You would think European importers make good money bringing in Brazilian mangos or Colombian roses. Yet, according to Laurens Maartens of StoneX, money is often unnecessarily wasted along the way.
"European importers often can't pay in local currencies. They have absolutely no idea what exchange rate the banks will charge. So, they're at the complete mercy of those local banks. Importers often don't know it, but they could save a huge amount of money," Laurens says.
StoneX specializes in cross-border payments to less common currencies. It wants to provide its clients with an ever-broader range of services. So, the company set up offices in Brazil. Now, it can facilitate both incoming and outgoing payments for businesses. And it takes care of all the associated paperwork. The financial services provider has branches in São Paulo, Campinas, and Porto Alegre. This year, it has gotten the go-ahead to set up in Colombia too.
"It seems simple. But, these kinds of local payments are difficult, if not impossible. It's a headache for many business controllers. Those payments have to go through a local entity. Most parties in the market don't even have one of those. We were one of the first foreign companies to receive a license from the Brazilian bank."
"That was in 2018. That allows us to facilitate both incoming and outgoing payments locally. As a result, we can now make payments in Brazilian reals for our clients. The license we recently obtained in Colombia means we can now do the same in pesos," says Laurens.
"We take care of all the paperwork too. We have a local presence all over, so the information flow is significantly smoother. Also, we can support companies that have production facilities in those countries. We can make local currency payments for things like wages."
"Here, too, there's a vast amount of money to be saved. We work entirely transparently. We provide clients with an exchange rate. They, thus, know in advance how many euros or dollars they'll need to meet their obligation. We add no fees, commissions, or other costs to the transactions," adds Laurens.
"Our local presence is extremely attractive to European fruit and vegetable importers. There are hundreds of these companies. Both Brazil and Colombia are booming as fruit production and export countries. In 2021, Brazil's fruit sector's exports reached the $1 billion (€876.8 mill.) mark."
"That country sent about 1.2 million tons of fruit to the international market last year. In 2021, Brazilian fruit imports to the Netherlands increased by 19%. From Colombia, by as much as 32%. That's mainly thanks to the increasing flow of avocados," Maartens continues.
"There are also fantastic opportunities here for ornamental plant growers. Colombia, after all, has the most orchid species in the world. In recent months, we've received plenty of queries from Amsterdam to facilitate payments to those countries."
Laurens says the global pandemic has not negatively affected their service delivery. "Unlike many companies, we've become busier. Last year, we processed more than $1 billion in payments in Brazil alone. Our web-based global payments platform lets customers make transactions electronically at any time of day. That includes due diligence and a Know Your Customer (KYC) check."
"This added value allowed us to build an even stronger relationship with our clients. Even in the midst of the pandemic." Laurens urges business owners with questions about converting currencies or payments to Brazil or Colombia to put them to the test. "It costs nothing to compare," he concludes.