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‘GLOBAL TRADE IN 2008 VS 2021: GLOBAL IMPACT, DIFFERENT CHALLENGES’

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A Q&A with Nawaz Ali Head of Insights at Western Union Business Solutions who draws comparisons between the financial crisis of 2008 and the coronavirus pandemic and provides some insight into how businesses can better plan for the year ahead.

 

2020 has been a tumultuous year for global trade with many drawing comparisons to the financial crash of 2008, how do you think the two crises compare?

Though both crises were global in nature and had far reaching impacts worldwide, it is important to note that the dynamics of today’s global trade have shifted in the past 12 years. Today, faster digital transformation can help enable the global services trade to counterbalance some of the impact of the protectionist policies, which we typically witness in times of crisis, on the global goods trade.

Even so, the recovery of global trade could still be very gradual as these more protectionist behaviours could also keep trade activity near to its lowest level over the past 10 years.

Unlike in 2008, this time both global supply and demand factors are at play, so the effects could last longer. Furthermore, this time around the crisis is broad and impacting all sectors whereas in 2008, the crisis was more concentrated in the banking sector.

The recent vaccine developments have been an important turning point, and we’ve seen an immediate positive impact if, for example, you look towards the recent spike in commodity prices. However,  global demand could still remain distressed  in 2021 due to  corporate insolvency risks and weaker purchasing power of consumers.

Similar to 2008, global interest rates have been cut to new historic lows by central banks which should underpin investment and support the recovery. However, the key factor for any recovery actually lies more in the mass development and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine, and it is that uncertainty which spurred governments into also launching record amounts of fiscal stimulus.

Nevertheless, by putting the right plans in place for 2021 businesses will be able to better equip themselves to recover from the pandemic.

 

When a crisis hits, typically investors rush to safe-haven currencies to minimise their losses. Could this have a different impact today when compared to 2008?

Yes, the geopolitical differences between now and 2008 are stark. Today, the first signs of a capital rotation into risk-prone assets are emerging. With the US-Sino trade war, domestic mismanagement of COVID-19 in the US, and rising global geopolitical tensions, now could be the beginning of a major multi‑year global FX regime change as investors start to look for alternatives for the greenback.

Despite the fact investors have failed to find a credible substitute for the dollar since 2010, in this volatile environment it is critical that businesses ensure they understand their FX exposure and have plans in place for every potential scenario.

There is a disconnect between stock markets and the economy. Investors remain optimistic about the economic turnaround on the horizon, but the reality is far from certain. If the risk of long‑term economic damage rises, this optimism will likely fade and weigh on risk‑friendly currencies, including Sterling, and boost safe-havens like the Japanese Yen and Swiss Franc.

In short, with global interest rates converging, proper crisis management and economic growth differentials could overhaul the balance of power on the world stage after the recession.

 

Aside from the coronavirus pandemic, what other marquee events should businesses be planning around in 2021?

Of course, there are many other seismic geopolitical issues that should be taken into account when planning for 2021, which will have significant impacts on currency markets, such as Brexit, US-UK trade negotiations and regime change following the US election result – a Joe Biden presidency could have a material impact on the global trade environment.

Analysing the Brexit example alone, in a world gripped by virus-related supply chain disruption and growth concerns, a no-trade deal Brexit could exacerbate the economic shock. There are currently no tariffs on trade between the UK and EU and if a  trade deal or an extension of talks is not in place by Dec. 31, 2020, resulting barriers to trade could significantly harm export and import business and further damage any economic recovery.

Herein, the importance of a business evaluating the risks and opportunities related to the ongoing disruption in global trade on a more regular basis cannot be understated.

 

How can companies be better prepared for these challenges going into 2021?

The rise of geopolitical themes such as trade wars, and the growing influence of political figures on financial markets, has significantly increased the complexity around judging future market trends and their implications for international business. We discuss how businesses can better prepare for some of the most topical challenges  in our Are you Ready for 2021? guide.

 In summary, regardless of a businesses’ goals, understanding their FX risk and exposure should be part of every businesses strategy so that they can better pivot at speed and at scale in times of crises and minimise potential damage to their business.

 

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HOW CAN MERCHANTS OVERCOME THE COST AND COMPLEXITY OF LOCAL PAYMENT METHOD INTEGRATIONS?

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James Booth, VP Head of Partnerships, EMEA at PPRO

 

As commerce becomes more digital and borderless, one of the biggest hurdles companies face is the complexity of facilitating the myriad payment options required to maximise sales in any given market. But, with 77% of global online sales now being made using one of 500+ trusted local payment methods (LPMs), it has never been more crucial for companies to get it right.

In the below Q&A article, James Booth, VP Head of Partnerships, EMEA at PPRO discusses the challenges businesses and merchants face when integrating a diverse range of payment methods, and how with the right expertise, businesses can overcome this to increase online conversion rates and unlock greater profitability.

 

How has the pandemic and rise of e-commerce added pressure to merchants/businesses to integrate local payment methods (LPMs)?

Offering a diverse array of local payment methods has always been important. The recent e-commerce boom merely turbocharged this need as consumers were forced online in their masses. During this time, digital payment options became a must-have for online brands to be able to compete. What we have learnt since then is that consumer payment behaviours that changed during lockdown are in fact here to stay. Selling across borders without offering LPMs is no longer an option, as consumers demand more choice than ever before.

For businesses and merchants who do not invest in LPMs at this pivotal time, they are at risk of missing out on potential customers. Our own research suggests that nearly 50% of online shoppers say they will abandon a purchase at checkout if their preferred or local payment option isn’t available. Not only does this mean that merchants will lose out to the competition in their own markets, but it also limits their expansion plans into new locations – as each region has its own LPM preferences. The opportunity for cross-border growth is at an all-time high, but to be able to succeed, a greater focus is needed on local payment preferences.

 

What is involved when it comes to integrating LPMs? What hurdles do merchants/businesses come up against when beginning this process?

Integrating LPMs is no easy task – it requires a number of considerations before a business can even get started. For example, market analysis plays a huge role – identifying which market you’d like to sell to and gaining insights into the preferred LPMs in that region is an important first step. This is where consultancy from a partner with on the ground local knowledge is extremely helpful. Especially when it comes to negotiating with the LPM directly regarding contracts. And often language can act as a barrier and add additional complexity to this process.

Time and cost are two of the biggest hurdles to consider. Adding just one payment method means  up to 1 million USD in integration costs and 6-12 months from contracting to initial operations. There is also the additional cost of operational complexity licensing, compliance, managing funds and more! As well as being costly, this process is extremely complex and time consuming for a brand going at it alone. That’s not to mention the added complexities surrounding regulations funds collection that could require the business to set up an entity in the region in order to be able to move any further with the integration process.

 

What are the financial implications associated with LPM integration? What impact can this have on the merchant’s decision to go ahead?

The costs and complexities can often be enough to stop a business in its tracks when it comes to integrating a new payment method. This can create an awful catch-22 situation whereby merchants are aware they need to integrate LPMs to be able to compete and grow their business, but are unable to keep up with the costs and complexities associated with implementing them effectively.

To overcome this, merchants need to partner with an expert who can provide strategic consultancy and easy access to new payment methods via a diverse portfolio. Only with this support can merchants successfully expand into the new lucrative markets on offer.

 

Are there any other factors merchants/businesses need to consider when integrating an LPM?

Even with the right mix of payment methods at the checkout, there are often other reasons why online sales don’t convert and baskets are abandoned. This may be because of a technological problem. A single misconfiguration, and an option unchecked in the backend, can cause payments to time out or fail.

In many cases, the issues impacting the success of a sale (the conversion rate) may not be entirely technical. Often, a poor user experience causes unnecessary cart abandonment. For instance, poor language localisation, offering a local payment method to shoppers in a country where this is not available, a confusing layout on the payments page or even relatively simple things like only telling a user about a surcharge when they reach the final payments screen — can all depress the conversion rate.
Considering the whole picture will be crucial to not only making LPM integration a success, but ensuring it fulfils its purpose – boosting online conversion rates and unlocking future online growth.

 

How can businesses overcome the cost and complexities associated with LPMs and implement them successfully?

Using the regional knowledge and the experience of strategic partners will be essential for any business beginning this complex journey. Even for the biggest of payment service providers, LPM integration can be overwhelming. Luckily for merchants, and the payment service providers who support them, local payment infrastructures are on hand to remove the pain points associated with implementation. By offering easy access to a diverse array of payment methods, these infrastructures can empower merchants to take on cross-border commerce.

 

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HOW PROCUREMENT TRANSFORMATION CAN DRIVE BUSINESS VALUE, CONTINUITY AND RESILIENCE

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George Booth, Group Chief Procurement Officer, Lloyds Banking Group and Henrik Smedberg, Head of Intelligent Spend Management UKI, SAP

 

As the largest bank and insurer in the United Kingdom, Lloyds Banking Group counts on a vast network of global suppliers for everything from technology to office supplies and services. Managing supply chain risk is a top priority for the group’s procurement team. So is enabling optimum contract outcomes, supply chain sustainability, and simple, transparent buying and selling for employees and suppliers. To unify and standardise procurement processes and gain the deep data insight it needs to ensure stable, secure, and compliant supply chains for the bank and its customers, Lloyds embarked on a digital procurement transformation.

In this Q&A, George Booth, Group Chief Procurement Officer, Lloyds Banking Group and Henrik Smedberg, Head of Intelligent Spend Management UKI, SAP, explore how they embarked on a digital procurement transformation journey and the current challenges and opportunities in the procurement space.

 

  1. What are the complexities and opportunities of having such a broad ecosystem and what has the past year highlighted when it comes to supply chain risk?

George Booth: Lloyds Bank has been serving the households, businesses and communities of Britain since 1765. To serve more than 30 million customers, we rely on a vast network of global suppliers for everything from technology to office supplies and services. The supply chain ecosystem offers huge opportunities, particularly in managing end-to-end supply chain risks, driving value, leveraging innovation and ensuring supply chain sustainability. Managing such a broad ecosystem is a highly complex process, with a clear requirement for standardised procurement processes, transparency and insight to ensure stable, secure, and compliant supply chains for the bank and its customers.

Henrik Smedberg: Our recent research with Oxford Economics revealed that less than half (49%) of executives surveyed regularly refresh risk mitigation plans to address potential supply chain disruption. However, from panic buying loo rolls to the spike in e-commerce, the past year has highlighted the vital need for digitalisation and end-to-end visibility.

Managing supply chain risk has always been a priority for Lloyds, so our work together centred around continuing in this vein – providing the deep data insights needed to mitigate risk and ensure stable, secure and compliant supply chains for the bank and its 30 million customers.

 

  1. Covid has forced a number of companies to transform digitally, and this has increased trust in banks. What has this period been like for Lloyds and what have we learned about the importance of data and analytics?

George Booth: The impact of the pandemic has been felt across the world and even today the news round coronavirus is continuously and rapidly changing. Lloyds Banking Group is committed to providing a swift response to the latest updates to ensure that all our stakeholders are supported and kept well informed. By following a responsive, flexible and collaborative approach we have leveraged our supply chain to ensure extra support has been offered to customers, colleagues and suppliers when needed.

Henrik Smedberg: From our research with Oxford Economics, we have identified a small group of ‘Leaders’ which are organisations that have invested more in digital transformation and are further along in automating end-to-end processes. As such, these Leaders have been able to make better-informed spend decisions across the business, with 70% saying they have been able to gain a clear view of overall spend automatically, in real time. This allows them to achieve better results, compared with other respondents, in operational efficiency, supplier performance, compliance, risk management and cost reduction and tells us a lot about the importance of leveraging data and analytics.

 

  1. What were the core drivers of this partnership and how has the transformation project rolled out?

George Booth: With a need to unify and standardise procurement processes – and gain deep data insight to ensure stable, secure, and compliant supply chains for the bank and its customers – Lloyds embarked on a digital procurement transformation process. We needed solutions to stay agile, flexible and keep our services running by giving us complete visibility into our supply chain, to manage risk and deliver real business value, as well as ensuring colleague experience was vastly improved. The partnership with SAP Ariba provided expert guidance and the technology proposition to make our digital procurement transformation work.

Henrik Smedberg: We worked with Lloyds to help accelerate them into the ‘Leaders’ category. Automatic integration of contract terms, pricing and discount data into POs has increased visibility for sourcing managers; machine learning has helped optimise catalogues so buyers can find what they need quickly; procurement data analytics has increased spend visibility to allow greater buyer autonomy. This has enabled Lloyds to achieve spend management transparency to support supply chain continuity and resilience – something all organisations aspire to achieve.

 

  1. What benefits have you seen as a result of working together and what does this mean for the future?

George Booth: Under the theme simplify, integrate, digitise, the programme motto focused team members on the colleague journey, stating: ‘You can only make a first impression once.’ One statistic captures the colleague journey success: it now takes an average of six clicks to complete a transaction, compared to 30. This user-friendly experience, automatic integration of contract terms, pricing, and discount data, as well as machine learning to optimise catalogues has transformed the requisitioner experience.

Henrik Smedberg: Our work with Lloyds shows us that organisations need to take a three-pronged approach to mitigate supply chain risk and advance their procurement digital transformation: embrace data and analytics, unlock the power of AI and drive adoption. As our research demonstrated, those that have done all three have been able to strategically up-level their procurement function for better business impact, and Lloyds is a shining example of best practice.

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