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thecorporatetreasurer.com18 corporate treasurer MONTH / month 2014
Jardine Matheson’s former group
treasurer shares his di... June / July 2016 corporate treasurer 19
drian Teng peeked into the
future and ...
thecorporatetreasurer.com20 corporate treasurer MONTH / month 2014
Bid and click
One idea Teng came up with was the
creati... June / July 2016 corporate treasurer 21
over their books? Teng acknowledged that...
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  1. 1. thecorporatetreasurer.com18 corporate treasurer MONTH / month 2014 Jardine Matheson’s former group treasurer shares his disappointment with bank lending in the modern world, how he views alternative credit sources, and how technology could revolutionise fund-raising. Ann Shi reports The biggest lender biggest thecorporatetreasurer.com18 corporate treasurer June / July 2016 Jardine.indd 18 6/16/16 11:01 AM
  2. 2. June / July 2016 corporate treasurer 19 JardineMatheson A drian Teng peeked into the future and said: “I predict that my company’s biggest lender would not be a bank in 30 years from today.” Teng, the former group treasurer of Jardine Matheson and now group finance director of its subsidiary, Jardine Cycle & Carriage, said he wasn’t certain who the primary source of funding would be, but he is clear it will come from alternative credit sources – capital markets, non-bank organisations such as asset managers, and fintech companies like Ant Financial. “The key point is that banks should not be the core credit source alone,” he said. This is already happening to some degree. Debt capital markets (DCM) have surpassed bank loans as the primary source for corporate funding in Asia, according to Dealogic. In 2015 in Asia, DCM borrowings represented 42% of the corporate funding mix, with loans taking 37% and equity capital markets (ECM) 21%. In 2011, loans were the primary source for funding, taking 48% of the corporate funding mix, while DCM had only 35% and ECM 17%. Teng’s forecast for the future stems from the pain he has experienced in getting a bank loan. “Whenever we do a financing transaction, it tends to be very long and tedious,” Teng said. Teng said that simply establishing a credit facility with a bank in order to finance a company’s subsidiary level could take two months to accomplish. “There are instances where financing can take six to 12 months,” Teng added. Bank tedium Many of us are conscious that the lenders themselves are not entirely to blame; at least not in isolation. The current regulatory environment has thrown the financial system off-kilter. Many global banks are more interested in increasing the profitability of existing clients through cash management, trade finance, foreign exchange, and financial advisory, rather than trying to build up a new client base. In Teng’s view, the tedium of banking comes from a complete lack of transparency in the bank lending process. But what’s new? Banks have never been transparent about this information. In some cases, key relationship managers may lack necessary information themselves, and it is clearly not in their interests to openly part with their credit evaluation process. For many treasurers, a truly open dialogue is as far away as it has ever been. Teng believes it doesn’t need to be this way. In his mind, banks that continue to keep their cards close to their chests Jardine.indd 19 6/16/16 11:01 AM
  3. 3. thecorporatetreasurer.com20 corporate treasurer MONTH / month 2014 Bid and click One idea Teng came up with was the creation of a centralised two-way information exchange portal system for credit owners and borrowers. Simply put, the portal would connect potential borrowers and lenders through a platform, similar to an exchange. So, when a company needs funding, a treasurer or finance executive can go to the portal, list out the necessary information such as borrowing amount, tenor, requirement and borrowing entity. Interested lenders, whether banks or non-bank institutions, can access information via the portal and list their pricing and terms, which are only seen by the borrower. Based on all the “bids”, the treasurer can have a quick view of the liquidity available and cost, and settle on the best offer. Banks, Teng argued, can also save on the costs of “having an army of middle- office and back-office people” supporting loan negotiation and documentation, assuming they are willing to participate. Even if they don’t, anyone with excess capital should be able to access the portal, potentially creating a larger pool of liquidity. “There are entities and organisations that have excess capital. For example, insurance companies, asset management companies and corporates such as Google or Apple sit on billions of cash,” Teng summarised. The interest is there. In fact, some non- bank institutions are already putting their money into peer-to-peer (P2P) lending – although this is fraught with risks. A 2014 review by The Economist found that only a third of the money coming to Lending Club, a P2P financier, was from retail investors, while the rest and the fastest- growing slice came from wealthy people and institutions. Additionally, in some industries there are already some direct lending channels. According to Brian Edmondson, head of transaction banking sales at Misys, the motor manufacturing industries are handy at setting up their own P2P lending marketplaces. “Some of the more dominant companies are quite happy to provide financing to the suppliers,” he said. But even non-bank lenders still need to conduct due diligence on the borrowers on the platform. Robert Yenko, a treasurer at Intel, said a lot of legal and documentary requirements would be inevitable in the due diligence process before on-boarding, which would be an obstacle for corporate lending platforms. Yenko viewed Teng’s suggestion as a “novel idea” but suggested the portal could start off as an “FXall for loans” (FXall is a Thomson Reuters platform of foreign exchange trading for institutional and corporate clients), a marketplace where lenders bid for the best pricing of loans to corporations. Eventually, it should morph into a real P2P lending platform where any lender can bid to offer a loan to any borrower, after due diligence has been fulfilled, said Yenko. Gregory Gibb, chairman and chief executive officer at Shanghai Lujiazui International Financial Asset Exchange, an online P2P marketplace for financial assets trading, listed some likely challenges in developing such an independent “P2P for corporates” platform: l How to build a large enough two- sided network and keep it intact as it grows. Once corporates interact on the network, it is very easy for them to conduct bilateral deals outside of the network. l It would need to operate in an environment where corporate transparency/ratings are sufficiently trusted, which could be more challenging in developed markets. l It would require a sufficiently large institutional investor base to support lending. Would this be feasible in China, for example, where few large institutions are fully private? l “A platform that exists between large buyers and sellers often sees its margins quickly squeezed,” said Gibb. “I imagine it being built out first in industry clusters, say 100 companies in a vertical that know each other agree to lend… Once verticals are built in several sectors it could create cross-sector opportunities.” Unstoppable Teng knows there will be challenges and failures, but views it as “an unstoppable trend” that companies and their lenders lean towards transparency, with technology providing the hook. “The real challenge is people’s mindset. Everything else is possible,” said Teng. But transparency works both ways. How open would companies be in turning “If embraced correctly, digital innovation can bring significant upside for banks. Such technology has the scope to reduce operational and compliance costs” Boston Consulting Group will surely go the way of the dodo. “Banks would be wrong if they still think they have this secret information that differentiates themselves from others,” he said. He explained that regulatory scrutiny on the banking sector will eventually eliminate differentiating factors, if it hasn’t already. When dealing with regulations that are not clearly defined internationally – nor consistent across borders – banks tend to overcompensate to make sure all the boxes are ticked. And “the cost of regulatory compliance and legal is so expensive that … banks don’t make the money by pure lending”, said Teng. Ultimately, however, Teng believes that technology will drive banks away from the traditional lending model. After a recent trip to Silicon Valley, Teng opened his eyes to the power of digital innovation in the world of finance. Jardine.indd 20 6/16/16 11:01 AM
  4. 4. June / July 2016 corporate treasurer 21 JardineMatheson over their books? Teng acknowledged that they won’t be, but felt that the option will soon be out of their hands. “If the world is moving towards that level of transparency with technology, can I stop it? I might as well gather the benefits of it,” he said. Regardless of its feasibility, the lending portal concept is just one of the many possible ways in which technology could eventually change how banks conduct business. 
Damian Glendinning, treasurer at Lenovo, recognises that bank lending has already become less important as a means of funding companies. “This has already happened to a large extent in the US [and Europe], and I expect Asia will follow over the next ten or 20 years,” he said. Glendinning said that in the future, capital markets would replace banks, with bonds, commercial paper, crowd-funding and factoring portals taking over. Does this mean the world’s major lenders will all essentially become investment banks? Probably not, but should banks look to focus their attention on value-added transactional services, as Teng said? Maybe. With challenges come opportunities. In a recent research paper, Boston Consulting Group (BCG) said banks should embrace technology, especially in the area of trade finance. “If embraced correctly, digital innovation can bring significant upside for banks,” BCG said. “Such technology has the scope to reduce operational and compliance costs of paper-based trade by 10% to 15%, provide a platform to grow revenues by 5% to 15%, and help banks capture strategic advantage going forward.” But banks must move fast. Goldman Sachs reports that alternative lending could put an estimated $11 billion in banking sector profits at risk through 2020. Almost half (46%) of private funding for fintech start-ups by 2015 was for lending services, which currently account for 56% of the profits generated by the US and European banks, according to Citi’s March report, “Digital Disruption”. The changing agenda is daunting and reaches far beyond just lending. Examples BCG named include payments and financial supply chain solutions (Square; Tungsten), financing (Google-backed OnDeck Capital; Amazon), and foreign exchange (OzForex). Banks know the threats they face. While “incumbent financial institutions still have the upper hand in terms of scale… given the growth in fintech investment, this isn’t likely to continue for long,” Citi recently acknowledged. In China, for example, transformation to digital financial flows has been “breathtaking”, with 96% of e-commerce sales done without a single bank’s involvement, the US bank estimated. “Either banks evolve, or they will die like dinosaurs,” warned Teng. Maybe the same could be said for old-school treasurers. n “The real challenge is people’s mindset. Everything else is possible” Adrian Teng Adrian Teng Inspired by a Silicon Valley visit Jardine.indd 21 6/16/16 11:01 AM