Santander and Gary Neville team up to help SMEs achieve international goals

  • Santander has enlisted the help of entrepreneur and footballing icon, Gary Neville, to show SMEs how to take their business international, helping one business take their product from Preston to Poland in 24 hours1
  • International businesses have improved their performance (51%) over the past 12 months versus domestic only companies (44%)
  • Research from Santander UK finds 56% of UK small and medium sized (SMEs) business have international expansion ambitions2, yet a similar proportion (52%) are hindered by fears of getting international trade wrong
  • Businesses are keen to see more Government help with easily accessible information on a central hub, resources on how to trade overseas and details on accessing grants to help.  

Santander has teamed up with entrepreneur and footballing icon, Gary Neville, to help an SME with international ambitions get started in a new market. The bank showcased how with the right connections a business could go from Preston to Poland, in just 24 hours.

Data from Santander3 shows that in the past 12 months, international businesses have improved their performance more (51%) than domestic only businesses (44%) proving that international expansion is key to growth for UK companies.  Yet, despite 56% of SMEs having aspirations for international growth, 52% are still hindered by the fear of getting it wrong.

Gary Neville, said:I’ve started several businesses, and there are always moments where you have to take a risk - deciding to trade abroad is one of those moments. We’re in a challenging economic climate right now but there’s so many business owners with great ideas out there. The support Santander offers through its international network will be invaluable for SMEs who want to take that next step.”

The visit to Warsaw with Zabou Casualwear Limited4, explored some of the steps a business needs to take to begin trading in a new market. Through its network of contacts, Santander introduced Zabou to specialists in tax and accountancy, legal and business structure, ecommerce, distribution, PR and marketing and local banking, demonstrating how common concerns such as a lack of international contacts (24%), supply chain resilience (29%) and a complex regulatory landscape (25%) can be easily addressed with the right connections.

The day brought to life the support Santander offers to any SME looking to expand through its Santander Navigator platform, a platform bringing together a global ecosystem of providers who offer a range of support to UK businesses.

Following the day, Stuart Hames, Head of ecommerce and Marketing, Zabou Casualwear Ltd said: “The door is now open now for our international expansion ambitions. With the help of Santander, we’ve met and had face to face conversations with providers we otherwise would not have sat round a table with. In a short amount of time, we saw how we could overcome some of the historical challenges we’ve faced and can now plan what our next steps will be, which will certainly involve engaging a local specialist.”

There is also a desire from SMEs to have greater support from the public sector and private partners to help get them started or expand their international operation:

  • 31% said more support from the UK government would encourage them to trade internationally; e.g. a central hub with all the information needed to get started and better signposting from;
  • 27% called for easily accessible resources on how to trade with certain overseas markets, which Santander believes could include Government support in ensuring access to the right skills and expertise to get started; and
  • 26% said they’d value more information on how to access grants to support their exportation plans, building on the work of UK Export Finance to manage the funding gap for SMEs.

Magda Crosa, Poland Country Specialist, Santander UK, said: “From our conversations with UK businesses we can clearly see that they are facing a real challenge when it comes to growing and scaling internationally. Anything from finding the right connections or resources in market to regulatory aspects is a challenge when you begin or want to increase your international operations. We wanted to demonstrate the kind of support that SMEs can access if they want to expand abroad, and just how easy it can be to make the first moves with the right connections. While we took Zabou to Poland, Santander has more than 350 global connections on its Santander Navigator platform covering 35 markets around the globe and can help SMEs connect with specialists across 85% of UK trade flows.”

You can watch Gary’s visit with Zabou to Warsaw here and find out more about the international support available to UK businesses on our website here Moving into international markets | Santander Corporate and Commercial Banking.

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Notes to Editors

  1. Supporting Business Success Overseas video and Moving into international markets | Santander Corporate and Commercial Banking
  2. Research conducted by Censuswide between 17th and 22nd January 2024 among a sample of 2,002 UK senior decision makers/business leaders (aged 18+). 64% of respondents are turning over less than £50m; 79% are turning over less than £100m.
  3. Trade Barometer | Santander Corporate and Commercial Banking
  4. Zabou casual wear limited are a fashion wholesaler behind brands such as Police, Sedley and HUMANRACE
  5. Images of Gary’s meetings in Poland (more available on request):

Gary Neville with Stuart, Head of e-commerce and marketing and Maaz, Key Accounts Manager from Zabou casualwear.