliers, and then repay the loan with interest over an agreed period of time.

Trade finance instruments

Trade finance typically involves a range of financial instruments and products that facilitate international or domestic trade transactions.

Some of the most common types of trade finance include letters of credit, trade credit insurance, factoring, supply chain finance, export credit, and pre-shipment finance.

The specific products and services offered by trade finance providers may vary depending on the needs of the business and the nature of the transaction.

Benefits of trade finance

Trade finance offers several benefits to Australian businesses, including access to working capital through borrowing against accounts receivable, inventory, or other assets.

This is particularly helpful for businesses with a long cash conversion cycle, such as those in manufacturing or distribution.

By leveraging their assets to obtain financing, these businesses can bridge the gap between paying suppliers and receiving payment from customers.

Additionally, businesses can take advantage of pre-payments, allowing them to buy now and pay later on their orders, ultimately making better use of their cash flow cycle.

Trade finance is an important tool that Australian businesses can leverage to better manage cash flow gaps, maintain operations during leaner periods, and take advantage of new business opportunities both domestically and internationally.

Accessing trade finance

Many financial institutions offer trade finance services tailored to meet the specific needs of businesses, whether they are importing or exporting goods.

Although the process of obtaining trade finance can be complex, businesses can work with trade finance specialists to guide them through the process and help them find the best financing options for their needs. At Fifo Capital, we provide a service that allows businesses to access funding for the purchase of goods or services from overseas and local suppliers.

We make it easy to access trade finance by providing fast and flexible funding solutions that are tailored to the needs of your business.

Business owner is searching trade finance on her laptop in a crowded room in front of a rack of clothes and a stack of boxes ready to ship

The importance of trade finance for Australian businesses

Australian businesses face unique challenges in both international and domestic trade due to geography, size, and vulnerability to natural and cyclical weather events.

Trade finance can help mitigate these risks by providing businesses with access to currency hedging solutions, an alternative source of financing, and risk management solutions designed to support international trade.

Trade finance can help Australian businesses maintain operations, grow and remain competitive in their markets.

To determine the best setup for your business, work with financial experts or working capital advisors who can help you choose the most suitable financing options for your business, including trade finance, and help you manage your cash flow effectively.

The benefits of using multiple finance methods

Trade finance is an important tool that helps SMEs manage the risks associated with trade, but it’s not the only financing option available to them.

Complementary to trade finance, debtor finance and supply chain finance can help fuel further business growth by providing additional liquidity and flexibility.

Debtor finance, also known as invoice finance, allows businesses to sell their invoices to a finance provider in exchange for immediate access to cash.

This can be particularly helpful for SMEs that are waiting for customers to pay their invoices, as it allows them to access funds quickly.

Supply chain finance, on the other hand, involves financing the entire supply chain, from suppliers to manufacturers to distributors. This form of finance can provide SMEs with access to funding at every stage of the supply chain, which can help them manage their cash flow more effectively and improve their overall financial stability.

By utilising a combination of trade finance, debtor finance, and supply chain finance, SMEs can build a more robust and diversified financing strategy that supports their growth and helps them navigate the challenges of international and domestic trade.


Trade finance is an important tool for Australian SME business owners to consider when managing their cash flow and risks associated with international and domestic trade.

By understanding the benefits and various forms of trade finance, businesses can make informed decisions about their financing strategies and position themselves for success in their markets.

Working with financial experts or trade finance specialists can help businesses navigate the complexities of trade finance and find the best financing options for their needs.

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