News story

International graduates help Birmingham firm grow

A Birmingham finance firm is reaping the rewards of UK Trade and Investment’s (UKTI) international graduate placement scheme.

UKTI West Midlands has teamed up with Aston University, offering student placement opportunities to help companies overcome cultural and language barriers.

In the past 12 months Trade and Export Finance Ltd (TAEFL) has employed seven graduates and postgraduates, with support from UKTI’s Postgraduates for International Business programme.

The graduates working with TAEFL, from Lithuania, Romania, Nigeria, and Cyprus, have been helping to boost the firm’s export activity by assisting with the firm’s trade in overseas markets.

Independent research by Professor Foreman-Peck from Cardiff Business School estimates that as much as £48 billion in international sales is lost every year because of language and cultural ignorance.

Foreign-language speaking graduates placed in companies can build contacts and trade in countries where English is not the first language. They can also help companies with a range of other tasks, such as making new international business contacts, helping develop international facing websites, and advising on cultural and business etiquette.

Making the most of the opportunity

Speaking about the UKTI scheme, which is available to exporters throughout the English regions, TAEFL founder Mark Runiewicz said:

To work well internationally, you need to go the extra mile to connect. We found that when helping clients trading in new markets where English is not the first language, potential customers feel safer and more at ease using their own language.

Their language and cultural skills mean they are able to create a firmer bond with both clients and potential clients, which is more likely to lead to a successful business relationship.

The programme is a win-win model. We benefit from the energy and enthusiasm of students who are happy to be given the opportunity to learn in a supportive environment.

One of TAEFL’s international students, Lelia Neophytou from Cyprus said:

Working in a growing international environment gives me real life experience in readiness for doing international business.


Birmingham based TAEFL, set up in 2001 by Mark Runiewicz and Mary McErlain, is a consultancy specialising in helping firm’s access financial solutions including bank loans. The firm creates financial structures which meet the needs of clients while also appealing to lenders. TAEFL carries out annual research on international trading in the UK and uses its own finance house to finance orders both in the UK and overseas. Most clients are UK based selling into both home and overseas markets including Europe, USA, Kazakhstan, DR Congo and Nigeria.

Regional help

UKTI has a language and cultural adviser in every region of the country who act as a facilitator between companies and universities for the scheme.

Lead Language and Cultural Adviser for UKTI in the West Midlands, Gerti Willis, said:

Recruiting an international student from the market you are trying to export to can have a dramatic effect on your business. Students can help with undertaking market research, dealing with enquiries that arrive in a foreign language or making sure that you do not make a cultural faux pas when meeting international clients.

The project with Aston University, TAEFL and UKTI demonstrate that this partnership brings a positive outcome for all parties.