It's clear from the Working Capital Predictions 2023 report that the industry is in agreement on how the industry needs to change. But that's easier said than done.
Transformation projects have the best intentions, but the hard truth is that 95% of transformation exercises fail. So in a year that's predicted to be one of big change, lenders need to think hard about implementation.
Roger Vincent, Global VP of Sales, sat down with Emily Lloyd-Penny, VP Solutions Consulting, to share their tips and lessons learnt from successfully implementing next-gen working capital technology in some of the biggest global banks.
Roger reflects on the report through the lenses of defining value, finding the budget, and moving fast with the implementation of modern lending technology. While Emily called out key approaches from the report that align with her conversations with clients on how to define and solve their problem statement.
Watch their conversation on-demand to find out what the benefits of SaaS platforms are, how to go about finding and implementing the right solutions and what Emily and Roger think is the key focus for the industry should be in 2023.
If you have any questions for Emily or Roger on how your organisation can launch next-gen working capital solution, get in touch now.
Roger Vincent: Hello, I'm Roger Vincent. And I am the Global VP of Sales here at Trade Ledger.
Emily Lloyd-Penny: Emily Lloyd-Penny. I head up pre- and post-sales at Trade Ledger. So, we work really closely with Roger and the Go-To-Market team on all things pre-sales. So, talking to our prospects, our customers, and our partners and then look after customers once they are one of our Trade Ledger customers, seeing them through to go-live and beyond.
Roger Vincent: Fantastic. Well, today we're going to be speaking about 2023 Predictions paper, all to do with working capital. We've got 19 fantastic participants within the report from across a range of different lenders, consultancies, institutions that know all about SME lending and working capital. And we'll be discussing some points that we've picked up on internal to Trade Ledger. So, why don't we kick off?
Emily, you've read the report, what's one key thing or a couple of key things that really stand out for you?
Emily Lloyd-Penny: Well, many of the things I picked up on tied back somehow to data. So, whether that be around using better digital data sources or using more real-time data to make better lending decisions, or making it easier for customers to share their data and explaining the benefits to customers so that they really understand the value exchange.
I think, what's interesting is, for all my time at Trade Ledger, we've been talking about the importance of data and the importance of value exchange, so that the customers really understand why they want to share their data. So, maybe that's they get a better price, or maybe that's they get a quicker decision. And I think one thing that stood out to me, in one of the sections of the report, it talked about how actually the majority of customers that are looking for funding would actually be comfortable sharing more data.
It's quite interesting to me that banks and lenders aren't asking for more, given that there's appetite actually for the customers to push that to the banks to help them get quicker, better products. And I think hopefully this year's really the year that we can actually see banks and lenders take advantage or better advantage of that data.
Roger Vincent: Fantastic.
Emily Lloyd-Penny: Did you pick up anything specific when you read the report?
Roger Vincent: Well, I think one key thing that we've always been knowledgeable of in Trade Ledger is thinking past the products and thinking about the industry, as we term it. Invoice finance and working capital are full of acronyms. It's full of confusing terminology.
I think, over the last couple of years, as the covid pandemic has played out and people have really started to familiarise themselves, especially within the SME space, around what working capital is to their business and how it can aid them through very difficult times or potentially very exciting times when they're growing that business.
I think, one thing that's clear that comes out in the report is there's a level of optimism within the banks and the lenders. Despite us going into a recession as a business, despite things looking incredibly gloomy on a global economic level, I think there's a recognition that the industry that we work in, the provision of working capital is going to be a really key element of making sure that the right businesses survive throughout this period.
And, potentially, even thrive throughout throughout this period. We saw a lot of companies really innovating through the covid pandemic and saying - look, my whole markets disappeared overnight, but I'm going to pivot and I'm going to be able to serve this, but I might have a different financial set of needs that I can go and speak to my bank about.
So, I think, if you really look at the macroeconomic environment and looking at what the last few years have done and how that set up 2023 for potentially and, I think 2023 could be the biggest year ever for the provision of working capital solutions because we've got this perfect storm of the businesses need it, the level of education is never been higher around what working capital is and the type of products that companies can speak to their banks about, and we've never really had such a range of different products; whether it be from a fintech, whether it be from a mid-market business, or whether it be from really well-established players.
I think we're seeing Innovation. We're seeing new products. We're seeing new capabilities being delivered off the back of a very interesting few years. But 2023, it's interesting to see the level of optimism and the real impact that this can have on everyday businesses that have gone through significant tests and see 2023 in an optimistic light, with with the right support.
Emily Lloyd-Penny: I think you're right. I think a few people touched on obviously the economic climate and actually that meaning that lenders really need to step up. It's very clear that we're approaching very quickly this inflection point. And it's kind of like it doesn't necessarily matter what lenders do; whether that's partner, build themselves, buy, use SaaS, but they need to do something. Otherwise, they're going to be left behind.
Roger Vincent: Absolutely. I mean, building on that, I suppose, you speak to lenders and you speak to other technology partners all the time, through your team, do the comments from particularly the partners and the consultancies align with your views? Do they resonate with you?
Emily Lloyd-Penny: Yes, I think, I mean, I spend a lot of time demoing to customers and actually showing them the Trade Ledger platform. And I think it's interesting because prospects and partners and customers alike, their eyes seem to light up when we talk about data, ingestion and normalisation, and actually showing the power that tapping into those digital data sources, which lenders might not have had leverage in the past. The power that can have through the Trade Ledger platform to standardize and give traceability of why decisions are made, really does mean that the staff at the lender organisation can be leveraged in better ways to work on more value-adding aspects of the lending process.
So, I think, a good example in our products, and where people tend to get excited when we're demoing, is actually seeing us take data from credit bureaus, government registries, accounting packages, normalising those and putting that through our orchestration layer. So, specifically, our risk orchestration layer, which then highlights any anomalies or any educators that the risk teams can then be directed to. And, I think, a couple of people mentioned that in the report, around how we should be using data to automate stuff that's standard, run-of-the-mill things, that actually it is not the best use of a person's time to be looking at.
So being able to kind of highlight - okay, this is an exception, this is an edge case, it means that when manual input is required, it can be on those decisions that really matter. So those
things that actually we need to do a bit of a further analysis or we really need to check that with someone else or another system externally. I think, that theme definitely came a lot in the report. It really resonated with me because day in, day out, when we're showing customers Trade Ledger, that's the type of thing that people get excited about and it was nice to see that theme emerged through the report as well.
Roger Vincent: I think you're right. I think, as soon as you announce yourself on the market, it's a digital lending platform. Everyone assumes rightly or wrongly, that you're going to be doing straight-through processing. You are targeting at it. I want to click a few buttons and then I want to get access to a loan.
I think that word that you picked up on orchestration is something that has been really valuable to us this year and something that stands out in the report. There have been huge amounts of innovation within the market, whether it is being core banking, through the likes of Thought Machine and 10x coming to market, and really challenging those established players; or whether it be new innovations in the CRM space, or credit decisioning and credit bureaus.
That innovation in a standalone environment is fine, but it doesn't bring together the journeys that really banks need to think about when they're moving past a product-centric view and into this customer-centric view and starting to create journeys that enable various different types of working capital to be provisioned.
So, I think, that resonates with me massively. I think that's almost the most powerful word of 2023 is orchestration. As soon as you say to a partner, we're an orchestrator, and that we're an orchestrator of value for the customer and an orchestrator value for, most importantly, the bank staff where on average you've got seven to ten different people collaborating on a loan application or an exception, as you mentioned, within the risk engine, that is really when the
lights go on and they go - Okay, I get what you do now. I get that you're a digital lending platform that's purposely built for complex lending and working capital and, needless to say, you're exactly what I need because I haven't seen this, I haven't had this ability in the market before or in my business. The best I've had is being able to collaborate via email or collaborate via paper, in the worst instance.
And you and I both know, this is the industry that the internet left behind, right? Orchestration, I think it's going to be a really interesting term for us in the next year or so.
Emily Lloyd-Penny: Yeah, I couldn't agree more and definitely smiling at that internet left behind piece. I remember joining Trade Ledger and, actually, someone who is a personal retail consumer customer, you're so used to kind of your expectations being sky high and actually being available in a click of button and everything digital you can apply for everything on your phone, and in seconds.
It was interesting to me joining Trade Ledger and coming into the world of commercial lending; just how different and far behind that industry is in comparison. But, I think, it's still individuals that are working for these organisations that have those same high expectations. It's just interesting to see that we're only now starting to catch up and actually what in retail banking is probably not considered cutting edge and state of the art, actually, in commercial banking that is. So, I'd really love to see us close that gap and try to catch up with where things have gone in the retail space.
And, I think, orchestration being a perfect example of how we can take that collaboration. We can remove spreadsheets. We can remove email. We can remove face-to-face conversations all around the office and things that don't get that get stored and audited.
Actually, we can bring all that into one place and orchestrate those conversations. So, that certainly excites me.
Roger Vincent: And you've been on the cold face of working with our clients and implementing these for the last three, three and a half, four years, nearly. I suppose, looking at a range of different customers at Trade Ledger, whether it'd be Metro Bank on the smaller banking end, whether it be Virgin Money and the mid-market lending, or mid-cap banking space, or whether it'd be the huge giants that we work with like HSBC, globally. What advice would you give them if they're just signing out on this journey and sort of saying - Okay, I love your report. I get what you're saying. I agree with everything, but this is just far too scary for me.
Emily Lloyd-Penny: I think even in the first opinion in the report, I think it's Microsoft one, which talks about reducing complexity and keeping things simple. I think, for me, it sounds obvious. But that really is a good starting point.
I think banks and lenders shouldn't think about this journey as - okay, we need to try and boil the ocean, we need to try and do all of these huge kind of cumbersome massive transformation projects from day one. Yes, you might get there, but that might be over a two, three, five year period. I think, picking a single use case and starting small, whether that be with a proof of concepts type of engagement that you can prove value, drive confidence in the business and show adoption. Really really helps to then understand what you can unlock over a longer time period.
And, actually, we've been thinking about how we've implemented some of those customers you talk about. And HSBC being a perfect example, which is obviously our big success story now that we are live in 13 countries. We didn't start off and say - Okay, day one, month one, let's get live in 13 countries. Off we go. We actually started with one country. We started with a simple, single use case. Not simple because it's invoice finance and nothing is ever simple with regards to that kind of product set. But, I think really taking a step back and thinking about - Okay, what are the business outcomes you want to get to? What does success look like? And how can we strip that back and try that in a single market, a single geography with a single product type so that you can then get the backing of your internal sponsors, your customers, people can start to see actually, you know what this could really move the needle for us. Then you can start thinking about okay, where do we take this next? What can we do? Because I think, there's so much excitement around the opportunity for transforming and making everything digital, and re-designing your processes, and your operating model, and your products that you're going to offer.
There's so much scope to do everything, but I really would say, if lenders take one thing away - pick something simple, take that one use case, start small and prove that value, drive that confidence, and adoption will follow suit after that.
I'd love to hear your views, Roger, because as you said, you and I are both speaking to customers, prospects, partners, day in and day out. What would you say back to lenders?
Roger Vincent: I think I'm gonna pick up on the Microsoft comments as well. So, I think, 2023, whilst it's exciting in the working capital space, most tech vendors, like Trade Ledger, or even the large giants, like Microsoft, recognised that we need to do more with less, right!? Or our customers need to do more with less.
I think that's a really key statement for 2023 is, if you're facing real challenges as a business to still push the boundaries of how much growth you can achieve within 2023. And, as I said, I think as a positive story is, 2023 is going to be a very demanding year for working capital. And businesses that need to survive or need to grow throughout this period are going to rely upon their banks or rely upon new relationships with new lenders to actually get them through this period.
Once we start coming out of it, they're going to be the customers that grow. So they're going to be the really profitable customers that banks really want. So don't miss this opportunity to capitalise on some of your future customers that could be your dream customers of the future that could scale incredibly well past the pandemic. But, we recognise that actually if you're an individual sitting within the underwriting team, or the technology team, you've just joined the business, you really want to make your mark and you say - I've worked at fintech. I've worked in technology. I'm going to bring that edge to a lender. And then you land there on your first day and you quickly realise - Guys, that's not how it works here, right? There's bureaucracy. There's a BAU process that we need to go through. You need to enable yourself to paint that story, to build that business case and to say - Guys, I recognize that, but I think we can do more with less.
And, I think, the conversations that we have with all of our customers and, I think, one of the strongest things that we've got is our case studies that we put out to market. And the fact that our customers are willing to do the case study. They can see the value. You could badge all of those around doing more with less, right? They weren't particularly efficient before but they were quite happy in that role. And they were quite happy lending. But they were essentially missing an opportunity.
Emily Lloyd-Penny: Yeah.
Roger Vincent: But the market was so buoyant that they didn't think that they needed to go after that opportunity because there was enough to go around. I think if you're entering this difficult market, you really want to capitalise on that. And you really want to be in a position to give the customer the right experience, to do things really efficiently, to do things in a really low-risk way, right? Because innovation doesn't have to be risky.
So, I think looking at case studies across HSBC, world's largest trade bank, you can sit there, and you can show that to your boss, and you can say - Guys, if they can do it we can do it. Right. I think there's a really good news story in that about how a huge organisation, like HSBC, managed to take an application down from two to three months, down to three days. And I think you'll agree, Emily, we're only just getting started with those guys. And the case studies just kind of hit the tip of the iceberg. Look at those. Bring them into the business.
Look at other examples that are mentioned in the report, like Metro Bank, right? They had a problem with their onboarding journey. So, we came in, and we've digitised that, and we've given them access to that data. We had to build the same story for them. Right? Don't do it on your own. Come and speak to vendors like us or some of the people in our ecosystem. And trust me, we can share stories about how it's best done. No case is the same, but it's possible. And that's a good starting point for you.
If you're joining a lender, or you're trying to work on a change management program within a lender, believing it's possible is almost the first step that I would try and get to. And then working out how you do it. I think we can help you with that as we go along.
Emily Lloyd-Penny: Yeah, I think you are exactly right and our credentials that we've got speak for themselves. Like you say, the fact that we've managed to get this off the ground with some of those giant, cumbersome enterprise banks and also do the same thing for alternate lenders, or other kind of national or regional banks.
We've got the experience. So, anything that someone watching this might be thinking about - Okay, well, where should we start? What should we do? We've got that experience. We'd happily, as you say Roger, tap into some of that, share that with you, and talk through lessons learned or things that have been challenging, and what to avoid along the way.
Roger Vincent: What do you think are the biggest blockers to getting this off the starting line? Getting sign off for a project?
Emily Lloyd-Penny: By the very nature of the kind of engagements that we get involved with, there's naturally a lot of different stakeholders. And what's really important is to focus on the value for each of those different stakeholders.
So you've heard and read a lot in the report around different themes and what's important to different people; whether that be the cost of ownership from an IT team perspective, if your speaking to your IT team; whether that'd be growing your loan book, if it's the products owner. Many people will come to the table with a different point of view and a different thing that they're trying to get out of the project. So it's important to recognise that and bring those stakeholders on the journey early. I think the best thing to make sure that the actual engagement is successful and you get real value is to involve end business users in your process design and your operating model.
So, you don't just want to think about - Okay, let's take what we've got today, and digitalise that, and put that in Trade Ledger. You want to think - Okay, how Trade Ledger have done that before? What's their experience? What's the best practice in the market knowing that we've actually got access to these new data sources and we can do things a different way. And leveraging your business teams and your product teams to actually help redefine what your products might look like. It might actually be your offering something that's slightly different to what you offer today because you've got access to different information.
So, just to summarise, bringing different stakeholder groups on board early so that it's not a shock and they're not seen as - oh, let's not involve risk, let's say, because they're stuck in their ways. We actually want risk to be part and parcel of what we define as a business and as a partnership. So, bringing those stakeholders early into the process, identifying what value leavers they're looking to pull and actually looking at the benefits that you can bring that sit in each of those categories. I think that would be how I would frame it and how I would try to tackle this - okay, there are lots of stakeholders, it's a big project - bringing that focusing in on what's really important and hopefully getting something off the ground quickly.
Roger Vincent: Yeah. I'm picking up on something from Fifi, Publicis Sapient, in the report, which resonates. Be prepared to get uncomfortable - it's her advice. So, get the right stakeholders in the room. Get them in the room as early as possible. And make sure that they are willing to answer very difficult questions or ask very difficult questions.
We, as a technology business, get asked very difficult questions all the time. How can you help my business? What's the value that you bring? Are you technically able to deliver for a large client? And do you satisfy all my compliance and regulatory commitments from a tech perspective or security perspective? Every single stakeholder that you mentioned across the board, whether it be a sales individual, who's speaking to the clients at the lender, whether it be a Head of Product, who is looking to transform, and underwriter, that's looking to get better insights into the data, or a Senior Manager, that's just looking for visibility on that approval workflow and where the deals are in the lending lifecycle. Everyone's going to bring an opinion to that table. And, if you miss any of those opinions, I think in our experience, you're missing an opportunity.
Don't try and leave risk out, because Risk make their own decisions, or Risk are the hardest people to convince. Bring them into it. If they're very reticent to change and they're really stuck on their spreadsheets or they're stuck on other technology that they're using and they're comfortable with that. Let that be. There's no need, as many of our consultancies and partners have picked up in the report. There's no need for this massive big bang strategy anymore.
And Trade Ledger solves some of it, right? We're a technology vendor. So, in the early days, you'll agree, we came in and we held the hand of many of the lenders and wrote white papers and vote advice papers, and strategy papers on how to transform. We've moved beyond that now and we've retrenched, in a good way, to become a technology expert in how to leverage technology to improve the processes that are in specialist lenders, who provision working capital. But never forget that we work in unison with other very specialist consultancy players, whether that be a small boutique consultancy or whether that be a very large banking consultancy that can come in and think about all of those wider aspects of your business.
So, if you're on your own in the change management team, and again, you're sitting there thinking - I just can't handle all of this program. It's too big. Go and speak to the consultancies. Go and speak to them about their frameworks for leveraging technology to change and to transform, but to do it in an incremental way, starting with a pilot starting with a proof of concept, and then moving product by product, or journey by journey, through the transformation process. And not trying to sign up to a big three to five year transformation process overnight. And the key to that, that pops out of it is the target operating model.
We know that working capital and lending is incredibly inefficient. But people have been successful in it. I've got a favourite book - What got you here, won't get you there. And it's all about making sure that you're comfortable in your life, you're comfortable with the way that you do things today. But if you challenge that then actually you can go further. And the backdrop again of that 2023 opportunity, changing that attitude to say - we could do more, we could challenge our target operating model, and we could speak to vendors, like Trade Ledger, or speak to other consultancies that have got all of this experience working with large banks and lenders around the world. We can start there and then we can kind of go on this journey. It should be something that's exciting. It shouldn't be something that you walk into work every day and go - oh, changes! Dragging the business back, detracting me from BAU processes. It should be relatively easy and it should be fun. We enjoy our jobs coming to work. We enjoy the lenders that we work with, and we go on that journey, if it's anything other than that then you should probably call it quits.
Emily Lloyd-Penny: I remember you talking to me about that. But before that - what got you here, won't get you there, and I think, specifically from a career advice perspective, but it's relevant to so many things. I mean, let's go back to data, if you look at the data sources, the data sources that you've used historically is not going to be sufficient for the data sources that you need going forward. The way you design your products, historically, needs to change and evolve with the market. That phrase and that framework is applicable to so many things. I think that's a really important callout.
Roger Vincent: I didn't write the book. So, moving on. There are clearly themes that we structured the report around loan book growth, risk mitigation, technology cost of ownership, and operational efficiencies. What toolsets are your customer success teams using to make sure that we track value, track the right metrics, and make sure that we bring all of those kinds of key four pillars, that we talk about, and are constantly judging ourselves against that and supporting lenders?
Emily Lloyd-Penny: Really good question, very topical because the team are working on some great assets to help bring those metrics and maintain tracking of those metrics through that customer lifecycle. Because for us, the customer relationship doesn't stop once we get you live. The fact that we've got our customer success team, and actually we've got quarterly business reviews, and cadence calls and office hour check-in, so that we can actually hear from your end users to understand - okay, what genuinely do you want to see change or improve in the product because we want to feed that back to our product team. That shows that we take the customer success side of things very seriously. So, I think throughout our whole end-to-end lifecycle and relationship with our prospects, our customers, and our partners, we've got a suite of different toolsets. So, one of the more personal ones to this conversation, is around our working Capital Health check. We use value engagement to actually determine - Okay. Where are you today against a bunch of metrics? What does what does your operating model look like? What are the kind of levers that are important to you? And then we map out - Okay, if you were to use Trade Ledger, these are the efficiency gains we think you can get in these areas. These are the saves that we think you can make so that your team can be freed up to focus on different activities. This is the time to offer or time to cash that we think we could make a saving for you.
That's just one example, but I think a really relevant one because actually you can do that working Capital Health check even before you start and get live with Trade Ledger, but then we can take that through to customer success. When your customer success manager is meeting you on a monthly, quarterly, annual basis, you know, what the benchmark is. You know what your baseline was and where you were 12 months ago, and we can really help move the needle and say - okay, actually, you're not quite where you wanted to be on this particular metric. What do we need to do to help improve that? Or what does the next 12 months look like? And going back to that "not boiling the ocean" and actually thinking - okay, what are the top three levers that we want to pull? And, as I said, it'll be different for different stakeholder groups, but the fact that our framework and engagement model actually follows those same four themes that you see in the report; the loan book growth, cost of ownership; you'll see those themes come out through our models, as well. So that actually you're recognising the same things and you don't have to keep re-explaining things to different stakeholders as you go through the customer lifecycle.
Roger Vincent: I could not agree more. That journey from initial conversations. I have that conversation very early on. We do a lot of demos to customers, but the demos that we do always try and convey the value that we bring. It's more difficult in our space because there are seven to ten different collaborators on the platform, collaborating on any one deal. So, if you don't get the right people in the room for a demo environment, it's very difficult to transmit the value we bring to different players. We take that very seriously and make sure that all of those metrics that we're capturing, whether it's a recorded conversation, and a recorded demo that we do with the customer, that always feeds back, every single bit of information feeds back into the Product and Engineering function.
Now, we've heard of ticketing systems and saying it there that's do a product request. We take that to the next level, right and we always tag things back to pertinent conversations around value. How how can we help you grow as a business? The outcome is the important thing, not the feature on the platform.
One thing that we try and do, especially in the sales team before we engage with you guys and bring you in for demos, and hand over into the customer success function, when we're going through implementation, is really quantify that value as part of the conversations that we have with customers. There must be a reason that you're engaging with us. It's not because you just want to remove paper. The value that removing paper has is to create operational efficiencies so that your relationship managers can do more with less. That is the outcome to us - doing more with less and actually driving loan book growth through making your teams more efficient. So the RF could say - I'm not doing all of these day-to-day manual tasks anymore, I'm focusing on my core BAU, which is making sure that my customers have the best products, at the right time, and at the right price, all of the things that we consider to be that the product of our customers. That value is something that we've implemented over the last couple of years. It's something that comes out in the report and people really resonate with that.
And you can compartmentalise, the risk team loves data, right? So, they love risk mitigation. That's a value that they really bring and we have a load of different metrics associated with that. The sales team - loves loan that growth. They're naturally gonna want that growth. The tech team loves to get away from legacy technology, whether it'd be because it's clunky and old and doesn't integrate with their systems or just simply because a like-for-like replacement will make it cheaper. A SaaS product is 10 times cheaper than an on-premise, legacy platform, throughout that total period that you're utilizing it. So, actually, for different stakeholders the value that we bring has to be adjusted, but you can also have different expectations.
As I said, there could be parity in the technology and they do similar things, but the cost is so much cheaper. So that is the value leaver that we try and convey. And we help you, as a technology team, to build those technology benefits into a business case, couple those with the business benefits that you bring, and then move that into the strategy of the lender. And sometimes, we're reacting to an RFP that comes in or a request that some of our lenders make to us. But nine times out of 10, we go and we say - you didn't even realise that you had a problem. You did not even structure your value in this way. We can implement this framework, do the working Capital Health check, and then we can actually make you realise the value that you never even realise was there to be taken. It's definitely the new way of selling. The new way of managing customers. The new way of engaging with customers. It's nothing really to do with the features and functions that we demo. It's all about the value that we bring. Otherwise, it's not really worth us being here. Right?
We constantly want to innovate. We constantly want to challenge. We constantly want to get incredible case studies for our customers. Because, if our customer succeed - we succeed. So, I think that's the key takeaway.
Emily Lloyd-Penny: I think the great thing about the pivot of focusing, instead of focusing on feature-function, focusing on value; it makes it a lot easier to prioritise feedback in the products to understand - Okay, actually, we've heard from the market, or prospects, or the customer base, that these things are gonna genuinely move the dial on those levers. Before, it was like - we've got this feedback from customers, they want to add this feature or this button or this workflow. Whereas now, we can actually critically assess when we get feedback to say - okay, which of those levers does it move and how far does it move the dial? And, obviously, the great thing about our customers taking Trade Ledger as a SaaS product is all of those feedback iterations and enhancements that we then prioritise, because a customer or someone has suggested or asked for it, every customer then gets the advantage of taking that new feature, that new enhancement, that new bit of functionality. And that's, for me, is one of the best things about having a SaaS product - you're constantly getting the latest innovations and functionality being pushed to your environment.
Roger Vincent: Yeah, I agree. And I think that's one thing that the Predictions paper actually brings to life, what we do behind the scenes. I really relish it when our customers want to speak to each other. When you're doing that reference call in the early stages of finding out what type of technology company you are. And what product, what is your roadmap look like, how do you deliver value? I actually really relish that now and say - we encourage all of our customers to collaborate on reports like the Working Capital Predictions paper, to see what each other's views are you. And, it's 9 times, maybe 10 times out 10, they have very similar views around the problems that they're experiencing within their business, and how technology can help them to transform as a business and change the industry for the better. Right?
You take a product like Invoice Finance, it hasn't changed in the last 10 years. There is still only 40,000 users in the UK of that product, that you and I both know, can be a absolute godsend when it comes to support you through a difficult period, or help you to grow, help you to move into exporting, help you to really scale that business into areas that you didn't think was possible, if you just rely upon your own cash in the bank, right? We know that working capital is a really powerful tool and we know that the industry needs to catch up. And that's one thing that I'm gonna be pushing in 2023 - more of those conversations, more of those forums, more reports like this that really capture the views of a common industry that is facing the same problems. I think, if you channel that feedback in the right way, we can come up with a way not to just improve what they do today and to deliver value, but actually to completely transform the market.
And, so, I think, as we always talk about, it's a global issue that we're facing. The provision of working capital is a massive issue. But even if we try and solve that in the UK, or Australia, and we solve it on a regional basis, and get those guys talking, we're going to be in a really exciting position to deliver the best solution that we can, alongside our partners, right? Because we're not doing all of this on our own either. That's the other thing that's changed. We collaborate. We collaborate with so many different players. It's not a "one winner takes it all", right!? It's whoever can collaborate, whoever can create that best-in-class ecosystem of data providers, technology providers, consultancies, and, most importantly, customers; with all of that validated proof points that we've got can then start to create this ecosystem and open up the conversations that will just drive the whole industry forward. And, I think, 2023 and, indeed, the Predictions paper is a proof that we're getting to that stage now, as an industry. And we're getting to that critical mass of views that we need to start to transform.
It's an exciting place to be.
In terms of the things and topics from the report, what will you be taking into your conversations with lenders in 2023, and why?
Emily Lloyd-Penny: Building on what I talked about earlier around starting small, picking that one use case. Based on my experience of delivering Trade Ledger into big banks and actually seeing some of the success that we've had, I think, I'll be taking to our conversations with lenders and prospects, the needs to succeed and define something that's a perfection and totally right from day one is much less important than actually doing something. So, I think, it's really helpful and healthy if lenders get 80% of the way there, but then actually just push something live and try to see what works. I think, we often, in the industry, see or scared of failure and actually we don't want to do something that might not get all the benefits that we thought it would on day one. But, actually, sometimes patience is key. Just getting something out there and saying - Okay, yes, we might not have ticked all the boxes in what we wanted to do, but actually we've got some really powerful learnings. Those learnings can then shape what your next phase of the engagement look like, or how you might want to pivot.
Obviously, the market is evolving constantly, even in the last four years since we've been working together on this, Roger, we've seen, we've needed to pivot, our partners have needed to pivot. That's probably going to continue to happen. So, I think, I'll be encouraging lenders to focus less on perfection - we want to get to this amazing finished products on day one. Actually, let's just try something. Let's do a proof of value. Let's talk to Trade Ledger and understand what we've seen work well and what we haven't seen work well. And I'm sure both of those lists will continue to grow. We're going to have more success stories and things that we can share with customers, but we're going to have more things that -actually, you know, that might not have worked in the best way we want to. And we need to be comfortable that that's okay and actually having that learning is more important than having everything succeed, because then you don't know what not to try and how to pivot. So that's probably one of the key things that I want to bring forward into the conversations with our lenders and prospects going forward. Especially as my team starting to implement and plan that, I want that reassurance to be there.
Obviously, you've seen, from reading the report, and as you picked up on, doing more things and sharing stories between different lenders, they might be very different size lenders, they might be in different geographies, but actually it's reassuring feeling that you're not the only one in this boat. And actually we realise that we're all gonna have to change and pivot and do more this year to support small businesses as the macroeconomic conditions continue to be the turbulent ones that they are. So, I think, focusing on what we can do quickly and how we can make a difference, is going to be really important this year.
Roger Vincent: Yeah, I could not agree more. Connected to that is really understanding technology, I have technology has come on through that. We're aware that there's been an absolute revolution in SaaS.
People have been talking about cloud software for quite a time, but there's a very distinct different between what cloud software does and online software versus what's vertical SaaS proposition give you. That the whole concept behind Trade Ledger is that we have the right customers that define this feedback loop into the product. And the product, over time, becomes more and more akin. And more and more able to deliver value through just switching it on.
We want to get to a place where, actually, you can just, essentially, set up your account on our website, configure a few things and you can start to use that in your everyday life within a lender. Again, you select your persona. Your persona is an underwriter. Your persona is a salesperson. Your pain point, potentially, is gathering data, connecting up my clients' accounting package, creating documentation or running risk analysis. If we can understand
years, we can build the best SaaS proposition there is on the market. And again, it's fully integrated into other complementary solutions. So, our whole aim is to make your life easier, from start to finish, right? And if that's our aspiration, I think, our most recent deployment we got down to around two to three weeks. And that was fully configured to the lender's requirements, in terms of understanding what data they need to capture, the workflows of tasks.
Again, it's a great starting point, because, I think, in the early days it was taking us probably closer to six months to do that. But if you understand SaaS, and you understand the mission that we're on. You move past the world of cloud technology and all of that. We are creating something specifically for working capital. So, and if we don't have everything up-to-date today, we can improve it. So, understanding that SaaS proposition and looking at that theme, rather than technology cost of ownership.
Obviously, SaaS brings benefits, but understanding what most of the players like us, like other people like Thought Machine, and other SaaS vendors, what we're talking about is creating the best solution that's fully integrated, that's off the shelf, pretty much ready to go. If you're not having those conversations now, come and speak to us and we'll tell you the mission that we're on. We're not there to launch multi-million pounds transformation journeys, right? You will get those, sometimes, we're there to, hopefully, make it as easy as switching on an account and getting started like you and I would set up a Gmail account. It should be, maybe not as easy as that, but we'll get close one day.
Emily Lloyd-Penny: And I think, as well, we need to keep in mind the configurable nature of the Trade Ledger SaaS product. So, it's not - okay, you've got this one off the shelf product and you can't do anything to make that your own. Actually, I think, what I really like about our platform is it’s SaaS, so you do get all the advantages of getting a SaaS product, you get regular updates, you get to take advantage of all that great new innovation and new feature, and value, and functionality. But also you can apply your own configuration settings to the SaaS product so that - okay, if you all looking at orchestrating risk, you've got your risk policies in there. If you're looking at automating your workflow, you've got your workflow in there, with your users, and your tasks. So, that's kind of one of the takeaways - yes - it's SaaS, yes - it's off the shelf, yes - it's easy to implement. But, don't be scared that means that you can't tailor that to your requirements. Because that's a really valuable feature of Trade Ledger.
Roger Vincent: Absolutely. Final question for you, before we close out. If you had a magic wand, what would you change about the industry?
Emily Lloyd-Penny: Two things. One - I would remove acronyms and I would standardise terminology across the industry, because it's a huge barrier to entry for people, from a career perspective, moving into the industry. Because they're not easy products that we're talking about, Invoice Finance, Receivables Finance. They're not easy to get your head around and the industry doesn't make it any easier by calling things different things depending on what market you're in, or what geography you're in, or what bank you're talking to. So, that's one.
And then, secondly, I would say from a lender perspective, I'd love to see lenders changing some of their processes and governance models to evolve with the market and technology that has evolved. So, what I mean by that, is get rid of RFIs, RFPs, that are actually asking the wrong questions. Change your vendor onboarding processes so that they cater for SaaS organisations. Because I think, I've lost count of the number of approvals and sign-offs and things that we've gone through, working with some of the big banks. And I think that they don't always lend themselves to nimble, agile, fast-growing fintech organisations that provide things like SaaS products that are carbonated and this and that.
So, I think, I'd love to see that actually banks and lenders change their process to say - Okay, we really want to partner with these fintech vendors, we know that actually this is becoming the norm. What should we be assessing and looking for when we're selecting a vendor? Because it's probably not what it was five years ago.
How about you? What's your magic wand doing?
Roger Vincent: I think my magic wand would be to put aside processes, put aside everything that, obviously, the timing of doing change and transformation, processes that you go through, the different challenges, the different problem statements, put all of that to one side and recognise that this industry needs to change. And sit in a room. And work out how best to do that. We can support. We can help with the technology side of it, but we can't do everything. We can be that catalyst for change, but I think I'd love to see our lenders sitting in more forums, sitting in more councils, whether it's behind closed doors or whether you've got customers represented across there, and working out how collaboratively we change this industry. And we capitalise on that opportunity that 2023 is going to bring. And don't sit here in 10 years time and go - more overdrafts have been removed from the market, lenders are still asking for me to put my house up as security, if I want to start a new business. Actually, I really want to be sitting here in five years time and say - We sat in a room. We made a decision. We came together as an industry and we recognise that we were the force for change. And look where we've got to in five years' time. So that would be my magic wand, whether it's feasible or not, is probably some more in the control of Trade Ledger to get our customers together.
We've got some fantastic people in the report, fantastic customers on the platform. We can form one part of that. But, if anyone ever wants to speak, then get in touch and we'd be happy to facilitate that.
Emily Lloyd-Penny: Yeah, I love that. I think you're right, the report goes one step towards that. But there's so much more that we and the industry can do. So, watch this space. I look forward to seeing what we can do this year.
Roger Vincent: Trade Ledger client council coming this way. Fantastic. Well, that was our lovely 2023 Predictions paper on Working Capital. We look forward to hearing your thoughts on the paper.
Emily Lloyd-Penny: Thanks, Roger.