TradeWiz Opinion on BPO

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1 TradeWiz Opinion on BPO Amsterdam 2012 The hidden opportunity of the Bank Payment Obligation In their role as a trusted partner in the area of Trade Finance, TradeWiz consultants often find themselves in a unique position due to their work with Financial Institutions, Corporates and (system) solution providers. TradeWiz has been following the discussions and developments around BPO with great interest. Senior Advisor Jacco de Jong states: I mainly work with Financial Institutions, which are in the process of restructuring their trade finance organization and infrastructure. Drivers for those developments varies from having to upgrade a system which has reached the end of its life cycle, up to wanting to be the market leader in Trade Finance. The scope of the desired development determines the impact on budget requirements and the angle of the business case. In all cases we notice that Banks want to optimize their services and product range towards their customers, whilst also finding ways to increase efficiencies and attract more business. Many of our clients are now looking into the concept of BPO, whereby they often struggle to get a grip on how BPO could work out for their organization and their clients. Positioning of BPO can be a challenge for them.

2 Associated Consultant Katarina Lodin states: I mainly work with Corporates that are looking to optimize their working capital whilst effectively managing the risks and Trade Finance business. Drivers for these developments are the ongoing challenges in the international business environment forcing corporates to review and adjust their approach on finance and risk. Corporates can choose from a wide array of products and solutions offered by Financial Institutions, but many have their limitations or specific characteristics and complexity. Today many companies risk policy requires that they secure open account transactions by means of credit insurance. However, most of these policies only cover buyer s insolvency and have a substantial grace period. If there is a possibility to secure open account transactions in an effective way I am sure this could be of great interest to many companies that are involved in international business. Therefore, I can see that BPO could be an interesting opportunity for these types of transactions, although I notice that many corporates are unaware of this possibility.

3 So why could BPO be a viable alternative and sometimes maybe even a preferred solution for corporates over the traditional Credit Insurance solutions? Let s compare 10 main characteristics of both solutions without using the formal definitions or fancy marketing lingo: Credit Insurance (security): 1. Credit Insurance usually only covers the fact that a buyer cannot pay, even though the seller has performed as agreed 2. It focuses on Risk Mitigation in open account business environment (buyers risk) 3. It is has a portfolio nature, meaning that Credit Insurers often want to insure a range of buyers (good and not so good) to spread the risk 4. The Credit Insurers insure parties that usually are not their own customers. 5. The Credit Insurers look at criteria such as Steel business, not at transaction level 6. Documentation is involved at initiation, ongoing, at notification and once claimed 7. Once claimed there is usually a waiting period which can take months 8. Benefits for the buyer are limited 9. Credit Insurance is often not part of the regular Trade or Cash Management portals 10. Pricing is done at portfolio level. Being between 0.1% to 0.8% on insurable turnover, depending on the buyer quality, loss history, indemnity,first loss and credit terms Bank Payment Obligation (secured payment instrument): 1. Bank Payment Obligation covers the fact that a buyer cannot or does not want to pay, even though the seller has performed as agreed 2. It focuses on Risk Mitigation in Open account business environment (buyers risk and, if needed buyers Bank risk) 3. It has a transactional nature, meaning the BPO can be used for single transactions whereby the BPO Issuing Bank will only have to look at sole customer risk 4. Banks guarantee payments of their own customers (or correspondents in case of confirmation) whom they can assess easily 5. BPO guarantees payments at transactional level, regardless of the industry sector 6. Documentation is involved at initiation and at claim level 7. The payment conditions can range from sight to an agreed deferred payment period 8. The buyer is certain that payment will only be effected once agreed criteria are met 9. BPO is intended to be part of the regular Trade and/or Cash Management portals 10. Pricing is done at transaction level. Although the solvency requirements are still uncertain, we expect risk pricing to be between 1% - 3% per annum, based on the credit rating of the buyer, calculated over the actual number of days that the BPO is valid). This excludes handling fees and confirmation pricing if needed. Glancing at the comparison above, one can clearly see that BPO can be an alternative to credit Insurance for corporates depending on the situation, the transaction, and their specific needs. However BPO is not there yet, there is also skepticism and historic behavior out there.

4 First let us address this history and skepticism topic from a corporate angle. Throughout history corporates have had to cope with risks. This is a given fact when doing (cross border) business. Therefore, most of these companies have implemented risk policies that drive the behavior of business and more specifically, the sales force. During the recent crisis the International business environment has changed rapidly and risk policies needed to be adjusted. In some occasions the Credit Insurers suddenly pulled out (e.g. the steel business) and alternatives had to be found quickly (e.g. the traditional Documentary Trade Products). Changing risk policies is challenging and is often done reactively; new solutions are often not adopted quickly. A corporate Risk Policy should be solid and stable, which can conflict with wanting to adopt a promising new development such as BPO at an early stage. Then there is the Financial Institution angle where Supply Chain Financing is the buzzword for some time now. Banks have been investing heavily over the years in IT driven solutions both for internal use (e.g. operational infrastructure) and external use (e.g. portals) in this area. The all-important return on investment hasn t always provided black figures. Heavily marketed solutions like Bolero and TSU showed modest usage. This makes the Banks think twice before jumping on the next development that comes around. Business cases in the area of supply chain financing are therefore scrutinized, and we notice a shift from Banks wanting to be early adapters to more of a wait and see approach. This behavior could mean that Banks, and their customers, miss out on a positive development due to skepticism. Hence the positioning towards Banks and Corporates of a product like BPO is so important.

5 TradeWiz feels that the BPO solution can be of interest for both Banks and Corporates. For Financial Institutions it could be a perfect addition to their Supply Chain Financing product suite. Banks who currently can t offer Credit Insurance themselves could benefit from adding this interesting revenue generating solution to their customer portfolio. Banks could now also start to generate Trade related revenues on open account business by adding a BPO/confirmation. For corporates it could be an alternative way to increase business without taking on more risks, having more control over the payment triggers and payment date. Combined with having clear international ICC rules of the game for all those involved in the BPO. Next to this the BPO concept is flexible enough to still be able to handle paper-based transactions to cater to the needs of many SME s that may not have the need for a high tech solution. As a conclusion we would also like to state that BPO is often compared to Letters of Credit and Collections, however we feel there is also a hidden opportunity in BPO for both Corporates and Financial Institutions as a possibility to guarantee open account payment transactions and as an alternative to the traditional Credit Insurance as described herein. We are certain that BPO will be a valuable addition to the Supply Chain product suite, once BPO matures beyond the current inception phase, and the positioning and its scope become more clear to the Financial Institutions and their clients. For more information visit us at or contact us at

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