Supply Chain Finance

We have highlighted many times the challenges of working capital management. It’s become a cliché to refer to the “perfect storm” – the combination of virtually zero interest rates and constrained liquidity that gives both cash rich, large businesses and cash strapped suppliers a headache. But every cloud has a silver lining. Better working capital management provides an opportunity and now, REL, the specialist working capital arm of Hackett, has revealed the size of the prize, in Europe - a total of €762bn is tied up in excess working capital - equivalent to 6 per cent of EU GDP!

When anyone tells you something is a win-win, they’re usually lying. Where there’s a winner there’s always a loser. But sometimes it does look very compelling. Supply Chain Finance (SCF) offers the possibility of a supplier getting paid early, lowering their cost of working capital and at the same time, the buyer gets to extend their DPO. When something looks too good to be true it usually is. There must be a catch. And actually, there is.

Isn't it interesting how opposites attract. When the circumstances are just right, people, businesses, natural elements and chemical compounds bind together in synergistic relationships of mutual self interest. Successful supply chain partnerships are just like that and collaborations between very different businesses can create profitable partnerships in which the whole is much greater than the sum of the parts. And isn't it disappointing when different parts of the same organization repel each other like the poles of a magnet. You would think that procurement and finance divisions of the same business would have a similar agenda but when it comes to some matters of finance, buyers have more in common with their suppliers than they have with their own finance people.

Critical components in your supply chain are at risk - and you may not even know it. There are numerous points of failure in today's complex supply chains and because of the difficulty that upstream suppliers have funding their business from day to day, the risk of a damaging and expensive failure is increasing. And it gets worse. Efforts to cut costs have resulted in leaner, riskier supply chains held together by a network small suppliers. If the risk of financial failure isn't mitigated it could have disastrous consequences - which is why businesses - especially in Europe - should begin to take supply chain finance more seriously.

There are a few things that make Stephen McPartland unusual. He's a scouse Tory (trust me - it's unusual) who writes for the Morning Star campaigning about corporate tax avoidance (and you thought a scouse Tory was unusual) and, on top of that, he gets e-business. That's right - a politician that understand e-business. Now that is unusual! I went to the House of Parliament in London to speak with Stephen about why he believes now is the time for the UK to act on e-invoicing.

New York - the lights, the excitement, the glamor, the Post Office. A compelling argument for electronic invoicing. [caption id="attachment_7294" align="aligncenter" width="540"]This Post Office in the heart of Manhattan is open for business This Post Office in the heart of Manhattan - one of the busiest and commercially vibrant cities in the world - is open for business. I stood in line for 45 minutes to buy a stamp.[/caption]

I'm old enough to remember the pioneering days of the internet and the growth in the use of internet technologies in the B2B landscape and about 18 months ago, I caught up with an old friend and erstwhile colleague, Mike Zealley, who I worked with during those exciting times. We spent a lunch time recalling the predictions we made in the late 1990s about what could be done, what was possible and how different the world would be. The disillusionment of the dot com crash may have taken the sparkle off but today, many of the things that we predicted have come to fruition - some in an uncannily accurate way. So it was it was uncanny last week when I went to visit Oxygen Finance in London that the first thing Roberto Moretti, their European CEO, said to me was “Mike Zealley sends his regards.” The second thing he said to me was “Pete, let me introduce you to Mark Hoffman”.