Part of what attracted me to the company I currently work for is our access to international clients. I have a fairly international family, worked with a lot of international student programs in college, and I just find myself attracted to international-related people. Of course, a lot of the clients we have are staffed entirely by American employees, but within my company, I get a lot of contact with people from all over the world.
Clients with international operations face some unique challenges. Chiefly, they need to account for foreign exchange gains and losses, INCO terms for shipping, and potentially long turn-around times for getting products to customers and receiving payments back from customers.
Foreign exchange gains and losses
Some of our clients maintain a bank balance in Euros, and try to convert dollars to Euros when Euros are cheap and vice versa. They can then use the Euro account to pay Euro-denominated invoices with (hopefully) slightly cheaper Euro amounts than if they just converted the payment on the due date. Beyond this basic hedging, I haven't noticed that many of our clients bother with more complex hedging or derivative instruments to offset foreign exchange gains/losses. As an accountant, our job is to account for these transactions correctly, not to necessarily make the business decision about whether or not to engage in hedging.
The process of accounting for foreign-denominated AP or AR is fairly simple, although it is very helpful to have an accounting system with a built-in module for conversions, where you can input current exchange rates.
Essentially, when you receive an invoice/ship a product, you book that invoice into your system in the USD amount per the conversion rate on the day the amount because a liability/receivable. Then, on the day payment is made/received for the item, you clear out the receivable/payable for its original recorded amount, book the actual cash paid/received, and the difference is your foreign exchange gain/loss.
International shipping terms
In the US, we are used to seeing most inventory with the shipping terms "FOB shipping point," which means that the "rights of ownership" transfer to the customer once the product is in-transit. So, if your client has sold a product, the moment they put it on the truck to the customer, the customer owes them for the product, and your client can book it into their system. However, in the world of international accounting, INCO terms are commonly used, where the "rights of ownership" can be transferred at several different points along the way.
Your logistics department will need to track the product's journey to the customer much more carefully if rights of ownership only pass to the customer when the product is delivered to the client's factory, or to a shipping port in the client's country. If your client ships from the U.S. to say, Singapore, the shipping process could take over a month, and the client may not be able to record the sale until the product has completed the whole trip! As you can imagine, this can mean a long time in between manufacturing the product, and receiving the payment for product. Some companies engage in international trade financing to keep their cash flow healthy during this long payment cycle. Their accountant needs to be intimately familiar with the terms of these agreements to ensure that all liabilities and receivables are booked correctly.
Even with the simplification of global trade that comes along with instant communications and the internet, international trade is still a more complex situation than the same company operating in only the U.S. When accounting for international transactions, make sure you ask plenty of questions about how that company's process works and familiarize yourself with the company's contracts with customers, freight forwarders, and financiers.