Over the 20 years since I first started to learn more about SCF by conducting in-depth research, one thing has always been very clear to me: this is a tool that has almost limitless possibilities. That might sound like a simplistic, almost naïve comment – but the evidence that I have seen proves to me that it is true.
At heart, SCF is a simple thing: it is a way of getting cash into the hands of supply chain partners that need it. The boundless opportunities derive from the ingenuity and the innovation in all the different ways of making that happen. Key to this is the wealth of new financing arrangements, new technology platforms, and a much greater awareness of everyone’s actual needs and desires.
We are also seeing so much more effort – real effort, productive effort – going into the creation of structures and mechanisms for getting cash deep into the supply chain – way beyond tier 1 suppliers. Add to that the innovations we see in cross-border trade and logistics.
Stepping back, what’s so interesting is the blurring of the traditional demarcation lines between the various parties: banks provide technology solutions; logistics firms provide finance; and fintechs are everywhere, complementing the service offerings of other players as well as, in some cases, competing against them.
Sometimes, it’s hard to avoid a cliché: but the fact is, there truly has never been a more exciting time to be involved in supply chain finance. You need only look at how the Supply Chain Finance Community itself has grown, from its humble roots just a few years ago when the main European research groups working on supply chain finance – from the Netherlands, UK, Germany, Italy Switzerland and France – started to share ideas rather than all of us working independently.
We thought then that, because two heads are better than one, it would be a great idea to bring together as many SCF ‘heads’ as we could. We set out to build bridges between not only the universities and other research organisations working on supply chain operations and in finance, but also with finance and technology vendors, with government departments and agencies that have a policy interest in business success, and of course from the corporate world, where supply chain finance is put into practice, faces its true test and delivers results that benefit companies large and small.
From our small but ambitious beginnings we have reached the stage today where the Supply Chain Finance Community can boast the following initiatives:
- In 2013 we held our first Supply Chain Finance Community Forum. Now the European-leading supply chain finance event, the fourth annual Forum takes place on December 8.
- The Global Student Challenge launched in 2014. Our third such event is underway and now has more than 1,200 university students taking part from more than 370 universities and 96 countries across the world.
- Last year we initiated the SCF Academy, a repository of SCF literature, both academic and non-academic, as well as being a portal for learning products we have developed.
- In December the first-ever Supply Chain Finance Awards will shine a light on SCF excellence and innovation.
- And as you can see from what you are reading now, today we unveil SCF Briefing. Every month, you will find interviews, case studies and news stories that show how supply chain finance is pushing the boundaries – and the people who are doing the pushing.
Since my fascination with supply chain finance first took hold, my over-arching principle to help SCF achieve all that it can has been rooted in collaboration – bringing all the relevant parties together, sharing data, sharing information, sharing a common goal.
The SCF Briefing is just the latest development in that process – but its success will be all the greater with your input, so please do contact the editorial team with your ideas, your projects, your case studies. Let us, in these pages, together explore those limitless possibilities.