Supply Chain Finance

I went into a supermarket recently and helped myself to £50 worth of food. Rather than going to the tills to pay, I approached a security guard and told him I had no intention of paying and unless he allowed me to leave the store without paying, I would do my weekly grocery shop somewhere else. Oddly enough, he didn’t appreciate my position and I was forced to leave the store empty handed. And it is odd that he didn’t understand the point I was making because this same retailer does exactly the same thing with its suppliers. It has become common practice amongst some retailers to demand cash from suppliers or insist that outstanding debts are written off in return for a continued relationship. Only this week, the BBC reported that Premier Foods, one of the UKs biggest manufacturers, has been asking suppliers to pay to continue to do business with them. You can read the full story here but it was the wording of a letter to suppliers that the BBC claim to be from Gavin Darby the CEO of Premier food that I found quite shocking: “We require you to make an investment payment to support our growth” he apparently wrote. It isn’t even subtle.

[caption id="attachment_9451" align="aligncenter" width="413"]Something familiar out of context can have a dramatic impact Something familiar out of context can have a dramatic impact[/caption] Joe Hyland, CMO at Taulia, recently wrote an excellent piece about industry disruption in which he highlighted three of the characteristics of a truly disruptive strategy. Essentially, Joe advises: 1. Don’t simply reinvent the wheel. 2. Don’t plagiarize an existing model and 3. Don’t make incremental changes – be bold. I’d agree with all of that but there’s something that Joe didn’t say – perhaps because he didn’t want to blow the Taulia trumpet too overtly – so I’m going to say it for him.

It’s not quite a revolution. No-one is fighting in the streets but the world is changing. For decades – indeed centuries, banks have wielded a power over business and the wider economy that was virtually unquestioned. The effect wasn’t always negative of course. It is hard to see how the economic growth of the 20th century could have happened without these institutions. But neither was it all good. There are anomalies in the way the economies of the western world operate  - there are unintended consequences, winners and losers. The fluctuations that occur in our economies are exploited by the banks who have a privileged central position and their actions can amplify the ups and downs in exchange rates, interest rates and stock prices. These accentuated aberrations can be very damaging to economies, businesses and individuals. But there is one aspect of the way our economies have run that hasn't fluctuated and has always been pretty consistent – you never see a poor banker. But now there’s a change in thinking. Some of the anomalies that we see – in particular the unfair playing field that exists between wealthy businesses and their smaller suppliers – are now being seen as unacceptable. Extending payment terms in order to optimize cash flow is a good thing only if you take a very isolationist view – if you see self-interest as the only thing that matters. If you take a wider view, you see that delayed payment hurts vulnerable suppliers, it pushes prices up and can damage an economy – at the very least it does nothing to help an economy that is on it’s knees and struggling to get back on its feet. This is why there's been a change of thinking and ironically, it is the banks we can thank for the change.

Today we're delighted to welcome Angus Craig from Craig Hall Consulting who shares some interesting perspectives on Mergers, acquisitions and supply chain finance. The last year has seen some significant changes in technology and the economic environment for supply chain finance (SCF). Together, these changes will dramatically affect the SCF market. Although there will be many winners, there will also be some losers. Purchasing Insight has been charting the changes in technology for some time. In February this year for example, Pete Loughlin observed that Taulia had automated or removed the cost of Know Your Customer (KYC) from their traditional SCF package, thereby opening up the market. In September last year he commented that Crossflow Payments offer their EDI platform for free, encouraging suppliers to switch. All of these technology changes have made the SCF proposition more compelling and have increased the number and value of transactions. The changes in the underlying economic environment need to be viewed in two separate ways: those economic trends that encourage customers and suppliers to adopt a SCF solution and those that affect the intermediaries that offer it.