Corporate Trade Finance Products : Letter of Credit

| 11-10-2018 | by Nijay Gupta | treasuryXL |

What is Letter of Credit/Documentary Credit under UCP 600 – ICC  Paris:

A letter of Credit is a sort of Guarantee issued by a Bank – Opening Bank, on behalf of a buyer(applicant) favouring the seller (Beneficiary) to honour the  compliant documents presented thru a Bank (negotiating bank) in terms of the LC conditions. In order to secure payment, the Supplier of goods is given a sort of guarantee by the buyer’s bank to pay (at Sight or Usance or Deferred Payment) on presentation of Documents in terms of LC.  So, the LC can provide payment on Sight Basis, Usance Basis or Deferred Payment Basis, based on the Terms of Payment agreed between Supplier & Buyer. The buyer/Opener of the LC is assured Delivery of Goods within the dates of shipment mentioned in the LC.

LC is also known as Documentary Credit, as banks deals in documents and not in goods.

The LC is governed by the UCP 600 (2007) Revision publication by ICC, Paris, provides the set of rules governing LC in Domestic/International Trade in almost all 175 countries. The 39 Articles of UCP 600, gives the details of the various types of LC’s, role/rights/liabilities of various parties i.e.

  • Opener/Applicant (buyer),
  • Beneficiary (seller),
  • Issuing Bank (buyer’s bank),

Advising Bank (Correspondent bank of the LC issuing bank), may act as LC Transferring or Negotiating Bank too for the availability of LC for Negotiation leads to be known as : Restricted LC or LC avaialable with…. Bank

Negotiating Bank (Generally Sellers Bank),

Re-imbursing Bank (generally overseas correspondent bank, where the LC issuing bank maintains its Nostro a/c).

The articles also provide the way various Documents like Bill of exchange, Invoices, Cerifiticate of Origin, BL/AWB, Inspection Certificate, Insurance Policy etc to be preapred and presented to the LC Issuring bank for Payment (Sight document), Acceptance & Payment (Usance/Deferred Payment documents).

What are the various Types of Documentary Credit:

Irrevocable:  The LC, which can not be cancelled/amended without the consent of all the parties to the LC, is the most common type of LC is used in Domestic/International Trade. In this, the LC issuing bank guarantees the payment of LC as per the Tenor of the Documents on presentation of compliant documents to the beneficiary..  This is the  most common type of LC is used in domestic/international Trade. All types of LC’s are Irrevocable, unless a bank issues Revocable LC, specifically. UCP discussed only about issuing of Irrevocable LC, though the banks can issue Revocable LC or combination of other types of LC as below.

Revocable LC, (which could be cancelled by LC issuing Bank or Applicant without the consent of Beneficiary before the shipment is made) is not in practice and not provided in UCP 600, though the same can still be established by the LC Issuing bank at the request of the Applicant. Irrevocable Confirmed:  In this type of LC, the Payment Guarantee is given by LC Advising or a Bank nominated by LC issuing Bank . The bank adding confirmation to the LC is done only at the request of LC issuing bank and the Conforming bank can be in the country of exporter or elsewhere. Since this type of LC requires payment of confirmation charges by the Beneficiary, the use of this type of LC is restricted in case of Geo-political conditions in the buyer country or high risk buyer only.

Irrevocable Transferable: The LC which can be transferred by the Advising Bank at the request of Beneficiary, in part/full or for lesser amount by keeping the profit for the beneficary of LC.  Once LC is Transferred, it can not be transferred back to Benficiary of LC.  Under this, the LC Transferring bank is the only bank authorised to Negotiate/Pay for documents over and above the LC opening bank

Irrevocable Confirm:   LC can be confirmed by a bank in Beneficiary’s Country (generally done by LC Advising bank) or by a bank in other country, when beneficiary is not very sure about the standing of the LC issuing bank or Geo-political situation in buyer’s country. LC is confirmed at the request of LC issuing bank and Confirming bank may ask beneficiary to pay for the confirming charges.  On presentation of documents, confirming bank shall becoming like LC issuing bank and is bound to pay/accept documents, as per LC conditions.

Irrevocable Back to Back:  Its not provided in UCP but its used by Beneficiary for opening another/local LC backed by the Original LC on same terms and conditions to provide security for payment for supply of goods to the origianl beneficiary .

Irrevocable Revolving:  This type of LC provides flexiblity of Re-instating the amount of the LC, on utilisation of the LC amount by exporting the goods as per terms of LC.  This type of LC is usefull, for exports of different goods at different period without committing the total value of all exports in one LC. This reduces the requirement of lower LC limit or Cash margin for opening of the LC by applicant (importer).

Irrevocable Stand-By LC:  This was inititated at the time when US banks were not authorised to Issue Guarnatees or take Guarantees .  But this is very popolus amongst the suppliers of goods and services in today’s time all over the world.  This type of LC, provides a guarantee to the supplier of services, equipments, airlines etc to be paid on completion of the serives or agreed time period.  Its very common in Airlines and Equipment suppliers on lease or rental basis.

Which type of LC is desirable in Domestic & International Trade:

An Irrevocable LC is quite fine, which allows payment on compliance with the LC terms and this also allows surety of shipment by exporters within the terms mentioned in the LC, though there is no guarantee of quality of goods being supplied by the exporters.  That is why Banks say, Bank Deal in Documents and not in Goods and its known as documentary credit.

Should there be a Geo-political situation in the LC issuing bank’s country or the standing of the LC issuing bank can not be established, its better to go for a Confirmed LC.  Other types of LC’s are practiced based on the requirement of Importer and Exporters in Trade.  LC can have a combination of types of LC together too and i.e. Why LC is the most flexible instrument used in Domestic and International Trade.

What Importer (Applicant) should do before opening LC:

  1. Get the detailed report of the Supplier from their banks interms of their Standing, Line of business, other business dealings, sanctions on the country etc
  2. The previous experiences of others with the supplier & Country Risks, or Sanctions
  3. Get the lines set-up by the Bank for opening of the LC
  4. Apply to bank for Issuing LC along-with Proforma Invoice or Confirmed Order
  5. After bank’s issuing LC, ensure, LC is recieved by the Supplier with same terms of Proforma Invoice or confirm order

What Exporter (Beneficiary) should do on receipt of LC:

  1. check all the terms & conditions of LC as per Proforma Invoice or confirm order.
  2. Check Incoterms and Terms of Payment
  3. Check the names of various parties, goods, addresses, requirements of shipments, Incoterms, LC payment terms, Inspection Certitificate, Certificate of Origin, Insurance & other special documents requirments like Weight/analysis/Packing Certificates etc.
  4. Get the LC confirmed, if the same was desired and the same has been requested by the LC issuing bank to the LC advising bank
  5. Get the LC amended, in case exporter can not comply with any conditions or terms of LC
  6. Meanwhile, the exporter can start with Manufacturing or arranging for the goods for shipment
  7. Can request for fixing lines and ask ask for Pre-shipment and Post shipment finance against LC and presentation of documents
  8. Exporters should ensure compliance of all terms and conditions of LC, before presentation of documents for payment/acceptance by the Negotiating or LC issuing bank to get protection under UCP 600 of ICC, Paris

What is the future of LC in view of E-Banking and Online business/trade:

Though most of the business is overtaken by online operators, the need for LC shall continue at least for next 25 years.  In order to get well worsed with LC, I suggest all to read articles UCP 600 of ICC, Paris and practice with various types of LC, rights & responsibilities of the LC Issuing Bank, Advising Bank, Negotiating Bank, applicant, Beneficiary & Confirming/Re-mbursing/Transferring banks etc in usage.



Nijay Gupta

Founder & CEO NK GUPTA Consulting



Letter of Credit – financing international trade

| 19-04-2018 | treasuryXL |

Cash Pooling


When a buyer and seller agree to enter into a transaction that is cross border, one of the most used instruments to facilitate this transaction is a documentary letter of credit (LC). This is an international recognised and accepted method that is governed by the rules and regulations of the International Chamber of Commerce. LCs are mainly used for international transactions, where the seller requires additional security and also where the law in 2 deferent jurisdictions are not the same. However, protection is also given to the buyer. Here is a quick guideline to how this instrument works.


A buyer and seller agree to a trade and, invariably due to the distance between them, the different laws, and the fact that they may have no previous trading relationship, the trade will take place under a LC. Upon agreeing the trade, the buyer will contact his bank and ask them to issue a LC (Issuing Bank). As the bank will provide a guarantee role in this transaction, they first need to ascertain if the buyer has sufficient funding to settle the transaction.

The letter of credit is then sent to the seller’s bank (Advising Bank). Within this document the terms and conditions of the shipment are detailed. The issuing bank lets the seller know what documents are needed to accept the import, together with such items as the latest shipment date.

The seller will arrange for the necessary documentation and shipment. Then they will approach their bank and present them will the documents and the LC. This is all sent to the Issuing Bank who then checks that the documentation meets the terms contained within the LC.

Upon approval by the Issung Bank the following steps take place:

  • Account of the importer is debited
  • Documents are released to the importer so that they can claim the goods
  • Payment is made as per the instructions of the Advising bank
  • Advising Bank credit the account of the seller

As the issuing bank has issued a guarantee, the in the event that all the documentation meets the criteria agreed upon, then they are obligated to make payment to the seller.

It is of course possible that there are discrepancies between the LC and the documents delivered. As the documents are delivered by the seller to their bank (Advising Bank), it is they who have the first task of checking everything. If discrepancies arise, the advising bank will endeavour to ensure that the documents amended. If the discrepancy can not be amended within the agreed time frame, then the documents will be forwarded to the Issuing Bank “in trust”. Sending documents in this way removes the guarantee on the original letter of credit, so caution is necessary. It is possible that despite the discrepancies, the buyer is still prepared to accept the shipment.

The list of necessary documents includes, but is not limited to:

  • Bill of exchange
  • Bill of lading or airway bill
  • Invoice
  • Cargo packing list
  • Certificates certifying to authenticity, inspection, origin
  • Insurance policy

Despite the guarantee from the Issuing Bank, there are always risks – default by any of the parties, legal risks, acts of war, documents not arriving on time etc. A letter of credit specifically deals with the documentation and not the goods itself.

This is one of the oldest and most trusted methods for arranging trade finance, and given the complexity with all the documents and the time it can take to cross the world, this is an area of banking that is very keen to explore the advantages offered by the Blockchain to accelerate the whole process.


If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us.


How to improve your working capital with Trade Finance instruments

| 22-5-2017 | Olivier Werlingshoff |

Trade finance instruments are developed especially for companies that deal with  export and/or import of goods to reduce risk but also to improve the working capital. Before going into the working capital part first let us refresh the theory.

If you are an importer of goods you would like to be sure the goods you will receive are the same as the goods you ordered. How can you be sure that the exporter sent you the right quality of goods and the right quantity, or that he sent them at all? One of the possibilities you have to reduce that risk is to pay after receiving the goods. If the quality and the quantity do not match with what you ordered, you simply do not accept the goods and do not pay the invoice.

At the same time the exporter of goods is worried that after sending you the goods, the invoice will remain  unpaid after the agreed payment period. What if the client does not accept the goods in the harbor? He would then have to arrange for new transport to return the goods or try to find new clients in a short period of time.

There is a lot of risk for both parties especially when they do not know each other very well or if they are located on different continents.

Letter of Credit

In this case a Letter of Credit could be a solution. With a Letter of Credit you make agreements with the exporter about the quality and the quantity of the goods that you buy, and how, when and where the goods will be shipped to.  Only if all terms and conditions of the Letter of Credit have been met the bank will pay the invoice. A lot of paper work will be part of the agreement for instance a Bills of Lading, a commercial invoice, a certificate of origin and an inspection certificate. As an additional security, the exporter can have the Letter of Credit confirmed by his bank.
In a nutshell this is the basic of how Letters of Credit (L/C) works.

Working Capital

Now you can ask the question how could this improve your working capital?

Firstly you will have more security that the payment will be made, therefore the risk of nonpayment will be reduced.

With trade finance you could also set up a line of credit based on your security and overall financial situation.

For the importer, he can finance the gap between paying the exporter and selling the goods to a buyer or use it for manufacturing purposes.

For the exporter, he can fund the gap between selling the goods and receiving payments from the buyer.

If there is not enough equity or there are no sufficient credit lines available, there is another option. Transaction Finance, hence the goods you will sell. [Export L/C] are used to fund [collateral] the buying of these same goods [Import L/C] This is called a Back to back L/C.

There could be a fly in the ointment, however! What happens when there is a mistake made in the paperwork? If this is a small mistake both parties would agree the transaction will go forward. But if during shipment the prices of the goods drop the importer will maybe not be very collaborative and will grab this opportunity to refuse the goods and not to pay the invoice!

Since the credit crisis the use of L/C’s went through the roof. If you need consultancy advise on this topic, drop us a line!

Olivier Werlingshoff - editor treasuryXL


Olivier Werlingshoff 

Group Treasury Director




More articles from this author:

How can payments improve your working capital?

Managing cash across borders

How to improve cash awareness without targets