E4tech is an international strategic consultancy firm focused on sustainable energy. Smart Currency Business has worked with them for a number of years to help facilitate their currency management requirements. We caught up with one of their Financial Controllers, Gemma Shayle, to talk about our working relationship in more detail.
Hi Gemma, can you begin by telling us a little bit about the history of your business and the working relationship you have with Smart Currency Business?
E4tech is a sustainable energy consulting company that has been operational for more than 20 years. I joined them a couple of years ago, but we have had dealings with Smart Currency Business for a number of years now.
When I joined the business I was given a list of a few companies to work with regarding our currency management requirements and I began by using them all; I wanted to understand how each of them worked and which one best suited our specific requirements. So I started to put some transactions through with yourselves to better understand the process of working with you and how that would work within our business.
So you worked with other providers initially as well then?
I did, yes. One person I worked with was sort of a one-man band operation and I quickly discovered they weren’t very professional or reliable. So I then proceeded to work through the rest of the list.
What was it that convinced you Smart was the best company to suit your requirements?
Well what I liked straightaway was having one main point of contact throughout our dealings with you. Over the first year I developed a close working relationship with one of your traders and, obviously, liaising with one individual is very useful, especially as I was making a lot of transactions.
It was much more efficient that way, rather than having to explain my requirements each and every time. Quite a lot of our transactions are quite fiddly and I found that having one point of contact simplified this – your trader was readily available and the service was very quick and efficient.
Do you mind telling us what the international payments are for?
We do a lot of transactions where we pay subcontractors based out in Serbia for the work we do.
So you have one main currency you transfer with?
Yes, but we do use other currencies. We usually use euros so I sell sterling for euros to pay people in Serbia. The other thing I do is send payments to our Switzerland office, so we sell euros and purchase Swiss francs for that. They’re actually very big transactions, tens of thousands at a time.
What are your general business challenges? We’d like to understand how we help your business achieve its overall objectives.
Managing the currency is actually quite a challenge in itself. We tend to receive regular bulk payments in euros, which we need to constantly manage, so I think managing the right levels of currency in the business can be quite tricky. Most of our payments come in euros, but most of the costs are in GBP.
Are there any other business challenges in terms of clients, business development and growth?
What we do is quite niche, so it’s a constant challenge to sell our service to our clients. We don’t have a dedicated sales team, so the project managers tend to take that aspect of the business on too. That’s why the company moves quite quickly as we’re always working to tight deadlines and need to fit in with our hectic schedules. It’s about balancing our time effectively. We’ll get a project in and need to deliver it in two days.
Can you talk us through a typical project and how your currency requirements fit into that?
We work with the European Commission a lot, so we’ll have a large project where they’ll tend to want to pay in euros. We get a lot of grants too, which are also in euros. We often need to pay out in different currencies to what we receive hence the currency requirements.
The projects are all bespoke; one project might last a year whereas another could last a couple of weeks from beginning to end.
What is it that you value the most about what Smart Currency Business delivers?
I think speed for us is the main point. We don’t have a lot of time between the beginning of a project and the specific currency requirements, so we need the transactions immediately. Therefore getting in touch with you straightaway is of huge importance and, as I mentioned, there is never a problem getting in touch with the relevant person.
Another reason we work you, which might sound a bit silly, but has made a lot of difference to us, is the notifications we receive when the payments have been made. You send us a notification which we actually use internally to confirm to our beneficiaries that the payments have been made. It gives them peace of mind and frees us up to move onto other things. Not every company we have traded with actually does that, so even though that’s just a little thing, it really does help.
Why is that so important?
Quite a lot of the time the subcontractors won’t start the work until they’ve received confirmation, so the fact we can forward them the notifications we receive from yourselves means they are willing to start the jobs straightaway. That has an obvious beneficial knock-on effect for the rest of the job. Time is of the essence for our projects and so this aspect of your service is invaluable. The speed and the notifications keeps us on track.
Thanks for talking to us Gemma! Is there anything else you would like to add?
Just to echo the point that the personal service you offer stands out from the other foreign currency exchange companies I have worked with. There are some with automated services online, but I actually enjoy the personal element of the service you provide.