08 May 2014 Que sera sera – the evolution of supply chain finance
The soundtrack to my formative years was the Sex Pistols, The Jam, The Clash, Deaf School, Gregory Isaacs and Aswad. It was fun that the generation I was a part of had music that was revolutionarily different from previous generations yet there were still those older people who wished we would all just calm down and listen to Bing Crosby and Doris Day as though Elvis, the Beatles, The Doors and Pink Floyd had never happened in the preceding two decades.
Punk rock had woken an older generation and reminded them of how much they enjoyed their heyday. And this is exactly the impression I got today when I read that the International Chamber of Commerce is to rationalize the language used to describe supply chain finance.
It was an article here in which Kah Chye Tan, Chair of the ICC Banking Commission is quoted as saying: “SCF is a growing market with considerable business opportunities identified for the near future. Given increased collaboration among the wide range of bank and non-bank representatives facilitating domestic and cross border trade, and the advent of Internet and new communication technologies, it is more important than ever before for all market participants to adopt universally-accepted terminology that corresponds to the rich array of processing, financing and risk management techniques currently being developed by the industry to support increasingly globalized supply chains.”
You read right. The newly formed Global Supply Chain Finance (SCF) Forum is responding to, amongst other things, the advent of the internet. Where have they been? Depending on how much of a geek you are the advent of the internet happened between 20 and 30 ago when the world was a very different place. Interest rates were in double figures and for a small business, getting credit was a matter of being a member of the same golf club as your bank manager.
Economies evolve. Business conventions and technologies evolve and the language that goes alongside it all evolves with it. What was relevant 20 years ago isn’t relevant today. You can’t dictate the way the world will evolve. What will be will be. You may not like the new world or you may delude yourself into thinking that it hasn’t changed but the new generation of SCF players like Taulia, Tradeshift, and Tungsten are collectively disrupting the SCF landscape. They’re changing the way we leverage the financial supply chain and, without stepping on the toes of the incumbents (much) they are bringing the language we use into the 21st century. These are the SCF players of the future and they are here to stay. I’m not saying that the traditional players don’t have a healthy future too but please don’t try getting the new kids on the block to adopt the old fashioned lingo. How ever much you’d like them to, they’re not going to call you Daddio!
Seriously, there is an issue with the language used within the sphere of Supply Chain Finance. The language used ranges from the non-accessible and arcane to the incorrect. The term ‘Supply Chain Finance’ itself has evolved and it’s now difficult to find a useful definition that would be universally accepted. We published a white paper recently (click here to download) aimed specifically at untangling the confused language in order to help demystify SCF. So this initiative has my wholehearted support. On one condition. Please don’t recommend that we bring back Doris Day on the radio.
Pete Loughlin can be found on twitter @peteloughlin