Corporate Giving Guide: Part 2

Sadie Keljikian and Sara Sobolev, Express Trade Capital

Last year, we released an article about the ins and outs of corporate donations. Here’s a summary of the fundamental points we covered:

  1. Research thoroughly to find responsible, reliable charity organizations.
  2. Find a cause that relates to your industry.
  3. Find a local organization whenever possible.
  4. Give what you can and don’t worry that it isn’t enough.

This year, we’d like to talk a little further about how to choose the right charities based not only on your industry, but on your personal values and where there is most need.

Evaluate Your Priorities

First things first, you need to decide what issues or causes speak most directly to you and your business. If your business has any particular philanthropic drive already, it is obviously wise to stick to that (i.e. if you run an eco-friendly business, it makes sense to donate to environmental advocates). If, however, your business doesn’t have any particular attachment to specific causes or issues, you might want to research charitable activity among your customers and throughout your industry to see where other companies like yours direct their donations.

Consider International Donations

Local charities are always worth investigating, but be aware that your donation may go a lot further is less developed countries. In areas where clean drinking water, food, or clothing is in short supply, small donations of around $20 can feed several families or clothe a dozen children. Again, donating to non-US causes isn’t necessarily better, it will simply go further in many cases.

Check the News

Obviously, the rule that one should donate to charities relevant to their industry still applies, but if there is immense need in a particular geographical location or among a specific group, it is usually a good idea to devote at least some portion of your donation budget to that cause. An excellent example at the moment is hurricane relief in Texas and Puerto Rico. Numerous people are still without homes and institutions are still without power. Fortunately, there are dozens of charitable organizations funneling resources to hurricane relief and directing them where need is greatest. Recent natural disasters are easy choices if you’re looking to spread your donations across a few different charities and aren’t sure where to delegate funds.

Make Your Donation Directly Whenever Possible

Third-party fundraisers can be extremely helpful to charitable causes. Particularly in the age of the internet and smart phones, fundraisers often use celebrities and creative projects (songs, live performances, art installations, etc.) to create a cultural phenomenon around the charity they support. Unfortunately, these third parties sometimes don’t clearly articulate how much of the money they raise actually goes to the charity. With all this in mind, it is definitely wise to donate directly to the charitable cause of your choice

Again, do your research!

One important fact to consider is that bigger or smaller isn’t necessarily better in terms of charity organizations. Larger organizations often have an extensive reach, but may have to use a lot of their donated funds to pay for day-to-day operations. Smaller organizations, on the other hand, usually distribute the vast majority of their donated funds to their cause, but sometimes don’t operate exactly as they say, since it’s easier to get away with fudging some facts when the organization isn’t bringing in significant funds. To reiterate: always research thoroughly when you’re determining a charity or charities to support. Although smaller organizations can sometimes get away with fraudulent funding attribution, checking two or more sites that evaluate charities like the IRS Exempt Organizations Select Check and more (listed in last year’s article) should enable to you seek out the right cause.

A few suggestions…

In addition to the charities we supported last year, we at Express Trade have included a few more in our annual giving this year:

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center – A world leader in cancer research and patient care since 1884.

Delivering Good – A nonprofit that collects product donations from the apparel, kids/baby, and home goods industries and gives them to children, adults and families struggling with poverty and/or disaster.

CFA’s Educational Foundation – The Commercial Finance Association’s foundation devoted to educating and nurturing exceptional employees and institutions in the commercial finance industry.

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Yantian Shenzhen Terminal Explosion

Sadie Keljikian, Express Trade Capital

An explosion and subsequent fire broke out at the Yantian Container Terminal on the evening of November 10th. The fire was said to be highly destructive, burning at least one container, assumed to be full of lithium batteries, straight through the bottom. Click here for more details from Maritime Bulletin.

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Holiday Hours Announcement

Valued clients and associates:

Please be aware that we will be closing our office at 3pm EST on Wednesday, November 22nd and will remain closed through Friday the 24th in observance of Thanksgiving. We will resume normal operational hours (Monday through Friday, 9am-5pm) on Monday, November 27th and ask that you please plan your transactions accordingly.

All of us at ETC wish you a very happy holiday!

Four Things to Know About Blockchain

Beixi Li, Guest Correspondent

Since its invention as a technology for Bitcoin in 2009, blockchain has expanded its applicability beyond cryptocurrency into other industries. Driving this expansion are the fundamental changes that it enables and the benefits that it brings to business transactions. Let’s take a look at the four most important concepts you need to know to understand blockchain today.

  1. How it Works

Imagine a financial transaction: one party requests money, another sends money, and a third party may work to verify that the right amount of money is sent to the right person. Each party keeps a separate record of the transaction. At some point, records of the transactions may begin to vary, compromising transaction validity and integrity.

Blockchain technology creates a single record, known as a ledger, across all parties. A copy of this ledger lives on every computer in the network and is updated approximately every 10 minutes. Each change to the ledger is grouped into a “block.” This block is then connected to previous versions of the ledger, creating a chain of blocks, or blockchain. Each time a new block is added to the chain, all computers in the network are updated. As a result, blockchain replaces the current piecemeal nature of transactions with a single source of truth.

  1. The Benefits

Having a single, consistently updated ledger across all parties provides key benefits:


Each time a new block is added to a chain, all computers in the network receive the updated information. As a result, Blockchain technology guarantees that all parties view and reference the same data and that all are alerted simultaneously to any changes or updates. Having synchronized access to updates automates transaction accountability and visibility, replacing any manual validation or verification.


To add new blocks into a chain, multiple computers in the network validate the information in the block. Once validated, the information is published out to all computers in the network, providing every participant with the latest block of data. As identical data is decentralized across all computers in the network, hacking becomes virtually impossible. Hackers would need to change the ledger on every single computer to be successful. If only one or a handful of databases were altered, the discrepancy would be immediately visible and traceable. Only a validated update to the blockchain would affect every single database in the network.


The ability to keep parties on the same page at all times during a transaction removes the need to spend time resolving transaction discrepancies. Blockchain creates an environment that assumes a level of trust in business activities, allowing businesses to de-emphasize bookkeeping. Additionally, blockchain technology enables smart contracts: contracts programmed to execute automatically when specific criteria are met, eliminating the need for manual approval processes.

  1. The Debate Today

While blockchain shows potential for industry use, customizing it for each industry remains a work-in-progress. A key obstacle in industry-specific blockchain is the scale and level of publicity necessary for the network. Two types of blockchain networks exist today: public and permissioned. The original Bitcoin blockchain network was public: anyone could participate in the network and validate new blocks. New, permissioned networks only allow participants with permission to enter the network, receive data, and validate data. Permission criteria can come from government officials, rules built into the platform, and current participants. Currently, most enterprise blockchain technology being developed uses permissioned networks with the following key benefits and limitations.


Permissioned networks limit the parties who can join and the parties who can validate new blocks, which increases:

  • Scalability: Limiting the number of participants decreases the computing power and costs required to update every participant in the network.
  • Security of the Network: Only those with permission may enter into and add to the blockchain.
  • Privacy: Transaction details are only shared with approved participants.


The primary concern with permissioned networks is the limit to decentralization of data. Blockchain’s value comes from dispersing data through a large network using cryptography, and using that scale to hold all members accountable. By limiting that scale through selection criteria, the open, public nature of blockchain is constrained.

  1. Recent Developments

IBM has developed the latest advancement in blockchain technology with a platform to facilitate international payments. Currently focused on the South Pacific, the platform simplifies the transfer of fiat currencies from different countries, using cryptocurrency as a value holder in between the two currencies. This new technology aims to decrease both processing times and costs of international currency transfers, a time-consuming, error-prone process today. While currently focused on international money transfers, this platform has the potential to become the foundation of future trade agreements, including trade financing, to streamline the exchange and visibility of financial transactions.

Blockchain’s ability to provide one, consistently updated and decentralized ledger of transactions across all parties provides a groundbreaking technology applicable across industries. It has the potential to provide a new baseline of trust when conducting business, to create a more secure way of exchanging information, and to decrease processing times of current transactions. While still in early stages of development, companies have already begun developing blockchain platforms that could be the foundation of future industries.

To learn more about blockchain impacts on trade finance, click here.

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Finding Your Nerds

Sadie Keljikian, Express Trade Capital

Trade shows are a useful resource for designers and wholesalers, but they can be difficult to navigate successfully. They provide the opportunity to interact with retailers and pitch products face-to-face, which is extremely valuable. However, the attendees are almost exclusively buyers looking for products to meet specific commercial requirements. Selling to buyers who focus solely on how profitable a product will be can leave less-than-ample opportunity for vendors to express the thought, care, and love that they’ve put into their products.

While some trade shows will attract people with a passion for a given industry, few offer the kind of audience one will encounter at fan-based conventions. Events like these present a unique opportunity for vendors: the ability to interact directly with consumers whose interests align directly with their goods. The beauty of these interactions is that they have the potential to build a brand’s equity by taking the goods directly to the consumers from all over the world who will appreciate them most.

Below are a few tips to getting the most out of a convention as an exhibitor:

Choose Your Con Wisely

Many people (even non-fans) are aware of large-scale events like SDCC (San Diego Comic Con) or the D23 Expo (Disney’s fan club convention), both of which host tens of thousands of people, but there are dozens of similar events that take place year-round all over the world. Many are much smaller and more specifically focused: Leaky Con in the UK is focused on JK Rowling’s Harry Potter universe, Anime Con in New York is entirely about Japanese anime and manga, etc. All events, regardless of size, share the same structure: a gathering of vendors, entertainers, and industry leaders at an event that is 100% designed for the fans.

Unless you sell products that fit into an obvious genre or subgenre (ex: if you make Cowboy Bebop figurines, you’re likely to do well at Anime Con), you should find your fans before you choose an event. This will require some rudimentary market research but, ultimately, it’ll not only help you find events to exhibit your goods, it’ll narrow down your search for retail leads.

It’s also important to consider your budget and any locational preferences. If you can’t afford to travel a long distance or pay the exorbitant exhibitor fees at a large-scale convention, you should research cons in your local area that are smaller in scale and thus, more accessible to local businesses.

Work Out Your Pitch and Get Behind Your Products

One of the perks of exhibiting at a convention is that usually you don’t have to convince attendees the way you would with buyers, since they’re already fans and aren’t concerned with selling your goods to others. Fans are much more moved by your passion. This means that rather than focusing on the potential value your products might have to a retailer, you can focus on the hard work and love you put into creating them!

While this difference in dynamic is, in many ways, an advantage, it also means that you need to reconsider the way you pitch to attendees. Avoid the proverbial “hard sell” with convention goers. As mentioned, they aren’t going to sell your goods again, so the only convincing they need from you is that your product is high quality and relates to subjects or genres that interest them. If you’re an independent publisher selling comic books or novels, give the attendees your elevator pitch. Think about what you would want to hear in a movie trailer or read on the back of a book and remember that if you are passionate about your product, consumers are far more likely to jump in and, ultimately, share your passion.

 Plan Scrupulously and Be Flexible

This goes for any trade show, but even smaller conventions can be surprisingly popular and therefore logistically complex. Plan your booth carefully and make sure you’re prepared for the space and layout to be different from your expectations. Make sure any displays are adaptable and bring additional materials if necessary. If you find that your booth’s position isn’t as “central” as you were hoping, don’t be afraid to send someone to the trade floor with flyers, an arrow sign, or just a brief spiel to bring up your traffic. Flexibility is the name of the game.

Bring a Team

One of the best ways to make sure you get your money’s worth when exhibiting at a convention is to bring a group of people to man your booth. There are a few reasons for this: 1. The booth should never be unattended, 2. It’s always a good idea to put someone out on the floor to bring interested attendees back to your booth, and 3. Conventions are typically held over 3-5 days and each day is at least 7-8 hours long. Ideally, you should have around five individuals for a small booth, but three is the bare minimum to ensure that everyone gets a break and doesn’t lose energy early in the con.

Cast a Wide Net

You may have found that, historically, your product appeals to a certain kind of person. If you sell comic books or toys, you may have found that children, teenagers, and parents are your niche market. Again, you must remember that at a convention, almost everyone is a fan. This means that ages, genders, and “types” are functionally irrelevant. So, if you see a variety of ages, genders etc. looking at your products, all the better! Give everyone who shows interest equal attention at your booth and you may be surprised by the diverse fans you acquire.

While conventions aren’t necessarily best suited to every kind of business, they certainly provide an ample platform for small businesses with a “nerdy” following to increase that following and build a formidable brand and audience. Get out there and find your nerds!

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5 Things You Should Know About the Millennial Consumer

Beixi Li, Guest Correspondent

Retailers and brands have changed the very fundamentals of how they do business to cater to the Millennial generation. But who is this Millennial consumer? What makes their shopping behaviors so different from previous generations?

Let’s first take a look at the numbers to understand the true scale and impact of Millennials:

The Numbers

Age: In 2017, people between 17 – 37 years old (Born 1980 – 2000)

Total Population: 92 MM in the US – the biggest generation in US history

Spending Power: $600 Billion each year – estimated to grow to $1.4 Trillion or 30% of total US retail sales by 2020

The biggest generation in US history will soon reach prime spending years. Let’s take a look at the five behaviors that characterize Millennial buying habits:

The Behaviors

  1. More than Ever, it’s about Price

Millennials are more concerned about price and less concerned about quality than previous generations, impacting business expectations and decisions throughout the supply chain. Retailers target more price-effective products. Manufacturers focus on minimizing costs. Suppliers, in turn, feel the pressure to manage material costs.

  1. Technology as a Way of Life

Looking around at our communities today, it’s no surprise technology has become the new norm. Having grown up in this world of technology, Millennials are more likely to try new technologies than other generations and to adopt those tools as parts of their routines. With this generation of extremely tech-savvy consumers, two trends govern technology as a way of life for the Millennial:

Mobile as the primary way to connect to the Internet.

89% of Millennials use mobile, whereas 75% use laptops and 45% use tablets.

67% prefer to shop digitally versus in-store.

41% browse at-shelf only to shop online for the lowest price.

As mobile becomes the primary means of engaging with online content, Millennials are able to access content virtually anywhere, at any time. Pre-purchase, at-shelf, at-check-out, post-purchase – the Millennial is constantly comparing products they see in front of them to products they could be buying on the internet. This tendency to instantly compare and contrast brings retailers in closer competition to all businesses that sell, be it online or brick-and-mortar. And as previously mentioned, purchase decision often hinges on price.

Social media as a critical source of information and factor in decision-making.

Millennials, above all previous generations, use social media to influence purchase decisions. They tap their social networks to read reviews, find new products and discounts, and share opinions on products purchased. A retailer is subject to not just the message it delivers to consumers, but also to the message its consumers deliver. As a result, many retailers and brands have taken to engaging consumers on their own turf by entering social media. To win the game, you have to play the game.

  1. Authentic, Personalized Experiences

Now that Millennials are subject to hundreds of thousands of messages from different retailers at all times, they want more than mass messaging. They want personalized messages customized to specific consumer concerns and they want those messages to be honest and authentic. Brands like Pepsi, for example, have experienced the social media backlash that can occur when consumers pick up on inauthentic messaging. Pepsi took down its controversial commercial with Kendall Jenner days after launch following immediate and overwhelming criticism from social media.

For retailers, the Millennial quest for customized material goes beyond direct messages. They are looking for tailored, customer-centric experiences. Shopping needs to become a multi-media entertainment experience. Shopping malls are a prime example of where this has already started taking place.

Historically, malls have relied on department stores to attract consumers. The decline in traditional shopping has directly impacted department stores, such as Macy’s, who reported a 40% decline in retail sales this year so far. As Millennials turn to experiences, malls are responding. Many have begun partnering with recreation and entertainment tenants in spaces previously owned by large department stores. These tenants offer activities different from movie theaters and restaurants and can include indoor climbing, bowling, playgrounds, and comedy shows. Providing this kind of experience, one that can’t be easily simulated online, is bringing more consumers back, and often for longer periods of time. Pyramid Management Group, owner of 15 malls nationwide and of Destiny USA, reports consumers spending more than 6 hours in the mall after it remodeled to provide a host of entertainment options.

  1. Faster, More Convenient Interactions

Millennials want things faster, with more flexibility, and without compromising on quality. As a result, there has been a proliferation of high-end fast food chains, online delivery, and fast fashion. Driving this expectation for faster service are Millennials’ quickly changing wants and needs. As Millennials come into peak purchasing power years, their changing consumption habits will require retailers to pivot quickly in order to meet changing demands. As a result, efficiency in production and operations will be essential throughout the retail industry as companies attempt to meet the quickly changing demands of Millennials.

  1. Lower Incomes Encourage Shared Services

Millennials have lower employment levels and smaller incomes compared to previous generations, causing them to postpone major purchases such as houses and cars and pushing them into shared services like Uber and real estate renting. But it’s more than just the large purchases that see this trend, smaller items such as music, movies, and clothes are also increasingly consumed through shared services such as Spotify, Netflix, and Rent the Runway. This trend among Millennials has moved businesses toward models that encourage access to assets without committing to ownership.

As Millennials grow into their peak purchasing period in the next few years, their behaviors will continue to disrupt and change the landscape of retail and shopping. Agile companies who respond quickly to changing demands from price to messaging may be able to ride this new wave of consumption and grow with Millennials. New businesses who take advantage of the opportunities in technology, experiential activities, and shared services may find even greater potential as the Millennial generation sets the tone for future generations. The biggest generation in US history will continue to dictate retail trends, and only those who continue to monitor those trends will earn these Millennials as consumers.

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Express Trade Capital, Inc., a dynamic leader in trade finance, factoring, purchase order funding and logistical financing, is excited to add another financing tool to its growing arsenal of services.

To address overwhelming demand from clients and prospects engaged in the rapidly expanding ecommerce market, we are now providing customized financing solutions to companies with demonstrated online sales. The ability to finance e-commerce and inventory replenishment programs for both USA-based companies and entities with overseas ownership presents a unique opportunity for Express trade Capital to push the boundaries of commercial trade finance and expand its role as an industry leader.

The programs arose in light of the interest we received from a number of prospects and clients who needed this “add-on” service to supplement their traditional wholesale business channels. With our strong logistical background and expertise and our deep relationships with 3PL facilities around the globe, we are suitably equipped and well positioned to execute these new financing programs.

This announcement comes from Mark Bienstock, Managing Director. For more details please contact David Estrakh – 212-997-0155

Review: New Logistics Technology

Sadie Keljikian, Express Trade Capital

The shipping and logistics industry is constantly evolving. With the changing landscape of domestic and international trade, consumers’ varied and shifting priorities, and the breakneck pace of new technological developments, it can be difficult to keep up.

Here are some of the current trends in the logistics industry and a few that are on the rise:

  • Supply Chain Responsibility and Transparency

In recent years, consumers have become more mindful of where their goods are sourced and the ethics of the businesses they patronize. Consequently, producers of consumer goods are increasingly scrutinizing every step in the process of creating and selling their goods, from sourcing of raw materials (e.g. mining and farming) to manufacturing, shipping, and final sale to consumers.

US consumers generally have two main concerns regarding the production and sale of purchased goods: environmental effects (i.e. carbon footprint) and fair treatment of workers (mostly non-domestic) who harvest materials and manufacture goods. One solution that addresses both issues is the blockchain, a digital ledger that allows businesses to verify each vendor and manufacturer in their supply chain, regardless of the size and complexity of their networks.

Beyond comprehensive awareness of one’s supply chain, recent advancements in low-emission vehicles are helping the shipping community create more viable long-term solutions to the extremely pollutive nature of traditional ocean, air, and road transportation. When combined with technologies like blockchain, shipping service-consumers will have the option to choose shippers based on criteria beyond the standard twin considerations of speed and cost.

  • Full-Service Warehousing

Warehousing goods is nothing new, but companies like Amazon have changed the nature of warehousing, both in terms of how many warehouses they operate and the way they use the space.

In recent years, Amazon has begun warehousing its goods using increasingly creative methods, both in the US and abroad, allowing them to expedite more shipments and give “Prime” members their money’s worth. They’ve even ramped up expectations and delivery speed in 27 US cities with “Prime Now,” a service that boasts a massive selection of household items, all of which are deliverable within an hour.

Warehousing on this scale reflects the changing face of retail. Vast quantities of commercial space that might have been used for retail ten years ago are now put to more practical use storing goods to be sold online.

  • Digital Monitoring

The world has gone digital and logistics is no exception. Across the board, shippers are taking advantage of cloud computing well beyond the blockchain. The cloud allows shippers to store as much information as necessary in a secure online database that easily adjusts to fluctuating volumes, intuitively organizes transactions and effectively contains costs. The cloud also safeguards data if on-site monitoring devices are damaged.

Earlier this year, some logistics companies began arming their pickers with wearable technology, like Google Glass, to reduce human error and ensure accuracy. While the trend seems to have lost momentum, accuracy-checking technology remains a hot topic in the industry.

  • Robotics

Although it’ll be a long time before robots take over the shipping process, robotic technology to increase logistical efficiency is advancing at an impressive rate. Various degrees of automation have been implemented in the last few years to increase efficiency and accuracy.

As it currently stands, logistical robotic technology is limited to systems that transport goods to the picker. However, industry leaders are eagerly awaiting technological advancements that will allow robots to take over the picking process altogether, wherein they will be able to pick from conventional racks and conveyance equipment and move goods within the warehouse.

  • Autonomous transportation vehicles

On the cutting edge of the logistics industry, vehicles that transport goods without a human operator are a growing trend. Although the technology is still in its infancy, several varieties of unmanned carrier vehicles are in development.

Australia has established a government initiative, known as the Australian Driverless Vehicle Initiative or ADVI, devoted to developing autonomous road vehicles. The technology is still relatively new, but long-haul trucks may be the first to go driver-less, as they are subject to fewer regulations than passenger vehicles.

Perhaps more well-known is the carrier drone, famously developed by both Amazon and several medical supply companies overseas. Drones are particularly exciting because they enable direct deliveries regardless of traffic or road conditions. They are meant to simplify fast delivery to urban areas with heavy road traffic, impoverished areas where roads are inadequate, and war zones to which traditional delivery vehicles might be unable to travel.

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Managing Director Mark Bienstock: Factoring in a Changing Retail Landscape

Managing Director Mark Bienstock spoke with California Apparel News yesterday. As part of a curated panel of trade finance experts, Mark discussed the changing retail landscape and consequential changes in the commercial lending industry.

In order to cope with the seismic shifts affecting trade at every level, lenders are either scaling back their services or bulking them up. With the consistent rise of e-commerce, wholesalers need fewer receivable loans and more inventory loans, even if they are selling similar or greater volumes. For lenders, flexibility is key to maintaining relevance in the apparel industry. Mark points out that an intimate understanding of apparel companies and their trajectory is vital to successfully financing them.

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CBP Strengthens Penalties on Wood Packaging Material Violations

Peter Stern, Express Trade Capital

Harmful invasive pests and pathogens are found in the solid wood packing material (SWPM) that accompanies shipments in international trade. Wooden pallets, crating, and dunnage can harbor environmentally and economically harmful species that use the wood as host material, feed upon it, or hitch a ride on it and then threaten domestic timber. Outbreaks of the Asian long-horned beetle, Anoplophora glabripennis (Motschulsky), pine shoot beetle, Tomicus piniperda (L.), and the emerald ash borer, Agrilus planipennis (Fairmaire), have been traced to importations of SWPM. Coping with the risks associated with the introduction of these pests via SWPM has become an increasingly important issue with the expansion of international trade.

For over a dozen years now, regulations have been in place that require treatment and marking of non-exempt wood packing material (WPM) imported into the United States. CBP recently issued a notice that effective November 1, 2017 penalties will be issued for violations of the wood packaging material regulations. The full notice with a link to detailed regulatory requirements can be found at CSMS# 17-000609 – ISSUANCE OF WOOD PACKAGING MATERIAL PENALTY. Importers are encouraged to understand these regulations and monitor compliance.

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