Trade finance yesterday, today and what is driving tomorrow

Having heard from our young professionals in trade finance in 2019, two years on, it was time to talk to those at the other end of the career spectrum – who could look back on several decades with current insights.

We celebrate a semi-return to normal – this show was filmed live in Deutsche Bank offices – with two representatives of vintage trade finance – Deutsche Bank’s Russell Brown and DNB Bank’s Peter Sargent. Having worked together many years ago on a telecoms club deal, they comment on how different it was doing a deal then, compared with today’s “originate to distribute” approach – although they do agree that banks are wanting to deploy their balance sheets more and this particular pendulum may be swinging back the other way.

The duo also discusses regulatory nationalism, and how this causes problems with consistent allocation of capital in different products.

Being a paper business for 300 years, trade finance has been slow to change. “When I started,” says Brown, we just had the “foreign department”. Sargent notes today’s much clearer view of a customer’s liquidity. “we don’t start with a product, but a customer need and the understanding of the treasury function is much better now,” he says.

As for digitalisation and how it can improve the reach of trade finance to smaller companies – Brown and Sargent regard this as “a haphazard journey”, despite the many worthy committees, working groups, use cases and position papers, but Covid-19 has ‘accelerated progress”, says Brown. There has been a lot of investment and collaboration in the sector, and comparisons with the payments industry are unhelpful because of the sheer number of parties involved in a deal along the way. But it is getting there. “We are on the right track,” says Brown.

Who will be doing their jobs in 30 years’ time? Both guests are worried about the talent gap and are doing their best to make the most of their vintage to train up and inspire young professionals. “We have to make trade finance attractive, “they conclude.

Do join these eminences grises in trade finance to hear more!


  • Russell Brown, Global Head of Trade Finance Financial Institutions, Deutsche Bank AG
  • Peter Sargent, Head of Transaction Banking CEMEA, DNB


  • Clarissa Dann, Editorial Director, Deutsche Bank

Published on November 1, 2021