SCF needs hard data to support success claims

We are all familiar with how eager supply chain finance (SCF) providers are to make bold claims of how much their businesses have grown from the previous year and how many new clients they have won. These glowing announcements are inevitably a common occurrence in all of our overstretched inboxes.

Their exuberant claims are far from empty, as those of us working in the SCF industry know. We see day-in and day-out that the industry is maturing and interest in what SCF can offer companies is on the rise. This is particularly due to the great strides technological innovation is making in helping support SCF platforms.

While we all know anecdotally the achievements of the industry, we cannot fully back up our claims due to a lack of comparable accurate market data. With the current market becoming increasingly scattered and featuring all kinds of different providers from e-invoicing companies to bank-led SCF platforms and dynamic discounting platforms, there is no current report or database out there that can be used to benchmark companies against each other.

Existing market reports – which are useful and provide a degree of insight – usually include limited data based on estimates and forecasts from small pools of providers or clients. For instance, the annual SCF Barometer compiled by consultancy PWC tends to rely on data provided by a survey of a small pool of large multinationals currently using SCF. The scope of the survey is too limited to discern true trends.

Consultancy BCR’s annual World Supply Chain Finance report bases its data on estimates provided by experts that have contributed to the report. Last year’s report acknowledged that generating performance statistics is a “difficult exercise” due to the divergent players in the market and different ways they each have of recording data.

The 2018 report – based on contributors’ opinions – pointed to a global SCF volume of $447.8 billion in 2016, marking an increase of 36 percent over 2015.

Yet, there is a thirst for more detailed and accurate data about the current state of the market. This is something we know all too well at the SCF Community where we receive numerous enquiries from consultancies.

Even within the SCF world, we hear how providers want to compare themselves against their peers and see which region or type of solution is showing the most promise.

How many invoices are actually being processed through their platforms? How many clients are active users of these platforms? Which regions are seeing real growth? These are just some of the common enquiries we receive.

As the demand for more information has grown, the SCF Community has decided to take action. We are planning to launch a research project that will bring together SCF providers to share their data and disclose the actual volumes of business they are doing.

The report will focus on how the current market is served rather than including potential growth estimates. We want to include data points such as the number of processed invoices; the number of traded invoices; funded amounts and early payment amounts gathered over the course of 2018.

We also intend to provide a geographic breakdown to illustrate with countries and regions are seeing the most activity.

It is a big task – but already we are seeing genuine interest from banks, fintechs and supply chain finance funders to share their data with us.

There will – of course – be hurdles in our way that prevent the collection of this data. While everyone wants to know what their competitor or market is doing – there will inevitably be reluctance among some to disclose their own data.

Our research will also include data from bank providers and we envisage banks might be more reluctant to provide information citing regulatory and confidentiality issues. But again this depends on the market – in Spain it is far more common for banks to report their factoring or confirming volumes to local associations.

In an effort to counter some of this resistance, we aim to have at least 60 percent of the SCF market on-board before we launch the report to help create a sense that we are all working together.

We also plan to only list those companies participating in the research rather than disclose their individual data – which will remain highly confidential. The plan is rather to provide detailed trends and data specific to a market or region.

Compared to other reports, this project will focus on the SCF providers themselves providing detailed accurate data on the state of their business now – rather than what they forecast over the next few years.

The next steps in this project will be approaching providers in May and June, collecting the data just after the summer with the hope of presenting the first high-level data at the SCF Community conference in Amsterdam in November.

There will be various incentives to encourage more providers to get involved in this project, including a personalised report which will outline the participant’s market position and market share in the SCF space.

This project is just one of many initiatives we at the Community to create useful data on the SCF market. We are also looking at developing a benchmarking data collection project that will aim to provide corporates with the ability to benchmark the success of (or lack of) their SCF programme against other corporates. For example, companies could be able to compare how effective their on-boarding of suppliers is to another firm. This is something I plan to discuss in future columns.

We know the SCF market is a dynamic and growing industry – it is now time to show the rest of the world what we have and will achieve.