Tradeshift Supply Chain Finance Panel Debate – With A True Expert Audience!

The Tradeshift grand office opening and Supply Chain Finance panel discussion last Thursday was a very enjoyable event. The topic was  “Unleashing your working capital” and really supply chain finance (SCF) was the centre of attention.

Our panel was:

-  Vinay Mendonca, Global Head of Product and Propositions, HSBC
-  Alex Farrugia, Head of Supply Chain Finance, Santander
-  Sourav Niyogi, Managing Director – Digital Supply Chain and Cost Transformation, Accenture

Vinay was rushing back from foreign parts to be with us and arrived at Heathrow about 90 minutes before our kick-off. So we had Uber location updates from his colleague on a regular basis - “he’s just going past Harrods”.  Then a few minutes later - “he’s stuck somewhere near the Strand”…  I was convinced we were going to get - “he’s in Croydon” at some point but he made it just in time!

And as an experienced panel moderator, I can honestly say they were an excellent threesome. They kept their comments concise and to the point, they didn’t try to “sell” their own firms or beliefs to much, and they were honest and open, as well as being hugely knowledgeable about the topic.

So we had some good debate around quite tricky issues such as whether the big banks have a future in the era of Blockchain (answer; we’ll see – but there are still some major issues around trust, client relationships, deep industry knowledge and so on where the banks have advantages.) Of course, the giant financial services firms are also investing heavily to Blockchain in order to understand and develop products and partnerships as well.

We also talked about the public image of supply chain finance. Quite often, we see negative press reports about large firms pushing out payment terms to the horror of their suppliers, smaller firms in particular. But, as our panel pointed out, appropriate use of SCF can turn this negative into a positive. Yet these moves to extend terms are often not accompanied by a parallel SCF programme, which seems to be a big missed opportunity for those buyers.

Equally, we all agreed that there needs to be more education around SCF,  perhaps for the public generally but certainly for businesses and business people.  Despite growing attention and interest in recent years, there was agreement that we still have further to go.

It was interesting to have two “competing” banks on the panel, and we did get into that issue, including their relationship with Tradeshift. The general views was that this “pie” is quite large enough for many players (including banks) to have their slice, and Tradeshift are being smart in looking to provide a platform (with their eInvoicing capability and increasing focus on their supplier network and marketplace) that many different finance providers and other participants can use.

Talking of Tradeshift, I met three of four people during the evening who I know from other procurement tech firms and who have joined Tradeshift in the last year. All good people – experienced but still motivated and enthusiastic would be my summary. That’s a good sign, and while it is hard to pin down, there certainly seemed to be a “buzz” around the organisation. The top team weren’t there, having flown off to a Board meeting in California (what’s wrong with Aldgate?), but they weren’t missed in all honesty – there was a really good atmosphere.

And finally, I know a reasonable amount about SCF without being a deep expert, so I did some revision before the event, reading this book on SCF, published last year. So I was slightly intimidated to find both Charles Findlay and Simon Templar, two of the learned authors, at the event! No good me quoting their words of wisdom as my own then …  (I should say that there was some other serious procurement experience and brainpower amongst the audience too).

The vultures had descended on the food ...

But seriously, if you want to know more about this topic, do buy and read the book. Whilst this is a market that is moving quickly, it really is a great primer on the whole topic and well worth the study.

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