Interview with Lars Karlsson, CEO & MD KGH Global Consulting

For the Autumn 2019 edition of the quarterly member journal ‘World Trade Matters’, William Barns-Graham, the Senior Content Editor at the Institute of Export & International Trade, spoke with Lars Karlsson, CEO & MD at KGH Global Consulting, about why the UK Customs Academy is such an important initiative and why we need more people in the UK to learn about Customs.

Why is the new online Customs Academy such an important project?

Customs has never been more important than now, considering international trends and changes like Brexit, increasing protectionism and the Trade War between the United States and China.

In a world of globalisation, Customs compliance will be essential. So, we need more Customs competence and capacity in all companies.

The UK Customs Academy is a unique innovation, the first of its kind, and it offers a top class, modern, digital and cost-efficient way to build Customs competence. Through the UK Customs Academy and its digital services, you can advance from basic Customs training to an academic degree, a masters or a doctorate. Furthermore, you can do it in your own pace.   

How important is it for people working in Customs to get professional skills and training?

It is essential. The world of Customs is getting more and more complex and complicated, while, at the same time, Governments become more and more concerned with compliance issues. This means that the demands and pressure on people working in Customs will significantly increase over the years to come.

On the other hand, it also means that there will be major opportunities for people with Customs competence and documented knowledge and skills. The future is bright for people in this sector and there will be demand for competence way beyond what the market can offer today.  

How important is it for businesses to factor in Customs considerations throughout their operations strategy?

It is a key to future success. One of the strategic outcomes of Brexit will be that companies will increase their focus on the area of Customs. The Brexit process, until now, has proven how important Customs today is for companies and international trade. So, in the future Customs will become one of the key strategic areas for all companies involved in international trade, there is simply no alternative.

No company in international trade can in the future afford to not be compliant with international standards and regulations. No company will again, like with Brexit, be caught with old fashioned and non-flexible customs routines. Companies will need comprehensive Customs strategies, new models and system support. Business will have to become more compliant in the future.

The companies that realise this first and invest early in more strategic Customs planning will become the winners of the future. If you are faster and more compliant than your competition, you will be the winner in existing and new markets.

Customs competence and capacity will be in the center of this trend. I am involved in several international academic research groups and think-tanks on these topics and we have seen these trends for years already, due to the development of more complicated international supply chains and global value chains.    

What types of people will the Customs Academy be for?

The UK Customs Academy is for everyone involved in international trade. We have, based on requests from HMRC, developed some specific training for Customs intermediaries in order to build a stronger support mechanism for UK business, but the training courses on the platform will be useful for all.

What tips would you give to people looking to embark on a career in Customs?

First of all, it is a smart idea to do so, as said above. Customs and international trade are one of the most dynamic areas in the age of globalization and this will continue to develop over the decades to come.

We know today that trade is one of the most efficient ways to develop our societies for the better, to foster job creation and economic growth – as well as to support poverty reduction in emerging economies. So, working the Customs sector will be a very interesting career for the future, and also a career where you can do greater good.

My tip, after having worked in this sector for more than three decades, is to continue to learn all the time. Life is about learning, and this specific sector is changing all the time, so keep educating yourself.

Multinational companies, as well as many other stakeholders in the international supply chain, are already searching for educated Customs talents, so don’t miss out on this opportunity.

I have never regretted a day of my life in the field of Customs, since every day is about problem solving and international cooperation, but most importantly, Customs is fun!       

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