• 29 June 2021
  • Tax

Why more businesses are recognising the importance of a customs/trade department

Interview with Meir Hidana, Head of Global Logistics and Trade Compliance at Dolby Laboratories.


The Customs & Global Trade industry has seen peaks and troughs across the last couple of years.

Brexit, Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) across different regions, US trade wars and increases in shipping costs across the globe have all introduced its fair share of challenges to the industry.

While the demands on customs and trade specialists have multiplied, they have also become more in demand. More and more businesses are realising that customs and trade experts are worth their weight in gold.

Q & A with Meir Hidana, Head of Global Logistics and Trade Compliance at Dolby Laboratories

What value does a Customs Departments bring to a business structure? 

“It is extremely important for companies that make, buy, distribute or sell to have a solid understanding of what regulations and restrictions they face if trading beyond their own national borders. 

“Whether a company needs a single trade compliance specialist or an entire department will heavily depend on the size of the business, mix of products, technologies and hence overall exposure. 

“Such expertise will be able to determine how products pass through borders in a manner that is compliant without exposing the company to penalties, import and export restrictions or other barriers.”

What is a good starting point for a company with no pre-existing customs or trade department? 

“A good starting point is initiating a product portfolio study and analysing destination markets to understand which service is required. It is important to do so due to the fact that if products pass any border, you are subjected to multiple regulatory obligations at origin and destination. This is irrelevant to the type of product which is being traded."

How much dependency is there on third party freight forwarders and carriers to perform import/export filing and compliance? Is this sustainable?

“Some freight forwarders and or couriers have their in-house brokerage service that many companies who trade internationally rely on in order to ship, import and export. However, businesses are completely blind as to the manner in which these filings are being done and if they are done correctly. 

“In addition, freight forwarders and courier services have a motivation to ship and carry products and not necessarily to delve deep into compliance matters. This approach can work for companies who trade small amounts of commodities and less complex products if they are able to pre define their compliance requirements to their service provider. 

"It is important to internally recognise and acknowledge that even if a company is heavily reliant on third parties to perform import or export filing, it is the company’s responsibility to be aware of what regulations, restrictions they are subjected to and to be able to independently audit and verify such third parties services. 

“A case should be put forward to senior management that such resources and expertise are necessary to enable the business and ensure healthy and sustainable business flows. Trade and customs compliance is a critical business function.”


How can customs departments grow most effectively?

Although there is a growing consensus around the importance of trade and customs specialists, the question is which is the best way to grow an in-house function.

Is is best to up-skill current staff, use external customs consultants or invest into growing an internal department?

This is the question I put to my LinkedIn community recently. The results are below.

Over 60% expressed the view that investing in talent was the answer. Which leads me to the recruitment market. What is the state of the jobs market for customs and trade professionals?

Customs & Trade recruitment

With many of the top-tier talent being scooped up across all levels, the lack of specialists that bring a strategic and technical skill set to the table remain to be the gap in the market.

The biggest challenge that Customs departments have faced is finding the right person that can add strategic value, someone who doesn't just look after operations but someone who can also attribute to business enablement.

This in turn can lengthen recruitment processes and ultimately lead to vacancies being open for months at a time.

This is where I can help. If you are looking to expand your customs and trade function, please get in touch and I would be very happy assist you in your search for the right people.


Josh Rapaport is a Senior Consultant in the Tax Division at Harvey John.

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