Neither a bank nor a fintech: Orbian, a leading provider in the Supply Chain Finance industry

GTR Magazine, July 2022

Incorporated as a joint venture between Citibank and SAP in 1999, and becoming a privately held company in 2004, Orbian has evolved from a technology provider to a financial services provider with its own supply chain finance (SCF) platform. Orbian’s team outlines the ways in which it is now the largest specialist SCF company serving the working capital and procurement goals of the world’s leading firms across all five continents.

In a market where SCF solution providers are identified as either banks or fintechs, Orbian can be seen as the best possible combination: not a bank, but not just a fintech either. Orbian stands out from the crowd by being the only SCF provider to offer a unique funding structure – thanks to its strong relationships with banks and other financial partners – as well as its own SCF technology platform. Orbian’s proprietary special purpose entity-based multi-funder model, structured many years ago, has proven itself not only in day-to-day operations but also when markets are in turmoil. The model provides the foundation for offering much more efficient supplier onboarding than many fintech-led multi-bank models can hope to achieve.

Our SCF programmes do not depend on a single funding partner. Many funding partners can participate in a programme; this creates prices in line with the market. In addition, a change in funding partners has no impact on the supplier or our client. This is particularly important in times of crisis in the financial markets,” says Markus Schiffers, Managing Director for EMEA Business at Orbian. Orbian’s treasury team ensures that liquidity is always available for the SCF programmes. Given that Orbian values the relationships with its funding partners, the allocation of funding to these partners is managed by a dedicated team rather than simply by an algorithm.

23 years of focus on SCF

Orbian’s scale has been driven by its sole focus on SCF and its drive to be the best provider of a mission critical set of financial services for companies that equally aspire to be the best. With more than 20 years of experience and position in the market, Orbian’s ownership structure ensures that this strategic focus is central to every decision.

“Orbian’s shareholders are deep-pocketed, long-term investors for whom the investment horizon is long term. This ensures not only that we are constantly investing in service improvements, but also that our existing clients are always more important to us than the next company necessary for us to hit short-term growth numbers,” says Orbian Chairman Thomas Dunn.

The most experienced staff in the industry

Three words define Orbian’s business purpose: finance, technology and service. For each of these components we pride ourselves on hiring, training and retaining the best talent from across the globe. Of these three HR goals, we have identified ‘retaining’ as the most critical. We are proud of the tenure and experience of our staff and believe that this underpins all our broader commercial success.

Due to our focus on SCF and our staff retention, we have the most experienced staff and management team in the business, which is very important to our clients as we allocate a relationship manager to a programme and that person stays in charge for the lifetime of the programme,” says Schiffers.

Dunn adds: “I feel very strongly that our ability at Orbian to maintain a long-term compact with key members of staff has been a fundamental factor of the success that we have enjoyed.”

Maintaining relationships between the client and its banks

Unlike some fintechs whose stated mission is to replace banks, Orbian encourages the building of collaborative benefits by having relationship banks participate in the funding of their clients’ SCF programmes. The experienced management team at Orbian has seen the economy go through multiple cycles and hence appreciates the value of long-standing relationships between the buyer client and its banks. For that reason, Orbian does not support daily auctioning of funding tickets to a bank pool but prefers a more stable funding environment at competitive rates for the funding partners.

Having over 10 years of experience with proprietary bank solutions as well as with fintechs, I see two key differences working with Orbian: first, its outstanding customer centricity, which you do not find with a bank, and second, its experience, which clearly benefits from the loyalty of the staff and contributes to my first point. One key reason for that is the shareholder structure, another is the management team,” says Friedmann Kirchhof, Head of Supply Chain Finance at Siemens, who has been using Orbian Supply Chain Finance Solutions for 14 years.

The future of SCF and its crucial role in the green transition

The interaction of ESG considerations in supply chains, and the role that SCF might play in aligning long-term sustainability goals are matters of growing importance. Unfortunately, they are also matters prone to particularly high levels of ‘fudge’, obfuscation and fanciful thinking. Orbian believes that SCF providers can play a decisive role by connecting buyers and their suppliers and providing them with transparent tools of collaboration, allowing facilitation between those supply chains and the communities that they are serving. “A sustainable SCF programme is one that enables suppliers to meet their investment requirements in a way that is consistent with the long-term sustainability initiatives of their customers. As a set of services built upon the foundation principle of transparent collaboration between buyers and suppliers, there are multiple ways of engineering Orbian SCF in order to reach these goals,” says Dunn.

Following a major ESG initiative started in 2020, we have been surveying our suppliers in over 60 countries and 22 industries to publish annual ESG and SCF reports. These reports provide a data-led analysis that aims to eliminate the ‘white noise’ that continues to characterise much debate around these topics.

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