Author: Pete Loughlin

There's a particular moral standard that simply doesn't stack up in my view. It's the standard that claims that if it's legal, it's OK. If it's within the rules, it's fair. We see it all the time. Employees who feel they are unfairly treated are told "If you don't like it, you know were the door is". Put up or shut up! The employer knows that the employee needs the job and if they do walk, there's plenty of potential replacements. Whether or not the employee is right in their complaint, the employer is using or even abusing their power over their staff. It's not fair. Large corporations spend huge sums of money employing the best legal minds in the world to show how they can arrange their affairs so that they avoid paying tax. Perfectly legal practices that are quite blatantly unfair - unfair to those tax payers who, whether out of a sense of decency or simply because they can't afford the best legal minds in the world, pay their fair share of tax. I'm not referring to the grey areas - there are lots of them - situations that are open to interpretation and opinion. No, I'm referring to those cases where any reasonable person would agree that a course of action is clearly, without ambiguity, contrary to the spirit and intention of a set of rules, a contract or an agreement. The fact that there is no breach of rules does not make the situation fair - it simply makes it legal. Which is why I'm astonished at the response from Philip King recently on the OB10 blog to a question about prompt payment.

It’s astonishing! At a time when we have Sarbanes Oxley and a culture of control, in the climate of transparency and scrutiny and a fetishistic focus on finance – how is it that fraudsters have been able to get away with a more than 50% increase in procurement related theft? But it’s not that astonishing really. A cursory glance at the procurement practices and purchase to pay processes in any organization will reveal opportunities to defraud and while we should never forget that it is the fraudster that’s to blame, the responsibility is shared with the executives who choose to turn a blind eye and underinvest in proper P2P.

A couple of weeks ago, I sat down with Tony Duggan, CEO of Crossflow Payments, an organisation looking at alternative ways to bring together suppliers and corporate buyers and strengthen supply chains. Supply Chain Finance is a bit of a buzzword at the moment. The old guard, the banks who seem to have tunnel vision for the very big trade finance deals, and the factors who exploit to a greater or lesser extent the vulnerabilities of small and medium sized businesses view the new SCF players with a mixture of  doubt, suspicion and (although they’d not admit it) – fear. And they’re right to. Some of the new models emerging are innovative and impressive and they promise to take business away from the traditionalists. Crossflow is going to do just that in my view. Inspired by hands on experience in industry, Crossflow Payments has taken the concept of ‘Just In Time’ manufacturing and applied it to the financial supply chain. Tony believes that this can help transform the way financial supply chains operate.

The BBC reports today the the Prompt Payment Code - a UK government backed initiative to encourage big business to pay on time - isn't working. In other news, the sun came up this morning and it is expected to get dark sometime tonight. The Prompt Payment Code provides little more than gentle encouragement to business to demonstrate - in words at least - that they will pay according to terms. I wouldn't criticize for one moment those businesses that have signed up to it. I know that they are sincere in their intentions. But the code doesn't have teeth. It doesn't name and shame transgressors. It doesn't hold business to account if they pay little attention to actually delivering against the promise. And it's hardly surprising therefore that it's not working.

Crossflow Payments has made two senior appointments in as many weeks. They have just announced that Jack Perschke has joined the company as Commercial Director. Jack brings significant experience of complex commercial-led change from both his past roles with Ernst and Young's advisory practice and his own commercial strategy business.  He also has extensive government and IT experience having worked with The Cabinet Office, The Ministry of Justice, Passport UK, The Government Procurement Service and The Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS).

The nature of business process outsourcing has evolved and changed. In the past, it was simply about reducing cost - shipping jobs abroad where skills were cheaper. And while that rather unsophisticated body shopping model is not yet entirely a thing of the past, it is unlikely to feature significantly in the future because alternative, better business models have emerged and matured that do much more than reduce the operational cost for business. They allow business to make a quantum leap to best practice.

New appointments in the supply chain finance arena provide further confirmation if any was needed that this is a space to watch. Crossflow Payments, a relatively new entrant, has just announced the appointment of Tony Pinn, former Head of Supply Chain within Trade Finance at Barclays, to a director position.