The Institute of Export First Anniversary Dinner, January 12th 1937
The Institute of Export & International Trade's mission is to enhance the export performance of the United Kingdom by setting and maintaining professional standards in international trade management and export practice. This is principally achieved by the provision of education, training and practical business support services.
The challenging and often complex trading conditions in international markets mean that our role has never been more vital. The Institute continues to be committed to the belief that real competitive advantage lies in the competence of British businesses. Our future export growth must be underpinned by a sound foundation of knowledge.
On 13 November 1923, a meeting was held at the Federation of British Industries (forerunner to the CBI) to consider the formation of an “Export Directors or Managers Club”. There were seven people present and a further 34 companies had recorded an interest.
These companies included such famous names as W & T Avery, Boots, Bovril, Brown & Polson, Chivers & Sons, Joseph Crosfield, Crosse & Blackwell, Cunard Steamship, Nestle & Anglo Swiss Condensed Milk Company and Rowntree.
At a meeting the following January the title Association of British Export Manufacturers was suggested. In March they settled on British Export Society. This led to the creation of the Institute of Export on 18 November 1935, with Major Tommy Knowles CBE as president and Robert Turner as chairman.
Among the new organisation’s aims were:
1. To devise and impose means for testing the qualifications of candidates for admission tomembership of the Institute by examination
2. To frame and establish standards for observance in matters pertaining to professional practice.
3. To afford personal contact between members of the Institute.
From the ten who attended the inaugural meeting, membership grew and currently stands at 2750 with over 10,000 exporters reading blogs and a reach of 100,000 exporters reading our content in journals such as Croner, ITM, Global Trader and the newest publication in association with IMA for each new market – Doing Business Guides.
The creation of an organisation to encourage exports and represent exporters in 1935 could not have been more timely, as the UK was in the grip of the World Depression. This country was particularly hard-hit as the inter-war years had seen world trade being increasingly dominated by capital goods and durable consumer goods. This was at the expense of more traditional industries such as textiles, shipbuilding, coal and engineering - which had driven the growth of exports and the expansion of Britain's economy previously.
The Incoterms® were created in 1936 with the purpose of providing a set of international rules for the interpretation of the most commonly used trade terms in foreign trade. Since then, ICC expert lawyers and trade practitioners have updated them six times to keep pace with the development of international trade.
During the Institute's first decade many of the UK's former trading partners were cut off through occupation, military action, or because they were enemy states.
The Lend Lease Act, by which the USA indirectly bankrolled much of the UK's war effort, had the long term effect of giving the USA entry to many of the UK's traditional export markets. By 1945, Britain's exports were only at a third of their 1939 level.
The turning point for UK exporters, as well as for the UK economy as a whole, came with the Marshall Plan in 1948, and the government's Bonfire of the Controls whereby rationing, allocation of resources and other direct controls on production were removed. Between 1950 and 1963, the volume of exports increased by 25% and by a further 40% between 1963 and 1970.
The growth of containerisation contributed to efficient exporting and a shift to seaports. Air cargo and freight forwarding have developed beyond the wildest imaginings of the Institute's founders. The Institute's magazines in the 1930s and 1940s are dominated by advertisements for bespoke crates and boxes - for products and parts - not the services and intangibles which the UK exports so successfully today.
In 1959 an article in the Institute's magazine examined the prospects of a European Common Market. In 1957 only a quarter of the UK's trade was with Western Europe. By 1970 this had increased to half of all UK exports. The UK joined the EEC in 1973, and the subsequent single European Market in 1993 has drawn UK exporters even closer into trade with our European partners, as successive economic surveys have shown.
This new relationship brought another landmark event, the creation of the Single Administrative Document 1988 which simplified trade within the European Union and helped many smaller businesses start their export journey in Europe.
The Institute has traditionally been positive about the benefits to exporters of links with Europe, with the reservation that companies should use all the skills and support from the IOE&IT and not ignore other markets.
Over the years the Institute has occupied several locations. Starting in Northumberland Avenue and spending the war years there, the Institute subsequently moved to central London locations at Cromwell Road and then Hallam Street W1. City locations followed at Saint Katherine's Dock and Clifton Street EC2, and in 2002 Export House was established in Peterborough.
The first edition of the Institute's magazine 'Export' appeared two years after the founding. These early issues were rather serious and the magazine's evolution into 'Export Today' in the 1960s-1980s brought more colour and interest to the Institute's message. The Institute's website was launched in 1995 and now includes a secure membership section and the Institute's newsletter available online. This website has become a powerful presence and a useful resource. In addition, the Institute and its members use Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn - social media is an integral part of business today.
The Institute has embraced new technology throughout its existence - including a tele-conference in 1936 linking speakers in the UK, Australia, Canada, South America and Egypt by landline and radio!
It should be noted that the Institute was instrumental in setting up the FIT (Forum for International Trade) in Canada 35 years ago and The Institute of Export in Australia 50 years ago. Both are still good friends of the IOE&IT.
Now the Institute is looking at eExporting and all the implications of the internet and how these have impacted and changed world trade. However, the relevance of understanding the processes and context of international trade has not changed.
Recognising that world trade is changing with the advent of the internet we now market our products across the world with a click of a button.
Leading the way in reforming the Institute by losing the old federal system of councils and branches is a new modern transparent system which will allow for members from all walks of business life to come forward and contribute of the board.
With one of the Institute's original aims being to afford personal contact between members, a network of branches grew between the 1930s and the 1980s. Each depended on local enthusiasm and the feasibility of getting to meeting locations, and though they numbered 21 in the 1980s this dwindled with increasing pressures on members' time and the difficulties of sustaining a formal committee structure in each branch.
As the Institute strives to stay relevant it was clear that a new way of engaging was needed and the federal system needed overhauling. In 2014, after two years of consultation, new articles of association were unanimously voted through. This new way of managing the Institute allows all members to be involved in the voting process at a national level, making it truly transparent. This new system also allows new blood to come through on merit or skills, bringing a new stronger dimension to the Institute.
Branch members are welcome to create these dynamic groups which are not hampered by excessive structural constraints, and which can take full advantage of digital methods of communication. This doesn't mean that the old branches won't be recognised and certainly doesn't mean we will forget all the hard work put in by volunteer members across the country. Special Interest Groups are easy to start and run without the onerous systems of the past. Our members can now get on with meeting and networking.
From its inception the Institute has been dedicated to raising the standards of export education and training. The Institute's portfolio undergoes continuous expansion and improvement.
To some extent the first fifty years of the Institute's educational offerings were recognised and respected within the industry and the membership. The 1990s saw the introduction of National Vocational Qualifications and recognition of the Institute as meeting national standards. With Ofqual establishing rigorous educational standards since 2008, the Institute has consistently received national recognition for its range of qualifications.
As the Institute has grown over the last years the demand for international trade competence is growing and our role is extending to other markets around the world. The standards that our members have helped to shape and develop are now being accepted as the quality standards around the world. There is still much work to do and with the continued support of our members we will continue to deliver world class education and standards in international trade.