If you have a question about the financial risks and rewards of international expansion, ask Moji Eagan.
As senior vice president and relationship manager for the Business Banking market in Commercial Banking at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, a sponsor of Women Entrepreneurs Grow Global™, Moji helps companies understand and navigate financial risks, especially those associated with expanding internationally.
“It is very attractive to go overseas,” Moji says, “but there’s risk, too, so one has to be very cautious.” That’s why she is part of a team of specialists who provide clients, including women CEOs and CFOs of privately-held companies, with an array of integrated financial solutions.
“If you are looking at exporting,” she adds, “you’ve got to weigh the pros and cons, of course. But if a company is looking at how it can gain a competitive advantage in global trade, exporting is a perfect opportunity for that.”
Moji literally embodies today’s global vision. Born in Africa and raised in England, she came to the U. S. to attend the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater. Banking wasn’t her initial career path, however. Graduating with a degree in political science, she planned to return to the UK to study law. But first, she wanted to get some corporate experience. A UW classmate successfully persuaded Moji to join her at Citibank. Moji started out in retail banking, earned her securities license, and was later invited by the head of commercial banking to move to that division. She completed the formal credit training program and was off and running in commercial banking. Although she returns to England several times a year to visit family, she never went back to pursue law. About three years ago, Moji became an American citizen.
When it was time to make a job change, Moji consulted a former colleague who had moved to Bank of America. “She spoke very highly of the bank,” Moji recalls, “and in speaking with her and during the interview process, what appealed to me most was Bank of America’s culture and the work environment. I also found its growth strategy very appealing. I felt this was an environment where I could contribute and grow professionally. I can say that, four and a half years later, all of it is true.”
Although not exclusively, Moji and her team serve the growing market of women entrepreneurs looking to export their products and services. “Women-owned companies are making a bigger impact today than they ever have before,” she says. “Statistics have shown that in the past twenty years, U.S.-based women-owned companies have grown more than 114%, and the number of firms owned by women of color has also increased significantly, by about 467%. According to the American Express OPEN 2017 report women own an estimated 11.6 million businesses and employ nearly 9 million people. They contribute $1.7 trillion in revenue to the U.S. economy. [The American Express OPEN 2018 version of report is available here.] My role as a strategic partner is helping my clients, including women business owners, understand what they need and when they need it.”
For women business owners considering international expansion, Moji recommends first doing their homework on the geopolitical nature of the country or region in which they wish to expand. “Managing overseas financial transactions can be very complex and you need to know what you are getting into. My team and I am here to help clients manage currency exposure, crediting, foreign bank services, and other risks associated with growing globally.”
At the end of the day, she says, “it’s about helping clients understand the complexities of expanding into an international market. Issues like how to get the money back to the U.S. How clients are going to pay you. Are they going to pay me in dollars or in another currency? What types of payment terms should I offer? Do I even trust this client?”
Trust is important part of the equation. “You are navigating a territory that you may not know too much about,” Moji says. “We are very fortunate in the U.S. because we’ve got data on U.S. companies from firms such as Dun & Bradstreet. But when you go international, it’s very limited. That’s where the complexities come in and you have to be very careful.
“We’ve found that the three most commonly sought pieces of advice are how to manage foreign currency risk exposure, understanding trade services, and understanding global payment services. We also tell clients to retain a local advisor or U.S. consulting firm familiar with how to navigate the legal, business, and political environment of the country or region. And because of the uncertainty on practically every continent and the current volatility with global trade, companies have to have a business model that is versatile in accommodating changing conditions. That’s imperative.”
Moji suggests that women business owners investigate government assistance programs. “There is the potential of financing assistance from U.S. government agencies. That can be a very nice benefit, but many aren’t aware of it. That’s where organizations like wegg® come into play. Whether through your web-based seminars or face-to-face events, you have done a very nice job providing resources to women business owners.”
In addition to wegg, Bank of America helps women entrepreneurs by partnering with Vital Voices in developing The Global Ambassadors Program. “Vital Voices is the preeminent, non-governmental organization that empowers emerging women leaders,” she notes. “Global Ambassadors invests in the potential of emerging women leaders around the world by matching them with mentors who are established leaders. The bank’s Global Ambassadors Program has a truly worldwide reach. In 2016, I had the opportunity to Virtually Mentor a female-owned company in the Philippines through the Global Ambassadors Program.”
In March of this year, Bank of America announced a $100 million commitment to the Tory Burch Foundation Capital Program. It helps women entrepreneurs advance their businesses in the U. S. by connecting them to affordable loans from Community Development Financial Institutions. “We also have a long history supporting the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO),” Moji adds, “which propels women entrepreneurs into economic, social and political spheres of power worldwide.
“It’s a great time to look at other countries, it’s a great time to expand globally, and we at Bank of America take pride in the resources we have for companies looking to go global. My team and I have helped many companies become successful growing globally and we’re happy to refer clients to wegg for information outside of banking.” For more information, contact Moji Eagan at (847) 944-7963 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.