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Export Credit Insurance

Updated on April 18, 2024
Article byKumar Rahul
Edited byKumar Rahul
Reviewed byDheeraj Vaidya, CFA, FRM

What Is Export Credit Insurance?

Export credit insurance, also known as trade credit insurance or export credit guarantee, is a type of insurance designed to protect exporters from the risk of non-payment by foreign buyers. In essence, it acts as a safeguard against the failure of buyers to pay for goods or services delivered.

Export Credit Insurance

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Export credit insurance aims primarily to mitigate the financial risks associated with exporting goods or services internationally. It provides coverage for non-payment due to insolvency, default, or political factors in the buyer’s country. It enables exporters to trade with confidence and expand their international market presence. 

Key Takeaways

  • Export credit insurance protects exporters from non-payment by foreign buyers.
  • It mitigates financial risks, ensures cash flow stability, enhances access to financing, and facilitates market expansion.
  • It typically excludes pre-existing disputes, non-compliance with policy terms, willful misconduct or fraud, export restrictions, and acts of war or terrorism.
  • It protects against buyer insolvency, default, political instability, and currency inconvertibility, ensuring reimbursement for losses incurred due to covered events.

Export Credit Insurance Explained

Export credit insurance is a financial tool designed to protect exporters from the risk of non-payment by foreign buyers, ensuring financial stability and facilitating international trade transactions. Dating back to the early 20th century, it emerged as a response to the challenges exporters faced in securing payments from foreign buyers. Initially developed by governments and export credit agencies, export credit insurance has evolved into a service provided by private insurers as well.

From a financial perspective, export credit insurance can be defined as a specialized form of insurance. It protects exporters against the risk of non-payment by foreign buyers. It functions by indemnifying exporters for losses incurred due to a variety of factors. These factors include buyer insolvency, protracted default, political instability, or currency inconvertibility. This coverage helps exporters manage their cash flow. It also mitigates the financial impact of unpaid invoices. Therefore, it facilitates smoother and more secure international trade transactions.

Cost And Coverage

The cost and coverage of export credit insurance are crucial considerations for exporters looking to manage their risk exposure in international trade transactions.

The cost of this insurance typically depends on various factors. These factors include the creditworthiness of the foreign buyers, the country and industry risk associated with the transaction, the coverage amount desired, and the deductible chosen. Insurers assess these factors to determine the premium. The premium is usually calculated as a percentage of the insured value or the amount of credit extended to the buyer.

Coverage provided by export credit insurance typically includes protection against non-payment due to factors such as buyer insolvency, default, political risk (such as war, civil unrest, or government actions), and currency inconvertibility. However, the extent of coverage may vary depending on the specific policy terms and conditions.

Its policies may offer coverage for both short-term and medium-to-long-term trade transactions. This allows exporters to safeguard their receivables across different types of export contracts. By paying the premium, exporters can transfer the risk of non-payment to the insurance provider. This enhances their financial stability and confidence in pursuing international business opportunities. Additionally, export credit insurance coverage can often be tailored to meet the specific needs and risk tolerance of exporters. This provides flexibility in managing their trade finance requirements.

Exclusions

Standard exclusions in export credit insurance policies may include:

  1. Pre-existing disputes: Insurers often exclude coverage for transactions involving pre-existing disputes or disagreements between the exporter and the buyer. This means that if there were unresolved issues or disputes before the insurance policy’s inception, any losses arising from such disputes may not be covered.
  2. Non-compliance with coverage phrases: Exporters must adhere to the terms and conditions specified in the insurance policy. Please comply with these terms, such as providing accurate information or fulfilling documentation requirements, to avoid coverage exclusions.
  3. Willful misconduct or fraud: Export credit insurance typically excludes coverage for losses resulting from the exporter’s willful misconduct or fraudulent activities, including misrepresentation of facts or deliberate non-compliance with contractual obligations.
  4. Export regulations or embargoes: Insurers may exclude coverage for transactions involving countries subject to export restrictions, sanctions, or embargoes imposed by the insurer’s home country or international organizations.
  5. Acts of conflict or terrorism: Export credit insurance policies may exclude coverage for losses arising from acts of war, terrorism, or civil unrest in the buyer’s country, particularly if these events are mentioned explicitly as exclusions in the policy.

Examples

Let us understand it better with the help of examples:

Example #1

Suppose a tech company based in Country A exports a large shipment of cutting-edge software to a buyer in Country B. Fearing potential economic instability in Country B, the exporter purchases export credit insurance. Unfortunately, due to unforeseen political unrest, the buyer defaults on payment. With export credit insurance in place, the insurer covers the outstanding invoice, protecting the tech company’s financial interests. This enables the exporter to recover the funds and continue its international expansion. It demonstrates how export credit insurance, from a finance perspective, acts as a crucial risk management tool in unpredictable global trade scenarios.

Example #2

In a 2023 report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Export Credit Agencies (ECAs) are playing a pivotal role in bolstering global trade by forming a net-zero alliance. The alliance, representing ECAs from various countries, aims to support sustainable practices and invest in projects aligned with environmental goals. The ECAs commit to mobilizing billions for projects fostering sustainable development. This initiative signifies a shift towards responsible financing in international trade. Export credit insurance is likely to serve as a critical tool to mitigate risks associated with eco-friendly projects. This further promotes environmentally conscious business practices in the global market. 

Benefits

Export credit insurance offers several significant benefits from a financial perspective:

  1. Risk Mitigation: It protects exporters against the risk of non-payment by foreign buyers due to factors such as insolvency, default, or political instability. By transferring this risk to the insurer, exporters can safeguard their cash flow and financial stability. This reduces the impact of potential losses on their bottom line.
  2. Enhanced Access to Financing: With such insurance in place, exporters can access financing more easily. Insurers provide reassurance to lenders, encouraging them to extend credit on more favorable terms. This increased access to financing enables exporters to pursue larger contracts. It also allows them to expand their business operations and seize growth opportunities in international markets.
  3. Market Expansion: It facilitates market expansion by enabling exporters to explore new markets and enter into transactions with unfamiliar buyers with greater confidence. By providing protection against payment risks, export credit insurance empowers exporters to diversify their customer base. This helps them pursue business opportunities in regions where payment uncertainties may exist.
  4. Cash Flow Management: It helps exporters manage their cash flow more effectively by ensuring timely payment for goods or services delivered to foreign buyers. This stability in cash flow enables exporters to plan and invest in their business operations with greater certainty. It improves overall financial management and liquidity.
  5. Competitive Advantage: It can provide exporters with a competitive advantage in the global marketplace by offering more attractive credit terms to buyers compared to competitors who do not have such coverage. This can lead to increased sales, improved customer relationships, and enhanced competitiveness in international trade.

Export Credit Insurance vs Letter of Credit

Some of the differences between export credit insurance and letter of credit are:

AspectExport Credit InsuranceLetter of Credit
DefinitionInsurance protecting exporters against non-paymentFinancial instrument ensuring payment upon fulfillment
PurposeRisk mitigation for exportersSecure payment for both parties involved
CoverageProtects against buyer default, insolvency, etc.Guarantees payment upon compliance with terms
CostPremium paid to insurerFees charged by banks involved
Financial ImpactCovers losses from non-paymentEnsures payment to exporter upon compliance
Risk AllocationShifts risk of non-payment to insurerShares risk between importer and exporter
DocumentationRequires proof of delivery, invoicing, etc.Requires compliance with terms specified in LC
FlexibilityProvides flexibility in credit terms to buyersOffers assurance of payment but may be restrictive

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How does export credit insurance differ from other forms of trade finance?

It differs from other forms of trade finance, such as letters of credit or documentary collections, in that it primarily focuses on mitigating the risk of non-payment by buyers. In contrast, other forms of trade finance facilitate secure payment or financing arrangements between exporters and importers.

Can export credit insurance cover all sorts of export transactions?

It can cover a wide range of export transactions, including both short-term and medium-to-long-term sales of goods or services. However, coverage may vary depending on the insurer and policy terms.

How can exporters obtain export credit insurance?

Exporters can obtain such insurance by contacting insurance providers specializing in trade credit insurance. They can then discuss their specific needs and requirements with the insurer to determine the most suitable coverage options.

Is export credit insurance mandatory?

It is optional in most cases. Still, it is highly recommended for exporters engaging in international trade, especially when dealing with unfamiliar markets or buyers with uncertain creditworthiness.

This article has been a guide to what is export credit insurance. We explain its examples, benefits, coverage, exclusions, & comparison with a letter of credit. You may also find some useful articles here –

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