Banking the ecosystem

Banking the ecosystem: connecting business communities

Alex Manson, Global Head of Transaction Banking


Most multinational corporations (MNCs) have developed their supply chain operating models to support multi-channel sales and distribution, and optimise production costs, capacity and lead times. As companies expand their business globally, their buy-sell relationships and supply chains often become increasingly intertwined, leading to complexity and lack of transparency. In this environment, many corporates are seeking to increase visibility and confidence in the supply chain to adapt quickly and precisely to variations in demand, streamline the exchange of value throughout the ecosystem and ultimately facilitate growth.

The supply chain spectrum

A characteristic of global corporations’ supply chains is the diversity of business partnerships, from strategic and preferred suppliers at one end, to large national or regional distributors, sales agents, dealers, resellers and “mom and pop” retailers at the other. Every connection is critical to the whole supply chain, so a delay or break at any point potentially interrupts production or results in a short term funding gap. As a result, corporates have started looking beyond their organisational boundaries and evaluating whether their ecosystem is fit for purpose and equipped to meet growth challenges.

Some corporations started using advanced analytics to monitor or even forecast their buyer and supplier performance to negotiate better commercial terms or predict downstream stock levels. Others are working to address the financing needs of their small and medium-sized (SME) buyers and suppliers through bespoke supply chain finance programs. According to ADB’s 2016 Trade Finance Gaps, Growth, and Jobs Survey, 56% of SME trade finance proposals are rejected whereas multinational corporations are only rejected 10% of the time, indicating how this SME segment is significantly under-served.

An ecosystem-based approach

There are various reasons for this. For example, most global banks restrict their target customer base outside their home market to multinational corporations. Banks that support a wider spectrum of customers, such as regional and local banks, typically lack the network to serve a global supply chain. Besides, banks are often organised into silos to support different customer segments: SME customers are typically supported through commercial or retail banking divisions, while larger customers’ needs are managed through corporate & institutional banking, therefore creating a disconnect.

Even popular supply chain finance techniques, such as post-shipment financing (or supplier financing) are still focused on the large corporate’s needs, so banks’ engagement with suppliers is mainly to onboard them to the program, rather than working with them to understand their supply chain and financing needs, how their growth is linked to that of their customer, and devising solutions accordingly.

At Standard Chartered, we are uniquely equipped to drive a new generation of banking that encompasses the entire ecosystem rather than simply single points in the supply chain. We bring together our corporate & institutional, commercial and retail divisions to engage our customer’s ecosystem on an integrated basis. We are developing solutions that address the transactional, financial and informational needs of our customers and their ecosystems in this evolving market place. We deep dive into our customers’ supply chain, understand their pain points and co-develop optimal solutions.

The ecosystem in practice

For instance, a large manufacturer looking to expand production may be hindered due to constraints in key suppliers’ production capacity. It is more difficult and costly for some of these suppliers to access financing on their own compared with the large corporation they supply. These costs are then passed on to the manufacturer, resulting in lower margins. Furthermore, the solutions available to these suppliers are typically limited to vanilla post shipment finance. By taking an ecosystem approach, these obstacles to growth can be removed, allowing banks to go beyond traditional post-shipment finance to offer best fit banking solutions.

Banking the ecosystem also means embracing supply chain complexity in different ways. On the supplier side, the flow and frequency of transactions between suppliers and their core customers can be far more complicated than simply issuing a purchase order, delivering goods and sending an invoice. For example, an auto manufacturer needs its suppliers to produce components to meet existing demands as well as unconfirmed future demand of a new model. These forecasts change over time and new orders keep coming in, making it difficult to reconcile production needs down to individual purchase orders, which are typically the basis on which traditional invoice or pre-invoice financing takes place.

On the sales side, as companies’ sales and distribution models become more agile, credit and working capital dynamics change. If a distributor’s credit line is fully utilised, this distributor cannot do more business, which in turn hampers growth. It is crucial for banks to understand the root cause of such scenario before proposing any solutions. The answer could be that the company needs to automate real-time collection reconciliation in their ERP system or that the distributor has some short term working capital burden. When we pay more attention to underlying business requirements, we can facilitate more business.

Positioning for growth

As each market and industry continue on their economic journeys, and commercial models evolve in line with new technologies and customer expectations, clients’ ecosystems will need to adapt. Few banks are in a position to offer the depth of local expertise, the breadth of solutions and the spectrum of relationships across all sizes of businesses that Standard Chartered provides. Taking an ecosystem approach to banking services reinforces our commitment and responsibility as a bank to facilitate trade, commerce and investment, and connect business communities.

Download our white paper on Banking the ecosystem here.

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