Fourth Element diving gear company – The Telegraph

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“What was available back then wasn’t very effective,” says Fourth Element’s director of finance Christian Rossetti. 

“Especially when you’re diving in the UK, it really isn’t very enjoyable if you’re cold. So that beer led to the Fourth Element being born. Our emphasis was always on being the leaders in thermal protection.”

He says its focus has always been on innovation. “We’re now the benchmark for sustainable protection,” says Rossetti.

Cornwall-based Fourth Element started trading in 2001, and founders Paul Striker and Jim Standing are still at the forefront of the business. 

Rossetti joined in 2008 when the company had just eight employees: it now has 40, and sells clothing and equipment for scuba diving, swimming and freediving in 1,600 shops in 59 countries. 

Emphasising innovation: since its formation, Fourth Element has led the way in thermal protection and sustainability

Credit: Fourth Element

During the pandemic the company “saw an opportunity”, as supply chains worldwide slowed down, Rossetti says – and Fourth Element turned to UK Export Finance (UKEF) for help.

“At the beginning of 2021, we recognised that we were seeing big demand, but our suppliers had lead times going through the roof. A lot of our competitors stopped ordering: we didn’t. We realised in 2022 that we needed to increase production to meet demand. So we approached our bank, HSBC, to facilitate the purchase of more stock,” he says.

UKEF’s support was crucial at this point, enabling them to make a leap into exporting far more products. “We asked HSBC for a considerable step up in our trade loan facility.” HSBC suggested using UKEF’s General Export Facility to increase the amount they could borrow.

UKEF provides a guarantee of up to 80 per cent of the facility limit, which covers the bank in the event the business fails. 

Crucial support: with the help of UK Export Finance, the company was able to meet the demand for its products

Credit: Simon Burt

This means that exporters such as Fourth Element can access a lending facility above the level a bank might normally offer. 

In the following year, exports to the US boomed, Rossetti says, with sales growing 62 per cent. Exports to the rest of the world rose 91 per cent, leading the company’s revenue to grow 38 per cent overall. 

“It was massive growth in all markets, and if we hadn’t had that increased facility, we wouldn’t have been able to do that business,” he reflects. 

Since that point, Fourth Element has talked to UKEF about other financial tools on offer to exporters, including advanced payment bonds, supplier finance and performance bonds. 

Rossetti believes these tools will be useful as the company continues to expand into different markets. 

Big wins: Fourth Element is moving into new areas such as public safety as it continues its expansion

Credit: Simon Burt

“Until recently, our business was focused on the recreational diving market,” says Rossetti. “But over the past few years, we’ve been looking at the public safety and military markets. Those markets have bigger contracts: we just finished one, which was half a million pounds – a big contract for us.”

“Looking forward, we have more of those contracts in the pipeline,” he says. “We are still a relatively small company from Cornwall, and as we move into these bigger markets, having these tools will make us a stronger player, allowing us to compete with bigger competitors.”

Rossetti hopes that the company will be able to sustain its upward trajectory, and is hoping to grow another 30 per cent this year. 

“We now have a good springboard to go after different geographical markets,” Rossetti says. “We have warehouses in the UK, the US, Australia and the EU to help facilitate this, and we are always looking for new markets such as India and Brazil, where we foresee some good opportunities.”

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