Toughening Up the Certificate in International Trade and Finance

When the London Institute of Banking and Finance (LIBF) launched the Certificate in International Trade and Finance (CITF), this was a game changer in trade finance learning. You didn’t have to be a specialist in trade finance documentation to get a qualification – this was something for all participates in trade, be they importers, exporters, insurers, or financiers – even trade finance journalists.

Trade Finance TV welcomes into the studio the LIBF Relationship Director David Morrish, and one of the course’s eagle-eyed examiners, David Meynell, Senior Technical Adviser at the ICC Banking Commission and Co-owner of They explain how the course came to be set up and its rigorous standards – the exam has a pass mark of 70%.

“There was a real need to give people an immersion in international trade,” says Morrish. He explains how every single aspect of international trade was captured to create a course that would give students the vocabulary and confidence to talk about how trade gets done.

“We brought in a few experts from around the world to rewrite the curriculum in 2016 and we have rewritten it again, says Meynell. This is not an easy exam (as past students confirm), and with new components covering financial crime compliance, digital trade finance, sustainability and the revised incoterms has made it even tougher.

Meynell and Morrish also reflect on learning styles and how this can be done using textbooks, online learning in 30 or 60 minute modules and through interaction with other students and colleagues.

Transcript of interview:

Clarissa Dann Welcome to Trade Finance TV. I’m Clarissa Dunn, and joining me in the studio today are David Meynell of the ICC Banking Commission and David Morrish of the London Institute of Banking & Finance. They’re here to talk about trade, finance, professional education.

David and David, welcome to Trade Finance TV. Now, why did you set up the certificate of International Trade Finance? What’s been going on?

David Morrish It was set up a few years back, actually was a direct request from one of our international partners. What they felt was a real need to give people an immersion in everything to do with international trade. And we looked at it, had to think about it as to what we could include. It was essentially an idea to literally to look at every single aspect of trade, to give people an overview, give them the vocabulary and give them the confidence to talk about the subject.

Clarissa Dann Do you think that not enough people know how trade is done? Does it put them off doing it?

David Morrish No, quite the opposite, I think. It’s my experience certainly working in banks over many, many years is that you learn some of it on the job. You only learn a tiny proportion. You only actually get to understand a tiny proportion. And of course, the subject is big and it’s exciting. One of my hobby horses, Clarissa, is that trade finance is all about the real economy. You know, you deal with the documentation involving actual manufactured goods, shipping them, stuffed inside containers, put on ships, insured, and so on; it’s the real economy. And once people get to know that and get the full picture, it’s a really exciting subject.

Clarissa Dann OK, thanks for that. Dave, I sat this exam in 2016 and it was jolly hard. Tell us a bit more about the standards of the questions and why you were such a tough examiner.

David Meynell Yeah you did choose the wrong year, Clarissa.

Thanks very much.

David Meynell Prior to that, we got a lot of feedback that the exam was actually too simple and we knew we had to tighten it up. And we put in quite a few trade experts around the world to help us rewrite the curriculum. And we did it with great effect, as you know now. But we’ve recently updated it again. There’s been so many changes, we’ve had to put a lot more emphasis on financial crime, compliance, obviously on digitalization, on sustainability and the update of the Incoterms, the trade terms that’s come out recently. So it’s even more in depth now and it’s still not easy and it never should be easy. It’s a worthwhile qualification to get.

Clarissa Dann What was the reach of this qualification? Just coming in to sit in that room.

David Morrish It’s very wide. People do it for different reasons, different motives. But we have people sitting it in operational areas because, as I was touching on earlier, they do a particular role, but they don’t really get the big picture and they’re encouraged by their employees often to actually sit the exam to improve that breadth of view. But it’s also great for client-facing staff, particularly ones new to international trade, that want to get an understanding of the vocabulary, risk management and so on to bring that professionalism when they’re dealing with clients.

On top of that, a few, not a huge number yet, but also a few people in manufacturers, big manufacturers and their export departments, again, that want to know what the options are, what the various means of settlements are, risk management and so on. So the eventual uptake is actually quite wide, admittedly, probably mostly financial institution staff, but an increasing amount of people working at big exporters, big export departments.

Clarissa Dann How do you deal with all the different ways people learn? How’s that evolved over time?

David Meynell It is possible, obviously, a lot of this stuff is online as well, and we don’t expect to sit around books, textbooks all the time, although textbooks are very important even today. I mean, I use tablets and pieces most of the time. I do occasionally get my hands on a book and have the reference points there. So yeah, the textbooks there, but there’s all sorts of online learning tools as well. Certainly some complimentary stuff that we’ve done where you could do bite-sized learning modules of 30 to 60 minutes, looking at some of the CITF subjects.

And you can do that in the morning before work, at lunch time, after work, return to where you work, and you can use it on any platform and laptops, tablets, PCs, whatever. So there’s a lot of interactive stuff out there. And also the ability for students themselves to talk to each other, I think is out there. Many of these people are working in the same banks and they’re taking exams at about the same time. And the more these people work collaboratively, the better. Going back to the point you mentioned with David earlier, I think it’s very important that people change.

On the job learning is very, very important. It’s the key way and the best way to learn, however, that can also bring in bad habits. And that’s where the CITF comes in and tells you exactly where, what the subject is all about, what the intricacies really are. Because I certainly know when I had to learn how to check documents, for instance, many decades ago, some of the habits I was given were wrong. But when you look into the textbooks, you find out whether that’s actually the way you should be doing it. So on the job learning is critical, you need it, but you can also pick up bad habits. I think these examinations and these types of training modules can help alleviate those.

Clarissa Dann How much discussion do you have with the sponsoring employers of the students that come and take the exams about the content and shape of the course?

David Morrish Before we create any new qualification, when we revise it, we have what we call focus groups, so we get key partners involved from different parts of the industry, people that we know and trust and value their opinions. Dave, you are one of them, of course. And get their views on what should be in the syllabus, maybe what should be left out at this time, because things move on, it’s a dynamic subject. But it’s really critical that we get an up-to-date qualification to keep it relevant and also to make certain that what we’re saying and what people are learning is accurate and reflects current practice. And that’s absolutely going right to a spread of recognized experts.

Clarissa Dann Can I jump in there on the whole digitalization movement. When trade finance becomes fully digitalized, a lot of these processes will become automatic. So you are almost in a situation where you’re running a course to teach someone how to drive a manual car when there might not be manual cars anymore. How are you adapting to the digital age in the course itself?

David Meynell Well, there are still too many manual processes in international trade. We know that especially in the documentary credit side, that’s only a small piece of trade. And people will, even when it’s automated, they still need to understand risk management. They need to understand what the risks are, how to alleviate them. They need to know what new products are out there. They need to understand things such as sustainability, as I mentioned earlier. And there’s still a great need for learning. It doesn’t disappear. We all do hope that trade moves forward into a real digital world. One of the biggest costs that we have in trade is the paper, and we have to get rid of that. But get rid of the paper, it doesn’t get rid of the risk.

Clarissa Dann David and David, thanks so much for telling us more about the certificate. It does bring back a few memories for me and see you soon.

David Meynell Thanks very much, Clarissa. Much appreciated.

David Morrish It was great.

Clarissa Dann I would like to thank our guests, David Meynell and David Morrish, for appearing today, and of course to all of you for watching. For other reports, do visit TRADEFINANCETV.NET, and don’t forget to visit us on LinkedIn. For further insights, have a look at DB.COM/FLOW.

Published on November 27, 2019

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