How to setup a Vendor Supply Chain Finance Process in SAP
Vendor Supply Chain Finance (SCF) constitutes the transfer of a (trade) payable position towards the SCF underwriter (i.e. the bank). The beneficiary of the payment can then decide either to receive an invoice payment on due date or to receive the funds before, at the cost of a pre-determined fee.
The debtor’s bank account will only be debited on due date of the payable; hence the bank finances the differential between the due date and the actual payment date towards the beneficiary for this pre-determined fee. This article elaborates on why and how corporates set-up an SCF scheme with their suppliers.
The Vendor SCF construction can be depicted as:
There are multiple business rationales behind Supply Chain Finance. Why would a corporate want to setup an SCF scheme with its suppliers? The most prominent rationales are:
- Reduction of the need of more traditional trade finance
The need for individual line of credits and bank guarantees for each trade transaction is removed, making the trade process more efficient.
- Sellers can flexibly and quickly fund short term financing needs
If working capital or financing is needed, the seller can quickly request for outstanding invoices to be paid out early (minus a fee).
- Sharing the benefits of better credit rating from buyer towards seller
Because the financing is arranged by the buyer, the seller can enjoy the credit terms that were negotiated between buyer and financier/bank.
- Streamlining the AP process
By onboarding various vendors into the SCF process, the buyer can enjoy a singular and streamlined payment process for these vendors.
- Strengthening of trade relations
Because of the benefits of SCF, more competitive terms on the trade agreement itself can be negotiated.
SCF is typically considered a tool to improve the working capital position of a company, specifically to decrease the cash conversion cycle by increasing the payment terms with its suppliers without weakening the supply chain.
Set-up and onboarding
Typically, a set-up and onboarding process consists of the following steps. First a financing for SCF is obtained from, for example, a bank. In addition, an SCF provider must be selected and contracted. Most major banks have their own solutions but there are many third parties, for example fintechs, that provide solutions as well. Consequently, the SCF terms are negotiated, and the suppliers are onboarded to the SCF process. Lastly, your system should of course be able to process/register it. Therefore, the ERP accounts payable module needs to be adjusted, such that the AP positions eligible for SCF are interfaced into the SCF platform. Besides, your ERP system needs to be adjusted to be able to reconcile the SCF reports and bank statements.
Design considerations and Processing SCF in SAP
In the picture below we provide a high-level example of how a basic SCF process can work using basic modules in SAP. Note that, based on the design considerations and capabilities of the SCF provider, the picture may look a bit different. For each of the steps denoted by a number, we provide an explanation below the figure, going a little deeper into some of the possible considerations on which a decision must be made.
- Invoice and credit note data entry; In the first step, the invoices/credit notes will be entered, typically with payment terms sometime in the future, i.e. 90 days. Once entered and approved, these invoices are now available to the payment program.
- Payment run: The payment run needs to be engineered such that the invoices that are due in the future (i.e. 90 days from now) will be picked up already in today’s run. Some important considerations in this area are:
- Payment netting logic: the netting of invoices and credit notes is an important design consideration. Typically, credit notes are due immediate and the SCF invoices are due sometime in the future, i.e. 90 days from now. If one would decide to net a credit note due immediate with an invoice due in 90 days, this would have some adverse impact on working capital. An alternative is to exclude credit notes from being netted with SCF invoices and have them settled separately (i.e. request the vendor to pay it out separately or via a direct debit). Additionally, some SCF providers have certain netting logic embedded in their platform. In this case, the SAP netting logic should be fully disabled and all invoices should be paid out gross. Careful considerations should be taken when trying to reconcile the SCF settled items report as mentioned in step 4 though.
- Payment run posting: When executing the SAP payment run it is possible to either clear the underlying invoices on payment run date or to leave them open until invoice due date. If the invoices are kept open, they will be cleared once the SCF reporting is imported in SAP (see step 4). This is decision-driven by the accounting team and depends on where the open items should be rolling up in the balance sheet (i.e. payable against the vendor or payable against the SCF supplier).
- Payment file transfer: At this step, the payment file will be generated and sent to the SCF supplier. The design considerations are dependent on the SCF supplier’s capabilities and should be considered carefully while selecting an appropriate partner.
- File format: Most often we advise to implement a best practice payment file format like ISO pain.001. This format has a logical structure, is supported out of the box in SAP, while most SCF partners will support it too.
- Interface technology: The payment files need to be transferred into the SCF platform. This can be done via a multitude of ways; i.e. manual upload, automatically via SWIFT or Host2Host. This decision is often driven internally. Often the existing payment infrastructure can be leveraged for SCF payments as well.
- Remittance information: By following ISO pain.001 standard, the remittance information that remits which invoices are paid and cleared, can be provided in a structured format, irrespective of the volume of invoices that got cleared. This ensures that the beneficiary exactly knows which invoices were paid under this payment. Alternatively, an unstructured remittance can be provided but this often is limited to 140 characters maximum.
- Payment status reporting: Some SCF supplier will support some form of payment status reporting to provide immediate feedback on whether the payments were processed correctly. These reports can be imported in SAP; SAP can subsequently send notifications of payment errors to the key users who can then take corrective actions.
- SCF payment clearing reporting: At this step, the SCF platform will send back a report that contains information on all the cleared payments and underlying invoices for that specific due date. Most typically, these reports are imported in SAP to auto reconcile against the open items sitting in the administration.
- Auto import: If import of the statement into SAP is required, the report should be in one of SAP’s standard-supported formats like MT940 or CAMT.053.
- Auto reconciliation: If auto reconciliation of this report against line items in SAP is required, the reports line items should be matchable with the open line items in the SAP administration. Secondly, a pre-agreed identifier needs to be reported such that SAP can find the open item automatically (i.e. invoice reference, document number, end2endId, etc.). Very careful alignment is needed here, as slight differences in structure in the administration versus the reporting structure of SCF can lead to failed auto reconciliation and tedious manual post processing.
- Pay out to the beneficiary: Onboarded vendors can access the SCF platform and report on the pending payments and invoices. The vendor has the flexibility to have the invoices paid out early (before due date) by accepting the deduction of a pre-agreed fee. The SCF provider should ensure payment is made.
- Debiting bank account: At due date of the original invoice, the SCF provider will want to receive the funds.
- Payment initiation vs direct debit: The payment of funds can in principle be handled via two processes; either the SCF customer initiates the payment himself, or an agreement is made that the SCF provider direct debits the account automatically.
- Lump debit vs line items: Most typically, one would make a lump payment (or direct debit) of the total amount of all invoices due on that day. Some SCF providers may support line by line direct debiting although this might result in high transaction costs. Line by line debiting might be beneficial for the auto reconciliation process in SAP though (see step 7)
- Bank statement reporting: The bank statement of the cash account will be received and imported into SAP. Most often, the statements are received over the existing banking interface.
- Bank statement processing: Based on pre-configured posting rules and reconciliation algorithms in SAP, the open items in the administration are cleared and the bank balance is updated appropriately.
If the appropriate SCF provider is selected and the process design and implementation in SAP is sound, the benefits of SCF can be achieved without introducing new processes and therefore creating a burden on the existing accounts payable team. It is fully possible to integrate the SCF processes with the regular accounts payable payments processes without adding additional manual process steps or cumbersome workarounds.
For more information, contact Ivo Postma at +31 88 991 02 00.