Undistracted by the hottest 19th April in British history, our largest ever group of treasury and procurement specialists met at London’s Dorchester Hotel to tackle the serious issue of successfully implementing a supplier finance programme.

We were greatly helped by the willingness of one of our members in the telecoms sector to give a ‘warts and all’ insight into how his company had centralised procurement, standardised terms globally and put in place a wide-ranging supplier finance facility.

As always, the talk was held under the Chatham House Rule, so that members were able to get a true insight, not just into the programme itself, but to the wide-ranging restructuring of procurement and payments that needed to happen before SCF could be truly effective. As our speaker reminded us, SCF is ‘just a tool’ and works best when wielded as a part of a strategic approach to working capital.

What was very clear was the role of one ‘game changing’ individual in pushing through those much-needed strategic changes, often against strong internal opposition – an experience that many around the table were beginning to see in their own organisations.

The case study prompted wider discussion of some of the issues around supplier finance programmes. One member asked whether others were mentioning the fact that they had supplier finance programmes in their annual reports – prompted by some analysts’ comments after the crash of Carillion. The consensus around the table was that properly structured SCF should present no issue for investors, but WCF director Mike Hewitt agreed to collate and distribute opinions from members and advisors.

A particular feature of this meeting was how many WCF members, who had first attended when they were in the early stages of addressing working capital issues, had moved forward to put in place a programme of their own.

As the meeting closed and members continued discussions on the Dorchester’s terrace, plans were already being made for the next round of WCF meetings in Europe and the U.S.
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The Working capital Forum is a private networking group for treasurers and procurement directors with a common interest in optimising working capital. If you would like to join us at a future meeting, give us your details here and we will be in touch.