1935 was a time of change, as the UK emerged from the financial slump of the previous decade and into increased uncertainty regarding developments in Europe.
It was against this backdrop of flux that the Institute of Export was established.
Our remit was simple – ‘to be a professional membership body that represented and supported the interests of all businesses involved in importing, exporting and international trade by providing members with advice, training, qualifications and support’ – something which is still as pertinent today as it was at our inception.
Britain’s economy was dominated by manufacturing – from turbines to railway engines, and exporting entailed shipping these enormous loads to customers across the world.
Then came the post war period of austerity which saw the government balance the war debt, the cost of the new welfare system and the financial demands of modernising much of Britain’s archaic industrial and telecommunications network, against a weakened domestic performance. Britain’s export market changed as traditional partners made bilateral trade arrangements with neighbouring countries and trading relations with our former colonies slowed considerably following the fall of the Empire.
The Institute’s role was crucial during this period as we guided members through the changing landscape and helped them to identify the opportunities that arose from the creation of the European Economic Community or ‘Common Market’.
The UK economy has been through numerous periods of expansion and austerity over the years, but our export market has continued to grow, albeit slowly at times.
The last eight decades have presented us with many challenges, but as an organisation we have risen to these and flourished. The services we provide have evolved over the years to reflect the changing needs of UK exporters. We are proud that we are the leading authority in best practice and competence for businesses trading globally. Our suite of qualifications and training is world renowned and our members enjoy a unique range of individual and business benefits.
Our strength lies in our ability to keep pace with the twists and turns of international trade and to interpret what those changes will mean for UK businesses who are seeking to trade abroad. It is something we have succeeded in doing for the last 80 years and we look forward to sustaining our strong track record long into the future.
Happy Birthday to us!
From the swinging sixties and beyond
Alan Chandler, MIEx (Grad)
I started work in sales/marketing at a multinational, in Knightsbridge, London in 1968 and soon became a student member of the Institute, passing the Institute’s examinations in 1971.
In those days, the Institute of Export was based in a small office in Hallam Street in the West End of London and was very much the ‘poor neighbour’ of other more prestigious Institutes. There were few staff and limited money in the way of grants – either from industry or government.
Change came from within – the student members pushed the Institute to organise events and trips, such as to the Institute of Packaging in Leatherhead in Surrey and to the container port at Felixstowe.
We also enjoyed visits from leading industrialists – on one occasion I was honoured to introduce the speaker, Mr Cuthbert Drury, MD of George Cohen 600 Group, who told how they realised they were ‘in the export market’, when incoming mail suddenly had foreign stamps!
Today many companies, including SME’s, have an export department, but in the 1960/70’s, the bulk of the UK’s exports were undertaken by a handful of large companies and, even then, there was still a certain naivety when it came to export matters.
Within our company – and in many others – the business strategy was a case of ‘sell at inflated prices in the UK and export any surplus’. I would attend exhibitions and be the sole member of the export team. How times have changed.
The key word nowadays is ‘professionalism’ in exporting and the Institute’s curriculum certainly appears all embracing of this.
I am lucky to have travelled widely on business and unarguably my ongoing association with the Institute has proved helpful over the years.
The IOE has been a consistent presence in the face of change – both within industry and in export matters. As the export market has continued to change, so has the Institute, and I for one say “long may this continue.”