Interview

Ready to expand to the UK market?

Solène Quintart, Head of the CIC Aidexport Representative Office in London, presents UK market trends and talks about the assistance her team can provide to companies seeking to expand their business in the UK.

Ready to expand to the UK market?

With the representative office in London, how do you help firms seeking to expand their business in the UK?

We provide two services: either we help our clients optimise their existing strategy in the UK or, if they do not yet have a presence in the UK, we assist them with the implementation of an export development strategy. Our services range from market research, trade partner selection and assistance setting up operations to sourcing optimisation. CIC Aidexport allows for an approach that is truly targeted and tailor-made. This year, for example, we helped a manufacturer specialising in modular construction to better understand how this industry works in the UK. Firstly, the potential for this company was assessed and, secondly, we assisted the client in setting up a presence in the UK. As a next step, we will approach some potential targets and introduce them to our client’s project.

 

What are the most promising industries in the UK?

The United Kingdom is a very large and mature market and there are opportunities in all sectors i.e. there is no single promising sector. If one were to name some leading sectors these would be biotechnology, aeronautics, pharmaceuticals and the industrial sector – particularly for innovative SMEs.

 

Brexit having come into force this year - are French companies still interested in the UK as a target market?

From the Brexit referendum in 2016 through to 2020, trade between the UK and the EU has been quite uneven, with some periods being very busy and others much quieter, depending on government decisions and deadlines. However, since the Brexit agreement in December 2020, many clients have requested a chat with us because they need assistance with their export development strategy to make sure they interpret the new regulations correctly. I would say that this year we have been busier than ever, showing that the UK is still very attractive to French companies.

 

What has changed for European-based companies doing business in the UK?

It all really depends on how those companies do business in the UK. I would say the new customs regulations have been difficult to cope with for companies importing or exporting to the UK. For some of our customers it took 6 to 9 months for the customs process to return to normal. Some even had to change their export strategy by opening a branch in the UK to handle customs formalities themselves from their UK entity. In the last 12 to 18 months, many companies have asked us for assistance with regard to the opening of a branch in the UK. I believe that for European companies to have a national presence is a strategy that makes a lot more sense now.

 

What advice would you give French companies seeking to expand their business in the UK?

If there was any advice I could give to French companies, it would perhaps be to keep in mind the fact that it is a country where international competition is strong. There are competitors from Asia, America and other European countries. Moreover, UK clients are demanding and expect a high level of service. You must therefore study your market upstream, and keep an eye on the competition. You have to be innovative to make the difference in the market. If a French company can be more competitive in terms of price, this must be highlighted.

 


Solène is the Head of the International Business Development team (CIC Aidexport) at CIC London. She joined CIC in 2017, where she is dedicated to supporting companies with their international development strategies. She has a strong international background having worked in Business Development for French, Australian and Spanish companies. Solène holds a Masters Degree in International Marketing from the University Paris XII Nanterre-La Défense.

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