Member in Focus: Alinea Customs

Mon 7 Feb 2022
Posted by: Sharon Bacon
Founded: July 2019
Main business: Customs broker and consultancy
IOE&IT member category: Business

Education and training are essential components of successful trade – helping to make sure you and your business are compliant with all the rules and regulations that surround any international trade transaction.

It’s a theme that is top of mind for IOE&IT Business Member Alinea, a customs broker and consultant based in London founded by its directors, solicitor Geoff Caesar and management consultant Holly Jade O’Leary (see photo: copy to come copy to come to come).

The firm provides customs brokerage and consultancy, and like most businesses involved in advising traders moving goods between Great Britain and the European Union, has been on strong learning and growth curves.

When Member Monthly recently caught up with O’Leary, we were keen to know what has helped Alinea adapt to meet changing customer demands – while expanding its business in the process.

MM: What’s it like working in international trade right now?

HJO’L: We're extremely busy and scaling the business at the same time. We deal with quite complex, technical questions which might be to do with – for example – rules of origin and changes to tariff headings within a manufacturing process. So in answer to your question, what’s interesting is that no day is the same.

What are the biggest barriers for UK companies that trade overseas?

There is a high level of ambiguity and uncertainty regarding customs paperwork. When Alinea onboards new clients, we take the time to explain appropriate methods to confirm compliance and retain an audit trail.

How has your business changed since transition from the EU customs union and single market ended in December 2020?

Prior to Brexit, we were providing customs consultancy to businesses. We were initially assisting companies with managing their Brexit checklists and technical compliance work to help them manage the change in regulations resulting from Great Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union.

Then we saw an increase in demand for customs clearance – in 2020 we received no less than 28 queries from companies.

So we decided I would undertake the UK Customs Academy Certificate in Customs Compliance, the UKCA Certificate in Advanced Customs Compliance and the UKCA Diploma in Advanced Customs Compliance to improve our knowledge of customs clearance procedures.

“Lunchtime Learning fits very well around my work commitments”

Holly Jade O’Leary, Alinea Customs

How did you find that experience? You graduated in 2021 with a distinction.

I found the UKCA material very well structured, and I liked the self-guided learning element. Not having set learning hours allowed me to dip into study when I have the opportunity. I'm working full time, so this method of learning fitted very well around my work commitments. Although I appreciate a classroom-based experience, it's not always feasible.

As well as this aspect, the courses have given me a practical overview of customs, which has been helpful to our clients in areas such as rules of origin, tariff classification, temporary admission and export controls.

I personally like learning a lot about the history and future of customs and international trade. The UKCA qualifications gave me that periphery of understanding about what the future holds.

What aspects of IOE&IT membership do you find useful?

Overall the most important thing for me has been the access to education and training – at times that suit my work schedule. We're a Business Member and having access to shorter-form learning such as Lunchtime Learning videos has helped me to communicate better on the subject of customs.

What’s next for Alinea?

Alinea is benefiting from the consistent trade flows between the UK and EU. We estimate that about 292 million customs declarations will need to be produced for GB-EU trade per year.

We’re developing our client base in the logistics sector, establishing international customs partnerships and are exhibiting at the International Food & Drink Event this year (21-23 March).

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