Supply chain finance is keeping goods and materials moving along despite obstacles and setbacks.
Rising interest rates and inflation at 40-year highs in many countries is a cause of concern for global supply chains, with the smallest suppliers being hit the hardest. Supply volatility and rising financing costs cast a spotlight on the need for consistent financial flows that align incentives and optimize working capital while facilitating procurement and sales.
According to a report published in October by Allied Market Research, the global supply chain finance (SCF) market generated $6 billion in 2021 and is projected to reach $13.4 billion by 2031, growing at a compounded annual rate of 8.8% from 2022 to 2031.
Growth in SCF was not even hindered by the 2021 collapse of the largest non-bank SCF business, Greensill Capital, whose practice of lending against prospective receivables was called by a UK parliamentary inquiry “a significantly riskier form of lending than traditional supply chain finance.”
Citi’s January 2023 Supply Chain Finance report focuses upon the role of SCF programs to “mitigate that financing challenge, particularly for small and midsize enterprises (SMEs).” As “SCF uses the higher rating of buying companies to enable suppliers to gain early access to attractively priced finance,” Citi found that “this increases suppliers’ resilience, shoring up the physical supply chain.”
In studying the health of the financial supply chain that powers physical supply chains, moreover, Citi finds that multinational corporations are looking to extend relationships with current suppliers and broaden their supplier base as a cushion against possible future disruptions.
The Spark of Fintech
From e-invoicing platforms such as Tradeshift; to procure-to-pay systems such as Taulia, Vayana Network and PrimeRevenue; to fintech firms that typically act like SCF brokers, using their relationships with a network of different banks or financial institutions to find the best funding solutions for their customers—all have played an important role in the rise of SCF and meeting unmet liquidity needs of SMEs. That said, large corporations, including Apple, Colgate, Dell, P&G, Kellogg’s and Siemens, use nonbank SCF platforms to tap previously inaccessible capital in their supply chains.
Orbian, an SCF provider to many large corporations around the globe, can provide multibank funding, thanks to partnerships with many international and local banks.
Recognizing the potential of SCF to provide clients with uninterrupted supply flow while also supporting the working capital needs of their suppliers has seen larger banks, including Citi, BNP Paribas, Deutsche Bank, Standard Chartered, HSBC and Bank of America (BofA), launch their own SCF operations recently.
BofA, which is collaborating with the Marco Polo Network to develop a distributed ledger-based trade and SCF ecosystem, is involved in two pilots: The first is focused on open account automation with a client to digitalize the end-to-end procure-to-pay process by facilitating the flow of information and funds seamlessly within a private DLT system. The second is a solution that combines artificial intelligence, DLT and digital verification databases to unlock the ability to on-board the entire supplier base and scale programs at speed.
“We’re committed to ensuring that Supply Chain Finance continuously provides the greatest positive impact for our clients. The introduction of new digital infrastructure will relieve corporates of manual tasks that create friction, while bringing efficiencies to their working capital,” said Geoff Brady, head of global trade and supply chain finance at Bank of America.
SCF programs can also be linked to environmental, social and governance (ESG) principles to help renewable energy manufacturers and suppliers, for example, to access liquidity. BofA is embedding ESG within its trade and SCF offerings. For corporations, SCF is a useful tool to improve their sustainability efforts. Sports retailer Decathlon has 40 suppliers on board its reverse factoring program, whereby suppliers with the highest ESG scores can access a more attractive financing rate.
Multilateral partnerships also play a significant role. They provide risk mitigation, such as credit guarantees, that can help banks to support SME suppliers further down the supply chain. They can also help improve ESG performance throughout the supply chain. The International Finance Corporation, for example, has partnered with Citi and McCormick & Company to provide McCormick’s herb and spice suppliers with financial incentives linked to improvements in measures of social and environmental sustainability.
The pandemic created a situation where dealing with cash and suppliers was turned on its head, so digital solutions will continue at pace and the number of SCF players will remain both varied and plentiful. For businesses looking to improve their liquidity and look after the financial health of their suppliers this is a good thing. No longer a niche product, SCF is crucial to the resilience of supply chains.
BEST SUPPLY CHAIN FINANCE PROVIDER — BANK
Bank of America
Last year, Bank of America (BofA) enhanced its already impressive supply chain finance (SCF) offering through acquisitions and technology improvement to simplify trade and SCF for clients. Investments include the Supplier Enablement portal—rolled out globally in 2022, which simplifies clients’ onboarding. It analyzes their spend file while providing full visibility into the supplier onboarding process.
Updates to CashPro Trade, BofA’s trade processing and reporting platform, include new trade receivable finance and trade risk purchase modules and new SCF program capabilities led by service providers. BofA also embedded environmental, social and governance (ESG) considerations within its trade and SCF offerings. In December 2021, BofA issued its second Equality Progress Sustainability Bond for $2 billion and expanded its minority-owned enterprise SCF program to include women-owned enterprises onboarded to clients’ SCF programs.
BEST SUPPLY CHAIN FINANCE PROVIDER — NON-BANK
Thanks to partnerships with many international and local banks, Orbian provides multibank funding—enabling Orbian to offer its customers unlimited funding capacity at competitive pricing while reducing the risk of single-source liquidity. Buyers can access both SCF and virtual card solutions in a single integration, and Orbian’s flexible funding structure ensures a premium SCF solution to corporate buyers and their suppliers. Furthermore, by combining technology with funding capacity, Orbian streamlines invoice receipt and accounts payable processes and provides real-time access to reporting and reconciliation tools. Recent innovations include the introduction of specialized buyer financing of payment term extension utilizing Orbian’s own virtual card solution and a funding model of purchased receivables alternative to commercial paper.
BEST CUSTOMER IMPLEMENTATION
DBS partnered with GS1 Hong Kong—the industry trade body in Hong Kong for the fast-moving consumer goods and the food and beverage sectors’ supply chains—to provide a one-click digital trade financing solution for small and midsize enterprises (SMEs) on GS1 Hong Kong’s ezTRADE platform. By logging into the DBS corporate banking platform, DBS IDEAL, SMEs can request a drawdown and invoices are automatically updated in the DBS system with same-day fund disbursal. Predictive analytics invoice data is used to assess the financial health of SMEs, with the amount of financing available to SMEs updated on a dynamic and recurring basis. DBS was also selected for a supplier payment services mandate to optimize the implementation workflow end-to-end for a large consumer electronics conglomerate in Asia-Pacific in record time.
BEST DYNAMIC DISCOUNTING SOLUTION
Citi’s Dynamic Discounting ensures that clients achieve maximum returns on their excess cash while building resilience and supporting suppliers. As early payment is an option for mid- to long-tail suppliers, Citi clients can use the excess cash to reduce costs. In addition to strengthening supplier cash flows, dynamic discounting also helps strengthen long-term trading relationships. Citi clients and their suppliers can benefit from the complimentary early payment solution through a single platform and file-transmission process for both SCF and Citi’s Dynamic Discounting.
CIB is the first bank in Egypt to launch a scalable technology platform for SCF. The module for CIB Business Online, called SCF Business Online, can handle very large volumes and smaller ticket sizes, thanks to highly flexible program structuring. Accepting invoice and purchase orders, CIB anchor customers and their suppliers can also request financing and monitor and track their payables and receivables online. Recent upgrades to the platform saw product profitability increase 200% in 2022 as clients enjoyed an improved user experience and early access to much-needed working capital at reduced cost.
SCF business has doubled in two years, thanks to an interactive online platform. ANZ Transactive Trade, which includes real-time reporting, document imaging, secure messaging and enhanced workflow management, helps clients better manage risk and optimizes working capital across their supply chains. Straight-through processing capability is implemented across ANZ’s SCF global platform to create additional operating efficiencies and enables scale across the business. Trade facility requirements are being integrated with credit submissions to provide a rich audit trail to enable faster, more consistent and up-to-date client data while structuring new trade facilities and managing existing ones.
Through its finance products for trade and supply chain, IDB Invest addresses the needs of buyers and sellers in the region, supporting their local and international trade activities with financial solutions for every stage of clients’ value chains. By providing access to the major supply chains in Latin America and the Caribbean, IDB Invest aims to help SME buyers and sellers, contributing to economic growth in the region. Specific emphasis is placed on solutions to help companies free up cash trapped in their supply chains and to shorten cash conversion cycles.
CENTRAL & EASTERN EUROPE
Founded in 2015 as a crowdfunded invoice financing platform, SupplierPlus operates in the Baltics and other Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries, enabling buyers to extend payment terms and offering their suppliers access to affordable, flexible and easy financing. SupplierPlus launched the first multicreditor SCF platform dedicated to CEE in 2019—bringing together buyers, their suppliers, and creditors seeking risk-adjusted returns. As a buyer-led SCF platform, it relies on the strong credit profiles of large buyers to make competitive financing available to their suppliers. Buyers get to improve their payment terms, pricing and delivery stability, while suppliers get paid early. To date, SupplierPlus has 622 buyers and suppliers registered on its SCF platform and manages SCF programs for 97 buyers across the CEE, financing 160 suppliers through 13 creditors. In November 2022 SupplierPlus partnered with AI-based ID verification and fraud prevention startup, iDenfy to ensure a smooth customer onboarding process.
In November 2020, BBVA launched its new cloud-based global SCF platform, which provides centralized management of payments—optimizing corporate clients’ working capital while helping to improve the financial health of their suppliers. It boasts a standardized contract approach, a single supplier’s onboarding tool with enhanced user experience. BBVA’s Global Supply Chain Finance platform is already operating in Mexico, Peru and Colombia, providing local payments; and it was implemented in Argentina in 2022. BBVA reaches the entire base of suppliers with no limits on the number, or on the number of invoices. There’s a centralized view of all the companies’ programs and suppliers in all locations and currencies at the same time, thanks to the tracking of invoices and payments.
First Abu Dhabi Bank (FAB)
First Abu Dhabi Bank (FAB) is the first regional bank in the Middle East to have a fully automated SCF solution, already live with major corporates, with more than 35 live programs running. Export solutions include plain vanilla products (such as letters of credit, guarantees and invoice discounting) as well as structured commodity and sophisticated receivables finance solutions. FAB supports importers, helping to manage their risk and finance trades. Trade products and solutions include counterparty risk mitigation, liquidity and working capital enhancements, off-balance-sheet solutions, inventory financing solutions and Islamic solutions. FAB is running more than 10 receivables finance programs based on clients’ finance requirements. Inventory finance is a new offering, wherein FAB supports on-balance-sheet as well as off-balance-sheet structures for corporate clients across all its major markets. Clients can initiate payments and trade transactions, monitor incoming funds status, view remittance instructions and trade discrepancies, and create a statement for reconciliation purposes on FABOnline.
As the leading global provider of SCF, Citi manages over 4,000 buyers globally, with over 90,000 suppliers in more than 85 countries. As part of continued efforts to help clients improve the resilience of their supply chains, Citi offers an integrated payables-financing proposition from purchase order to SCF solution. This end-to-end embedded financing solution allows Citi to provide financing earlier and deeper in supply chains. Suppliers receive financing as soon as a purchase order is issued (pre-shipment)—helping them to manage their working capital positions with more certainty. Financing automatically shifts to SCF (post-shipment/post-acceptance) once an approved invoice is received from the buyer. Last year, Citi also began offering Dynamic Discounting to ensure clients achieve maximum returns on their excess cash, while building resilience and supporting suppliers.
Citi’s Sustainable Supply Chain Finance is now available to support the ESG agendas of clients and their suppliers. Qualifying suppliers can access Citi’s SCF at preferential rates, based on their independently assessed sustainability score or improvement.
MUFG launched dynamic discounting in 2020 and its own European SCF platform in early 2021. It is one of very few banks with an owned and operated processing platform that provides both SCF and dynamic discounting. MUFG also offers a holistic suite of working capital improvements such as e-payables and virtual cards. MUFG offers highly structured receivables purchase programs that provide expedited cash and risk mitigation solutions to protect clients’ balance sheets.