Category Archives: Payables Finance

The Journey to Multi-Tier Finance

Can visibility of data via deployment of technology — like blockchain, IoT and smart apps that provide product flow and supply chain party information — enable models to develop financing earlier and deeper into the supply chains?

This is a question worth asking, because trying to go beyond Tier 1 suppliers with an approved buyer invoice scheduled for payment tied to a buyer irrevocable payment undertaking is about as far as we have come.

What does Apple Card have to do with B2B lending?

Recently, a tweet caused a big kerfuffle when Danish programmer David Heinemeier Hansson tweeted that his credit limit for the new Apple Card was 20 times that of his wife’s, even though she has the higher credit score. All of a sudden the news picked up stories on gender bias, claiming the credit card's issuer, Goldman Sachs, is giving women far lower credit limits with the new Apple Card, even if they share assets and accounts with their spouse.

But it's impossible to know if the Apple Card — or any other credit card — discriminates against women, because creditworthiness algorithms are notoriously opaque. Credit scores are only one factor in determining credit worthiness, so it’s hard to jump to conclusions.

But if the future is more technology around B2B lending, just how concerned should we be that models built on AI may not be as good as one might think? If we are to believe the capabilities of AI, and I do, then through self-learning mechanisms like self-driving cars, the intelligence should get better with more experience.

But humans design software, and humans have biases. Some examples include:

SoftBank invests $1.65 billion in supply chain finance. Why?

At $100 billion, the SoftBank Vision Fund is both the largest private equity fund ever raised and one of the most complicated. On the heels of some public wounds with the likes of WeWork and Uber, I wondered why the keen interest in supply chain finance (SCF).

Is ‘supply chain finance’ a fancy way of saying ‘financialization’?

What is financialization?

“Financialization is profit margin growth without labor productivity growth. Financialization is squeezing more earnings from a dollar of sales without squeezing at all, but through tax arbitrage or balance sheet arbitrage.” — Ben Hunt, Epsilon Theory

Is payable finance (aka reverse factoring or its generic form, supply chain finance) as practiced by large corporates, really just balance sheet manipulation? 

LIBOR Phase Out: Considerations for Supply Chain Finance

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LIBOR has been the default benchmark interest rate for supply chain finance since this technique was developed approximately 20 years ago. By year-end 2021, LIBOR will be phased out.

So how does this impact supply chain finance? For a market that is approaching $500 billion globally in size, it’s a significant challenge.

Large Companies Lack Cash to Fund Their Supply Chains

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David Gustin is the chief strategy officer for The Interface Financial Group responsible for digital supply chain finance and is a contributing author to Trade Financing Matters.

The popular opinion has been that many large American companies are flush with cash. In fact, surveys from some reputable institutions support this view. The AFP’s corporate cash survey found during the second quarter of 2019, U.S. businesses continued to build their cash and short-term investment holdings. This is intuitively supported by events like the corporate tax cut last year.

But this narrative is highly misleading.

Blockchain and Digital Invoice Finance — What’s Missing?

Similar to an idea in the movie "Inception," blockchain has been imprinted on our brains as the solution for just about everything. But recently, a number of articles have taken a negative perspective on blockchain. Now I for one am never about technology for technology’s sake. But let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Distributed ledger technology really started ramping up only about 36 months ago. Considering that Amazon was still only selling books online after its first two years, why does blockchain have to change the world so quickly?

Deferred Buyer Payment Solutions: The Search for the Holy Grail

David Gustin is the chief strategy officer for The Interface Financial Group responsible for digital supply chain finance and is a contributing author to Trade Financing Matters.

Most discussions about early payment solutions focus on buyer-centric models, ones that scale by bringing technology, managed services and perhaps some underwriting to offer supplier finance. This is a big opportunity that top providers have been going after for years, of course, and the potential market is huge. But the flip side of the coin, deferred payment solutions, where sellers are paid early (or based on their standard terms) and small buyers can extend those terms outward to 90 or 180 days, is a less understood market — both in terms of potential, technologies and the type of underwriting to manage losses.

Goldilocks, Capital Structure and Supply Chain Finance

David Gustin is the chief strategy officer for The Interface Financial Group responsible for digital supply chain finance and is a contributing author to Trade Financing Matters.

Ahhh. This porridge is just right.”

— from “Goldilocks and the Three Bears”

The Goldilocks principle is named by analogy to the children's story “The Three Bears,” in which finding the right temperature for porridge took some sampling.

So how do you make sure the porridge is just right if you are today’s middle market treasurer and need to balance liquidity, access to capital (and if rated, a quality rating), and ensuring the right amount of cash?

Most middle market companies are not flush with cash. In fact, when thinking of capital structure, there are many things that keep the CFO/treasurer up at night.

Why Payment Companies are Missing an Opportunity with Early Pay (Part 2)

Small Business Credit

David Gustin is the chief strategy officer for The Interface Financial Group responsible for digital supply chain finance and is a contributing author to Trade Financing Matters.

As we pointed out in our last post, payment companies are looking to convert paper checks to cards, and this is drawing interest from many firms, from private equity investing into payment companies to acquisitions (e.g., Fleetcor acquiring Nvoicepay, Visa buying Earthport). The key weapon of payment companies is to leverage interchange fees to entice their clients (buyers) through rebates and extended terms to provide an early pay option for suppliers, typically with a discount from the invoice of 2% to 3%. Yet there are several reasons why a “card only” strategy from payment companies is suboptimal.

Addressing S2P Platform Misconceptions Around Early Pay Programs

David Gustin is the chief strategy officer for The Interface Financial Group responsible for digital supply chain finance and is a contributing author to Trade Financing Matters.

Few source-to-pay platforms, payment processors or other networks have been able to develop early pay dynamic discounting management (DDM) or supply chain finance solutions that have added significant revenue to their enterprises. (See Why Platforms Need to Monetize Their Supplier Ecosystem.)

This comes at a time when these platforms are building new capabilities to boost revenues, including providing supplier invoice aggregation services; adding payment functionality; and helping clients migrate to cloud solutions.

From my conversations with many S2P platform vendors and payment processors, I hear three buckets of objections:

Many Fintechs Still Rely on Bring-Your-Own-Bank Strategy for Supply Chain Finance

Today, banks are by far the dominant player in providing supply chain finance, and do so in four ways. And many Fintechs that offer source-to-pay (S2P) and other supply chain collaboration solutions still have a strategy of using their clients’ house banks for supply chain finance. While it makes things easy if the customer can bring their own bank, it does not come without risk.