Staying the course in trade finance

15 March, 2023Ouida Taaffe

Trade finace interview with JIE YIN pictureJie Yin is a Product Manager at the Export-Import Bank of China who decided to take all six of our trade finance courses within three years. He explains how he managed the pressure of studying alongside his professional career, and what passing the trade finance qualifications has meant for his work in the bank.

Why did you decide to work in trade finance?

In college, my major was international finance. After graduation, I joined one of the four major banks in China. Not long after I joined, I was assigned to the International Business Department to work in a role related to trade settlement and finance.

As a workplace newbie, my understanding of trade finance was limited. However, because I was encountering it in my daily work, I became eager to learn more about it. I secretly made up my mind to become an expert.

I became the first holder of what we in China call the ‘trade finance 6C’. That is, I sat and passed all six of The London Institute of Banking & Finance trade finance exams:

  • the Certificate for Documentary Credit Specialists (CDCS),
  • the Certificate in International Trade and Finance (CITF),
  • the Certificate in Supply Chain Finance (CSCF),
  • the Certificate in Trade Finance Compliance (CTFC),
  • the Certificate for Specialists in Demand Guarantees (CSDG),
  • and Certificate in Principles of Payments (CertPAY).

I then took the Diploma for Qualified Trade Finance Specialists (QTFS).

Currently, I am the Product Manager in the Trade Finance Department in the Export-Import Bank of China. I am mainly responsible for the management, research and development and marketing of trade finance products – specifically those related to import letters of credit and import trade financing.

Why did you choose to study the Certificate in Supply Chain Finance (CSCF)?

Covid-19 not only impacted global trade and finance, it also accelerated the digitalisation of trade finance products. Supply chain finance is the cutting edge of trade finance and is where most of the innovation and development in trade finance products is taking place globally.

It’s now an area that all the major financial institutions in China are competing fiercely to occupy. To keep up to date with those developments, I decided to take the CSCF exam. It allowed me to learn how supply chain finance developed, and also to understand the latest trends in the development of global supply chain finance.

What did you find challenging about the qualifications?

It can be very hard for someone with a professional career to continue with formal study along their work. Personally, I always maintained good study habits after graduation. I believe that, as a professional who has been out of school for many years but is still constantly learning and has good learning habits, the learning process is more important than the test results.

When it comes down to it, none of the exams in trade finance is very difficult in itself. However, for a professional holding down a job, full preparation for the exam is not a simple process. During the three years in which I prepared for all of the six exams in trade finance, for example, there were times when I struggled with motivation and faced bottlenecks in learning – particularly around key and challenging knowledge points.

What advice would you give to trade finance professionals studying whilst working?

What I’ve come to realise from those three years of studying intensively alongside a professional career is that it demands the following: a clear goal, willpower,  determination and execution so that the goals and determination feed into regular work, and the method. That leads to success.

LIBF’s trade finance exams are taken in English and the marks you need to get to pass are high. From my experience, I would suggest that each of those exams needs a minimum preparation period of two to three months.

During that period, there will have to be one to one and a half hours of preparation each workday and two to three hours at the weekend. But just putting in the hours isn’t enough. You also need to use the time well by implementing the right method.

The test preparation materials include the textbooks and official video courses. To make sure that you’re really on top of the material I would advise reading the exercises in the textbooks and the sample questions on the official website more than twice so that the required knowledge is covered. Of course, not every single knowledge point can be absorbed in this way. The purpose of the review method is to grasp the essential knowledge points and learn where the difficulties lie. Memorising key knowledge points is indispensable.

What would you say to other professionals thinking of studying the CSCF?

The use of supply chain finance is a growing trend. The Certificate in Supply Chain Finance helps establish a solid professional foundation in this segment. It’s also a great way to demonstrate your knowledge and ability. Besides helping in your current role, it could also be a stepping-stone to a new job, if that’s what you want.

That said, we shouldn’t forget that it’s just an exam. It’s a snapshot that demonstrates the acquisition and mastery of particular knowledge at a certain point in time. That’s an exciting moment, of course, but what really matters to me is the learning process. As a professional, I’m taking valuable time out of a busy life to prepare for and sit the exam. That demonstrates my ongoing learning ability, which in many respects is far more important than the result of the exam.

How have the trade finance qualifications helped you in your career?

These qualifications in trade finance will definitely be beneficial to my future career development. There are a couple of reasons why. First, sitting the exams helps professionals get the whole picture of the trade finance field. It really gives you comprehensive knowledge and you can build on that. Second, the specialized knowledge within each exam can also be applied to other fields. It helps you respond to the actual needs of our work.

Finally, as the authoritative exams in the field of trade finance, all of the LIBF certificates are recognised by banks around the world. So, it’s not just a stepping-stone into trade finance, international trade or other fields, it’s a fundamental part of career development and career planning.

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