GE Capital Solutions: Drive Value with Data - Geoff Healey

The role of finance providers is changing as they become increasingly integrated with customers’ constantly evolving supply chains. FDE speaks to Geoff Healey of GE Capital Solutions about finance professionals’ opportunity to take their services to the next level.

The way in which international trade is financed has changed incrementally yet radically over the years. Now, financial institutions are more deeply immersed in their clients’ supply chains, and compete by developing more sophisticated technology and services – from asset-based lending to inventory finance.

The next stage of evolution for these services is beginning with their efforts to unlock the value of the data they hold.

‘Years ago we would simply advance the value of an invoice, but our customers are increasingly seeing value in the data we hold, enabling us to take on a consultancy role. Now, we work with thousands of dealers and numerous manufacturers in many countries, so have a lot of information – often more diverse information than the manufacturers,’ says Geoff Healey, commercial leader for GE Capital Solutions’ Commercial Distribution Finance (CDF) service.

‘Through our operating systems, we can track products by their serial numbers, and we see every invoice. We know when products are sold, when they arrive with dealers, when they are manufactured and how much they are worth. When harnessed in the right way, this is truly invaluable information for manufacturers,’ he adds.

That operating system is the Customer Online Management System (COMS), a global online portal through which manufacturers and dealers can leverage the data generated through CDF transactions.

‘It is a consistent point of entry for manufacturers and dealers. It is a very intuitive tool and has been configured so that manufacturers can see at a high level, and at dealer level, how their portfolio is performing,’ says David Howell, senior technology leader for GE’s CDF service.

COMS offers improved network visibility, as users can see payment histories and payment types, and find out how many units of a product are on the market and where.

‘Our manufacturer customers not only have a clear view of their sales but can also determine their expected cash flow, safe in the knowledge that GE will pay them for their shipped units to pre-agreed timescales,’ says Howell.

‘The powerful information held within COMS not only enables manufacturers to identify products which aren’t selling to the level expected, but also enables them to design appropriate incentive programmes based on robust data.’

Value and visibility

One of the key benefits of the CDF service is its ability to negate the impact of seasonality in business. There are also many examples of CDF clients using such data to create tangible benefit. For instance, one customer that had overmanufactured came to GE for advice on where it could place the extra product. A long-standing relationship with the client allowed GE to analyse historical data to determine not only which country, but also which dealers, would be most likely to generate the required additional sales.

‘The data shows us where products sell fast and where they sell slowly, thereby enabling us to track selling cycles at industry level, country level or dealer level,’ explains Healey. ‘Using this information, operational decisions and risk assessments can be made more prudently. We can identify where a manufacturer should place products, and where it should spend money to get products into and out of a particular channel.’

The accessibility and enhanced functionality of COMS offers a mix of real-time and historical information, and provides exactly the same interface for users and dealers across the globe. The evolution of the system continues, with GE recently adding a comprehensive suite of electronic documentation to COMS.

This kind of technology, plus the willingness of its backers to commit to a more sophisticated role, is what sets GE apart in commercial finance.

‘We were once simply a service provider, specialising in cross-border distribution finance, now we have grown into an advisory role,’ observes Healey. ‘Our advantage is that we offer the complete range of services, from inventory finance to leasing. When we see our manufacturer customers using the information housed in our systems to make decisions on what to build and where to sell, we know that our proposition is working.’

Geoff Healey, commercial leader for GE Capital Solutions’ Commercial Distribution Finance (CDF) service.