Standby Letter of Credit: A Secondary Payment Strategy

Standby Letter of Credit: A Secondary Payment Strategy

An additional safeguard that guarantees payment for a finished service or a shipment of tangible items is a standby letter of credit (SBLC). A bank guarantees payment to a beneficiary under such a plan in the event that something goes wrong. The SBLC outlines the circumstances under which the bank would be required to pay.

A disinterested third party should be the bank issuing the letter of credit. If a bank customer breaches a contract, the bank pays the benefit instead of the customer who didn’t fulfill their obligations. Since it is a credit transaction, the customer is ultimately liable for paying back the bank.

Similar to regular letters of credit, SBLCs are helpful for domestic transactions like small-scale building projects as well as for foreign trade. The SBLC makes sure financial commitments to a beneficiary are satisfied in the event that unforeseen circumstances prevent provisions of a transaction from being fulfilled. 


SBLCs can be divided into two categories: those that are performance-based and those that are based on finances. 

Financial: An exporter offers items to an international customer who agrees to pay within 60 days. According to the conditions of the SBLC, the exporter may seek payment from the foreign buyer’s bank if the payment is never made. The bank normally assesses the buyer’s credit before issuing the letter and determines that the company will pay the bank back. Banks may request collateral or money on deposit from customers whose credit is under review before approving a loan.

Performance: A contractor promises to finish a building project by a specified date. The project is not finished when the deadline comes. The customer of the contractor may request payment from the contractor’s bank if an SBLC is in place. That money serves as a fine to encourage on-time completion, cash to hire a replacement contractor mid-project, or pay for the hassles of handling issues.

How the Procedure Operates

A seller agrees to ship 10,000 widgets to an importer on open credit. The vendor requests that the importer get a letter of credit as a condition of their agreement in order to safeguard their business against the latter’s failure to fulfill his obligations.

When the importer approaches his bank for an SBLC, the bank issues it and delivers it to the vendor’s bank because the importer has excellent credit and collateral. She decides to proceed with the transaction after carefully reviewing the letter.

 Vendors are obligated by the SBLC to provide proof to the importer’s bank in the event that the importer defaults on their obligations. The vendor is subsequently paid by the importer’s bank, and the importer will then be required to pay back his bank.

Security is offered

The beneficiary gains additional assurance that she will be paid by assigning payment to a third-party bank. In the case of an export transaction, the buyer could refuse to pay for a number of reasons, including:

  • The buyer is experiencing a cash flow problem and is awaiting payment from his own clients.
  • The purchaser closes its doors.
  • The buyer’s assets are frozen as a result of political unrest or instability.
  • The buyer dislikes the seller.
  • The purchaser is deceitful.

Banks are generally more financially secure than buyers, and they are not involved in conflicts between buyers and sellers. Instead, the parties agree to a set of circumstances that will result in payment, and the bank complies when those circumstances are met.

 As long as the recipient complies with the letter’s specifications and the bank is still in operation, an SBLC must be paid. The beneficiary can ask for a confirmed letter of credit if she is concerned about the financial security of the issuing bank. In that situation, the beneficiary receives a guarantee for the payment from a bank they trust instead of one they don’t.

Other Letters of Credit vs. SBLCs

Similar to a regular letter of credit, an SBLC: As long as the recipient submits the required paperwork and complies with the letter of credit’s conditions, the bank guarantees payment. But there are some important variations:

An SBLC serves as a backup plan: Similar to most safety nets, the objective is to not use it. Someone being paid via an SBLC indicates that something went wrong. On the other hand, everyone engaged in a normal letter of credit hopes and anticipates that payment will take place. For instance, the letters are paid when an exporter delivers a shipment to an importer successfully.

Performance component: Another distinctive feature of SBLCs is the possibility of a performance component, or, if you prefer, a negative performance component. The beneficiary is compensated even if a service is not rendered.

In-country: Domestic transactions commonly include the use of SBLCs. These could range from undertaking construction tasks to obtaining electrical services. In foreign trade, commercial letters of credit are more typical. 

How to get an SBLC

Ask your bank to issue an SBLC if you require one. Working with the bank’s commercial division or international trade department is probably necessary. Make sure to provide yourself plenty of time to comprehend the procedure’s workings and the situations that render payment due. Engage an expert lawyer to go over the paperwork with you.

Insist on an irrevocable letter of credit and demand it as a condition of your agreement if you want someone else to use an SBLC. Work closely with your bank and attorneys to comprehend the particular terms for obtaining payment. Meeting all of the requirements is challenging because letters of credit are intricate documents. You can forfeit your entitlement to money if you don’t fulfill a small criterion, which could be terrible.

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