Circular Economy, circling the line

In one of their latest publications, “Remaking the industrial economy“, McKinsey & Company review a regenerative economic model, the circular economy. This concept is starting to help companies create more value while reducing their dependence on scare resources.

The authors explain that “the era of largely ignoring resource costs is over”. “The circular economy aims to eradicate waste (…) systematically throughout the various life cycles and uses of products and their components”, “this approach contrasts sharply with the mind-set embedded in most of today´s industrial operations, where even the terminology –value chain, supply chain, end user- expresses a linear view”, they claim.

Companies like Renault, Ricoh, Michelin, B&Q, H&M, Desso and Veolia are mentioned in the publication as success cases of the implementation of “circular economy” concepts through innovation, joint ventures or collaboration projects with their suppliers. However, “individual corporate actions, while necessary, won´t suffice to create a circular economy at scale”, McKinsey & Company says. The real reward will come when multiple players come together to “circle the line” and re-conceive processes and flows. This will result in superior financial returns, from the overall elimination of waste, and the associated wider economic benefits.

Physical and Financial Supply Chain disconnection

A circular economy is one where waste is designed out, through addressing the nature of products and their supply chain. However, its benefits are not so easy to obtain due to, among other reasons, the disconnection between the Physical Supply Chain (PSC) and the Financial Supply Chain (FSC).

The PSC and the FSC are disconnected in many organizations as a result of how corporates perceive the inherent risks of physical and financial supply chains and how banks present their SCF solutions (a tool for improving cash flow). Distorted information, from one end of a Supply Chain to the other, leads to tremendous inefficiencies: excessive inventory investment, poor customer service, lost revenues, misguided capacity plans, ineffective transportation, missed production schedules, disruption risk and excessive funding needs. Enrico Camerinelli, senior analyst at Aite Group, categorizes the reasons why Physical and Financial Supply Chains are out of sync.

There is still a wide gap to bridge between Physical Supply Chains and Financial Supply Chains but some banks, companies and technology vendors are working hard to close this gap. The launch of LICUOS SCF, based on the LICUOS patent pending core technology, has been an important milestone for solving disconnection. The commercialization in the US of LICUOS SCF started in January 2014 when LICUOS opened its first US office and the technology will be demoed at Bank Innovation 2014 in Seattle on March 4th.

LICUOS SCF objective is to facilitate transactions between trading partners by providing multi-tier financing and payment options that are negotiated to improve each partner´s financial position. The LICUOS SCF solution allows Companies to optimize their working capital with a multi-tier approach. Our solution is much more than a cash flow optimizer and helps companies reach these objectives, among others:

  • Supply Chain disruption risk mitigation. Supplier liquidity safeguards uninterrupted flow of supplies.
  • Business Process Alignment. Looking at the whole physical supply chain and structure the supply chain financing facilities accordingly.
  • Collaboration. Requiring a single connection for buyer and suppliers that can cover the entire accounts payable and receivable gamut.

Financial Circular Economy

Finance almost misses the train of Supply Chain but will definitely lead the circular economy adoption and growth.

In a circular economy, products are designed to enable cycles of disassembly and reuse, thus reducing or eliminating waste. The circular economy is an industrial system that is restorative by design. View the complete World Economic Forum Paper “Towards the Circular Economy: Accelerating the scale-up across global supply chains”:

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As noted above, circular supply chains are up and running, they’ve gone global and they suggest that the business opportunities in a circular economy are real and large. Their success provokes a question: Could the “circular economy,” which restores material, energy, labor and, why not, financial inputs— be implemented leveraging existing physical and financial supply chains?

Existing supply chains are the key unit of action, and will jointly drive change. The transition between linear supply chains to circular supply chains needs trust and collaboration between independent companies and belief in the effective management of common resources. Building trust-based relationships and minimizing wastage of resources allow both buyer and suppliers to gain more benefits with fewer resources.

Traditional SCF solutions do not allow an efficient use of financial resources as companies are financing more than they actually need. Disruptive SCF solutions, such as LICUOS SCF, offer two primary benefits to the circular economy approach: economic (more efficient and resilient use of financial resources) and collaborative (deeper connections among buyers and suppliers). LICUOS´ patent pending technology aims to improve companies ‘ability to put financial resources to their most productive use. When cash is tight, liquidity providers funding can be used to meet payment obligations. In healthier times, additional savings can be derived by paying under an early discount program. In both scenarios, LICUOS SCF allows the company to react quickly enough to adjust strategy to current conditions.

Obviously, as Albert Einstein said, “insanity is doing the same thing… expecting different results.” LICUOS SCF, that has already demonstrated its capability in linear and multi-tier supply chains, is a unique solution to leverage the potential of the new circular manufacturing processes and flows of materials and products. The inherent circular nature of LICUOS provides an efficient tool to implement these new concepts in Finance and Supply Chain Finance. As Enrico Camerinelli, senior analyst at Aite Group, said in an interview conducted by Chris Davis at TreasuryToday, “if you look at what LICUOS are offering, that is exactly the sort of direction that I think SCF should be moving in”. LICUOS SCF allows the implementation of multi-tier and circular payment and financing processes allowing companies to take advantages of the synergies and benefits generated by a circular supply chain.

LICUOS wish to thank the World Economic Forum, McKinsey & Company, Finextra, Aite Group and TreasuryToday for their contributions to this post.

For an in-depth look at circular economy industrial system, see the economic and business rationale for making this transition, see the complete World Economic Forum Paper “Towards the Circular Economy: Accelerating the scale-up across global supply chains” and the McKinsey & Company publication “Remaking the industrial economy“.

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LICUOS is one of the winners of the 2014 DEMOvation Challenge

LICUOS, the global B2B netting and payment platform, was announced a winner of the 2014 DEMOvation Challenge presented by Bank Innovation. The challenge was judged by five people who named seven companies winners of the challenge, and LICUOS was one of them:

  • Laurence Berkowitz, Advisor (Israel), Bank Innovation
  • Seth Kenvin, Advisor (San Francisco), Bank Innovation
  • Sam Maule, Manager, Carlisle & Gallagher Consulting Group
  • Philip Ryan, Editor, Bank Innovation
  • Dominic Venturo, Chief Innovation Officer for Payments, US Bank

The judges were looking for startups launched within the last 24 months that possess unique intellectual property or business models, or are differentiated from other FinTech startups.

Bank Innovation 2014

Thanks to the award received, LICUOS will participate at Bank Innovation 2014 (Seattle, March 3-4), the annual event for executives and innovators to collaborate and share ideas to improve customer acquisition and retention through new products and strategies.

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The DEMOvation Challenge is part of an overarching effort to make the Third Annual Bank Innovation event even more valuable than in previous years. LICUOS will present its technology to Banks, Credit Unions, Venture Capital Firms, Investment Banks, Start Ups and Technology Companies through a demo slot.

LICUOS also took part in 2013 in the FinovateSpring in San Francisco, Innotribe Startup Challenge in New York, the Thinking Digital Startup Competition in Newcastle, Next Bank – Innotribe Startup Disrupt contest in Madrid and SIBOS in Dubai introducing its innovative and technology for cash and working capital management.

Our technology

LICUOS´ core patent pending technology enables companies, regardless of their size or industry, to compensate, pay and finance their commercial debts, allowing them to reduce their funding needs and their client´s credit risk exposure. Our algorithms search and provide the optimized netting, payment and funding proposals for companies in an efficient, automated and cost-effective way.  Thus, businesses optimize their working capital and cash management activities and reduce their dependence on the banking system.

LICUOS will introduce the LICUOS Netting Hub and LICUOS SCF solutions. These solutions meet the needs of US Financial Institutions, Business Systems and B2B Payment Platforms:

  • The Netting Hub, implemented as an API to the LICUOS Platform, allows our partners (Business Systems and B2B Payment Platforms) an easy integration, and a fast delivery of multilateral netting based services through their platform.
  • The LICUOS SCF solution allows our Partner Banks to offer an innovative Supply Chain Finance solution to their customers (Businesses) that optimizes their working capital with a multi-tier approach, including suppliers at the Tier 2, Tier 3 level and beyond.

Thank you

We’d like to thank Bank Innovation, the judges and the Bank Innovation 2014 Partners for making the event possible.

For further information about Bank Innovation 2014, please visit: http://bankinnovation.info/.

LICUOS opens NYC office

LICUOS opened its first New York office.

The Spain-based B2B payment and netting platform leased space in DUMBO, Brooklyn, located at 45 Main Street. Formerly a manufacturing area, DUMBO has become an established hub for New York City technology and digital media startup businesses.

The New York office will focus on meeting the needs of US Financing Organizations (Banks, P2P Lending platforms, etc.), Business tools (Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Accounting, E-invoicing systems, etc.) and B2B Payment Platforms (Payment solutions for B2B E-Commerce, Marketplaces, Corporate Networks, etc.), introducing our Netting Hub and LICUOS SCF solutions.

LICUOS also has offices in Madrid and Elgoibar, both in Spain.

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Supply Chain Finance is more than improving Cash Flow

The goal of working capital management is to ensure that the firm is able to continue its operations and has sufficient cash flow to satisfy both maturing short-term debt and upcoming operational expenses, but Banks present Supply Chain Financing just as a tool for improving cash flow. Supply Chain Finance (SCF) is much more. SCF means:

  • Risk mitigation. Supply Chain Finance is a tool for minimizing the risk of supply chain disruption, which is one of corporates’ biggest risks and not only for improving cash flow. Supply Chain Management solutions providers can add a lot of value if they include innovative SCF tools to minimize the risk of supply chain disruption.
  • Business Process Alignment. In the physical supply chain, risks change rapidly from the order stage to the final delivery and from one tier level to another. SCF solutions can offer services that optimize the allocation of financial resources according to the different needs, and enable the proper alignment of the financing and cash management activities with the rest of the business processes along the whole physical supply chain.
  • Collaboration. Corporations have implemented business network applications to leverage the trust between buyers and sellers. Companies that collaborate effectively across the supply chain enjoy dramatic reductions in inventories and costs, together with improvements in speed, service levels and customer satisfaction.

Supply Chain Finance adoption

Currently, only a small percentage of companies are using SCF techniques, but more than half have plans or are investigating options to improve supply chain finance techniques. Slow adoption of SCF programs does not depend on lack of demand from businesses but on the resistance of the Banking System to change the way it operates. However, some banks are putting their factoring business under the wider Supply Chain Finance “umbrella”, trying to move from a traditional product-centric approach to a client-centric strategy. But client-centricity is not about naming but about solving the customer problem.

Banks’ reluctance to adapt their services to the new needs is causing the rise of solutions that promote the investment of available liquidity in one’s own supply chain, accelerating payments and cash collections, so that early payment discounts are seen as an asset allocation alternative with higher profitability and less risk than those offered by banks. This collaboration creates a win-win relationship for members of the chain, increasing their combined financial strength.

These solutions, although very interesting, do not meet the characteristics defined above. Can we say that a company has an integrated physical supply chain if it has only optimized its relationship with its direct suppliers? What happens if there is a stock issue further down the supply chain? As the integration of the physical supply chain has advanced incorporating a greater number of tiers of suppliers, SCF solutions should do so also.

LICUOS and the new SCF

LICUOS differentiates itself from other payment platforms, banks or SCF solutions as it goes one step further, leveraging not only the supply chain itself but also the network that each individual company creates from its own daily operations in order to find potential netting cycles that can compensate commercial debts.

Through this process, companies are able to minimize the number and volume of cash transactions, and hence, the banking fees associated with the same transactions. The solution allows businesses to reduce their dependence on the traditional banking system alternatives and at the same time significantly improve their working capital and cash flow management. By applying these techniques, businesses achieve an important reduction in their funding needs and credit risk exposure.

As Enrico Camerinelli, Senior Analyst at Aite Group, said in an interview conducted by Chris Davis at TreasuryToday, “if you look at what LICUOS are offering, that is exactly the sort of direction that I think SCF should be moving in”. In B2B networks companies are buyers and suppliers at the same time.  “Since you already have B2B networks allowing companies to transmit sales orders and other types of documents between one another, why not use those networks to carry out the task of matching payments? Then companies can benefit by being given opportunities for companies to use these balancing payments and debits as collateral to receive payments on time, for instance,” says Camerinelli.

More than a SCF solution

LICUOS is much more than a SCF solution. LICUOS is the first payment platform that helps businesses reduce their debts instead of just paying them. Winner of the Innotribe start-up disrupt, LICUOS is a global B2B payment platform where businesses, including public administration and nonprofit, can compensate and pay their commercial debts, allowing them to reduce their dependence on the traditional banking system alternatives.

LICUOS´ patent-pending technology generates the most convenient and efficient A/R and A/P netting, payment and funding proposals for businesses, significantly improving their working capital financing and cash flow management activities and reducing their credit risk exposure.

LICUOS, as the first Innotribe start-up disrupt winner, will be presenting at the Innotribe tunnel on Wednesday, 18 September at SIBOS in Dubai. The aim of the Innotribe Start-up Disrupt competition is to encourage and recognize financial technology firms that have the capacity to transform the Financial Services industry. The first Startup Disrupt was organized on 25 June 2013 at Next Bank Madrid.

LICUOS, Dubai and Islamic banking

Dubai welcomes Sibos this year with a special attention to the financial markets in the middle East. Middle Eastern Markets have been outperforming the SWIFT average growth in the rest of the world by 45%, according to SWIFT statistics.

The first modern commercial Islamic bank, Dubai Islamic Bank, opened its doors in 1975. In the early years, the products offered were basic and strongly founded on conventional banking products, but in the last few years the industry is starting to see strong development in new products and services.

Financial products that comply with the Shariah, are evolving from a novelty into a normal part of doing business in much of the developing world. However, the SME Shariah-compliant financing market is under-served and, as such, has substantial demand for solutions.

The core principles of Islam lay great emphasis on social justice, inclusion, and sharing of resources between the haves and the have nots. Islamic finance addresses the issue of “financial inclusion” or “access to finance” promoting risk-sharing contracts that provide a viable alternative to conventional debt-based financing.Image

Islamic banking principles and Working Capital Management

The feature that all Islamic financial products share is the absence of interest. Instead, the investments are set up as leasing arrangements or investments in which money is turned over to third-party trustees who share profits with Islamic depositors.

According to Ishrat Husain, former governor of the Central Bank of Pakistan, “there are two characteristics of Islamic banking which distinguish it from conventional banking. One is that every transaction has to be backed by real assets. Every loan should be backed by collateral such as real estate, business, etc. You cannot create wealth or money without associating it with real wealth creation. Second, the borrower is a partner in the business in which the bank has invested as financier. There is no guaranteed fixed rate of return. If the business is not doing well, the bank will suffer along with the account holder. In contrast, conventional banks offer a fixed return to depositors. The bank has to pay interest irrespective of the performance of assets.”

Because Shariah law forbids the payment of interest and trading debt is also not permitted, there would seem to be little common ground between Islamic finance and conventional working capital financing activities. But there may be more similarities than at first appears.

A key to the nature of Shariah-compliant working capital activities is that there should be no element of speculation involved in the deal. For instance, the price of the goods/services should be fixed and cannot be changed even if there is a delay in the repayment, as charging for the delay would be considered as interest, which is prohibited by Shariah.

Rather than providing a loan and charging interest on it, the bank effectively buys the asset and then sells it to an end-buyer, with the mark-up being the profit. And that’s an ethical deal – it’s a solid asset being sold. Typically, the bank will have ownership of the goods/services, buying them from supplier, and will then transfer them to the buyer. In this way the debt has been transferred to the bank through the transfer of ownership of the goods/services. The way the financier makes money from the transaction is through a mark-up in the value of the goods/services as sold to the buyer. The bank may apply the time value of money in his mark-up calculation, and then the price given to the buyer is fixed regardless of an early settlement, a payment on time or a delay of payment.

LICUOS´ Shariah –compliant netting platform

As Shaheryar Ali, Vice President, Relationship and Sales Manager at BNY Mellon, says “An Islamic treasury function, like a conventional one, must generate and utilize liquidity in an optimal manner. However, it must also function in accordance with Shariah principles. All practices must fit with the principles of Islamic finance. There can be no interest, no speculation, and no contingent speculative liability in any transaction. Yet as long as these principles are complied with, it is possible for a treasury services function to be Shariah-compliant and for there to be no difference between Islamic and conventional cash and trade. In fact, Islamic principles may help convergence because, in most examples when applied to the true methodology, neither cash nor trade are based on speculation.”

With limited Shariah-compliant products for SME customers, LICUOS launched a Shariah-compliant B2B payment platform to meet the cash management and finance needs of these customers. LICUOS is a global business-to-business payment platform where businesses can compensate and pay their commercial debts. The platform provides netting, payment and funding services for accounts receivable and payable for businesses, allowing them to reduce their dependence on the traditional banking system alternatives so that they can significantly improve their working capital and cash flow management. By applying our solution, businesses from all economic sectors and sizes, including public administration and nonprofit, will achieve an important reduction in their funding needs and credit risk exposure.

This product meets the needs of our SME customers seeking world class Shariah-compliant solutions to finance their local or international invoices. Our unique proprietary and patent-pending technology enables an efficient and highly secure processing of accounts payable and receivable transactions, 24/7 and in real-time, to deliver the best financial optimization and user experience. Our algorithms automatically identify and generate the most convenient and efficient netting, payment and funding proposals. They manage all of the associated transactions that allow businesses to significantly reduce or eliminate their commercial debts. LICUOS gives businesses full control and visibility into the payment process and allows them to easily communicate and negotiate with their business partners. We are able to support the working capital funding needs through a Shariah-compliant solution.

Supply Chain Finance and Islamic banking

The growth in Islamic banking that has been seen in the Middle East over the last years has been brought about by a response to the pent up demand for Shariah-compliant banking and combined with trend to converge cash management and trade finance services offered by the Middle Eastern bankers, this is likely to provide a significant boost to technology providers in the Supply Chain Finance (SCF) space.

As we explained in one of our previous posts, SCF refers to the set of solutions for financing specific goods as they move from origin to destination along the supply chain. In this environment, highly characterized by the integration of the supply chains, collaborative solutions have started to grow in order to enhance the negotiation and collaboration between suppliers and buyers. Currently, only a small percentage of companies are using SCF techniques, but more than half have plans or are investigating options to improve supply chain finance techniques. Slow adoption of SCF programs does not depend on lack of demand from businesses but on the resistance of the Banking System to change the way it operates.

Banks reluctance to adapt their services to the new needs and offerings is causing the rise of solutions that promote the investment of available liquidity in one’s own supply chain, accelerating payments and cash collections, so that early payment discounts are seen as an asset allocation alternative with higher profitability and less risk than those offered by banks. This collaboration creates a win-win relationship for members of the chain, increasing their combined financial strength.

In addition to this, there are other alternatives that go one step further, leveraging not only the supply chain itself but also the network that each individual company creates from its own daily operations in order to find potential netting cycles that can compensate commercial debts.

Through this process, companies are able to minimize the number and volume of cash transactions, and hence, the banking fees associated with the same transactions. These solutions allow businesses to reduce their dependence on the traditional banking system alternatives and at the same time significantly improve their working capital and cash flow management. By applying these techniques, businesses achieve an important reduction in their funding needs and credit risk exposure.

LICUOS is one of the few companies capable of offering this degree of innovative and disruptive processing. Among other Shariah-compliant principles, LICUOS complies with the Islamic principle of encouraging people to settle payment debt as early as possible.

LICUOS´s multilateral early-payment proposals (leveraging the complete supplier network) allow the buyer to utilize liquidity in an optimal manner collaborating with his Supply Chain. Faster collections mean, for the suppliers, more working capital, less need to borrow and reduced collections costs. This is a real commercial synergy. It does not just reduce the cost of goods. It does not just reduce the cost of borrowing. This reduces the cost of doing business.

LICUOS at SIBOS – Dubai

LICUOS, as the first Innotribe Start-up Disrupt winner, will be presenting at the Innotribe tunnel on Wednesday, 18 September at SIBOS in Dubai. The aim of the Innotribe Start-up Disrupt competition was to encourage and recognize financial technology firms that have the capacity to transform the Financial Services (FS) industry. The first Startup Disrupt was organized on 25 June 2013 at Next Bank Madrid.

LICUOS, the first payment platform that helps businesses to reduce their debts instead of just paying them, will present its features including its Shariah-compliant services.

Changing the Supply Chain Finance paradigm

Supply Chain Finance (SCF) refers to the set of solutions for financing specific goods as they move from origin to destination along the supply chain. SCF is one of the different methods used by companies to manage their working capital. In general, we can find three principal groups of solutions:

  • Negotiation of payment conditions
  • Financial institution services
  • Collaborative solutions

Inside each group, there are several specific methods but this range of solutions tries to give an answer to one of the troublesome areas explained in one of our previous post, the financing of working capital. As the access to banking credit is tighter than ever before and financing costs are rising, companies have begun to look towards other alternatives where the Supply Chain is a key element. In fact, the problem of working capital financing is not unique to crisis periods, but during these tough times companies have focused more than ever on managing their working capital needs.

One of the results of this focus has been the emergence of SCF solutions, with the overall goal of optimizing the working capital along the whole of the value chain, making it stronger and providing an alternative source of liquidity to all its members.

The first solution to address the issue of working capital funding was negotiation among different parties, with methods, such as deferred payment strategies, where the only goal was to advance receivables and delay payments. Overall payment due date negotiation between businesses is a zero sum game. Nevertheless, due to power and strength differences, the negotiations resulted always in favor of one of them, which impaired the smaller members of the chain with unfavorable payment conditions.

As a result of these problems, the solutions of intermediation proposed by Financial Institutions emerged. Factoring and Reverse factoring are just some examples. Both partially solve the problem of bargaining strength but add high costs in terms of discounting fees and interest rates. Traditionally, these solutions have been used by small and medium size enterprises to try to solve the consequences of the payment conditions imposed by larger players but, nowadays even high-rated companies are making use of them.

Exhibit 1. Financial institution services: factoring description.factoring

Nevertheless, these intermediation solutions create a huge dependency on the banking system. This has then turned into a significant area of concern for both Governments and large buyers, above all, among those belonging to sectors where the guaranteed smooth operation of the whole of the supply chain is essential, such as the food, automobile or chemical industries.

In this environment, highly characterized by the integration of the supply chains, collaborative solutions have started to grow in order to enhance the negotiation and collaboration between suppliers and buyers. Currently, only a small percentage of companies are using SCF techniques, but more than half have plans or are investigating options to improve supply chain finance techniques. Slow adoption of SCF programs does not depend on lack of demand from businesses but on the resistance of the Banking System to change the way it operates.

However, some banks are putting their factoring business under the wider Supply Chain Finance “umbrella”, trying to move from a traditional product-centric approach to a client-centric strategy but client-centricity is not about naming but about solving the customer problem. Banks reluctance to adapt their services to the new needs and offerings is causing the rise of solutions that promote the investment of available liquidity in one’s own supply chain, accelerating payments and cash collections, so that early payment discounts are seen as an asset allocation alternative with higher profitability and less risk than those offered by banks. This collaboration creates a win-win relationship for members of the chain, increasing their combined financial strength.

Given the complexities of modern financing and business to business payment techniques, invoicing including invoice automation and discount management initiatives need a framework to ensure that programs are approached on a strategic basis which bridges the supply chain, purchasing, accounts payable and finance organizations. These are some of the challenges that solution providers offering SCF and dynamic payables discounting solutions should face.

Exhibit 2. Early payment platform (example) description.dynamic_disc

In addition to this, there are other alternatives that go one step further, leveraging not only the supply chain itself but also the network that each individual company creates from its own daily operations in order to find potential netting cycles that can compensate commercial debts.

Through this process, companies are able to minimize the number and volume of cash transactions, and hence, the banking fees associated with the same transactions. These solutions allow businesses to reduce their dependence on the traditional banking system alternatives and at the same time significantly improve their working capital and cash flow management. By applying these techniques, businesses achieve an important reduction in their funding needs and credit risk exposure.

LICUOS is one of the few companies capable of offering this degree of innovative and disruptive processing. Throughout its innovative patent pending technology solution, LICUOS enables an efficient and highly secure processing of accounts payable and receivable transactions, 24/7 and in real-time, to deliver the best possible financial optimization and user experience. Furthermore, LICUOS gives businesses full control and visibility into the payment process and allows them to easily communicate and negotiate with their business partners.