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Cynthia Ramsaran
Cynthia Ramsaran
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BB&T Int'l Breaks Through Online

Bank launches a new Web-based tool for paperless transactions between importers and exporters.

Aiming to improve the rate of efficiency for clients to manage their international transactions, BB&T International Services, a unit of BB&T Corp. ($91 billion in assets), recently introduced a Web-based tool for importers and exporters.

Charlotte-based BB&T International Services, a provider of import and export services, is now offering a service called TradeAssist (www.BBandT.com/International/tradeassist)-a tool for importers and exporters to track orders, documents and make payment transactions via the Internet. Importers can use TradeAssist to issue letters of credit, receive collection notices and track documents and transactions. Prior to the introduction of TradeAssist, clients connected through a dial-up connection to the bank of their import or export partners and then physically mailed the transaction to BB&T International Services, related senior vice president Gunther Bienert. The new program eliminates manual labor and also is expected to reduce errors.

"If we made a payment under the old system, someone manually sat down and wrote out the debits, credits and checks. It was much more prone to errors and problems," according to Bienert. Under BB&T International's new system "all of that is done automatically."

Bienert says that TradeAssist will not only provide substantial cost savings to BB&T International Services, but also will bring the institution up to date with partner banks that have outgrown its previous manual system.

FORECASTS 2,000 TRANSACTIONS/MONTH

In the area of letters of credit, the new Web-based offering allows a letter of credit to be issued to a bank, and that institution then acts as a payment broker between the importer and exporter. Exporters can use TradeAssist to receive letters of credit, initiate collections and track documents, among other features. Users of the tool can create these documents and save them as templates for future use. Bienert expects around 2,000 transactions to be made monthly by clients using the program.

According to BB&T's international sales manager and senior vice president, John Morton, the program is the only integrated online, Web-based product with import/export documentary applications, as well as treasury applications. The importer or exporter can use the platform, without switching programs. Morton would not disclose the name of the vendor that designed the platform, but he did say that TradeAssist was designed externally. BB&T customized the program, in conjunction with the vendor, to suit the system's requirements.

TradeAssist eliminates the need for written requests by initiating paper and document flow via the Web. Morton says the goal of the product is to make transactions easier for BB&T's clients by allowing them to manage import and export transactions 24 hours a day, seven days a week, through a single integrated system. The platform also has multiple levels of security, as well as a design intended to make it easy for customers to use, Morton says.

"There is secure access to reach the system, and once a template is created you don't have to keep on creating them," he explains.

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