By Theresa Gengler, Marketing Intern
Every day holds the opportunity to learn, and C2FO offered an exceptional learning opportunity at their Strategic Retreat on Thursday, June 2, 2016. C2FO is driven to liberate working capital through the world’s first working capital market. This financial technology innovator works to expand and connect ideas to help the market grow in order to help businesses around the globe. C2FO offered an exceptionally well-rounded event which included insightful keynote presentations and panels offering viewpoints on international markets and the future of debt management and banking regulation.
Board members, advisors, business council members, customers, partners and employees of C2FO were in attendance at a location of utmost significance: the National World War I Museum and Memorial, which symbolizes the rich heritage and incredible potential found in Kansas City. C2FO emphasized the connection between the struggles found in current financial markets and the sacrifices that have been made in the past to achieve global economic stability. C2FO seeks to attain a world where the dread of war, strife, and struggle do not dictate financial markets, and a transparent working capital system facilitates efficient and timely business dealings.
Since joining this team of bright and accomplished people, I have gained unique insights regarding business and entrepreneurial opportunities in Kansas City and around the world. C2FO has helped open new doors to the connectivity that exists within the business world through better economic transparency and facilitation of cash flow between buyers and suppliers. The strategic retreat reinforced the mission of C2FO for me, and validated the possibilities that exist within a financial system that truly enables businesses to optimize their working capital.
Sandy Kemper, Chairman and CEO, C2FO, began the retreat by illustrating the simplicity of the company’s working capital market. Buyers have money. Suppliers need money. Businesses can achieve their potential through better management of working capital, which unlocks cash in a trapped financial system and strengthens the financial health of suppliers.
Strategic Retreat Speakers
Craig Hakkio, the Senior Vice President and Special Advisor on Economic Policy at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, discussed the future of the U.S. economy. Hakkio talked about the strong US dollar, and the ever-increasing likelihood of the Federal Reserve Bank increasing interest rates. In addition to describing the current state of domestic and foreign monetary policies, he touched on how worldwide productivity growth has been slowing down.
This downtrend in worldwide productivity reinforces lower wages. If the decline continues, future long-term interest rates will also be lower, which in turn heightens the possibility of another recession.
I was enthralled by Craig Hakkio’s outlook on the projections of the U.S. economy. His insight into domestic and foreign monetary policies helped illustrate the strength of the USD in comparison to many foreign currencies. His analysis expressed how global productivity corresponds with the problem of trapped cash. During periods of growth, businesses and consumers are not only encouraged to save, but to also invest and spend. Another variable influencing market patterns in the U.S. and globally is financial regulation, which has shown inhibiting growth and development for many SMEs. However, on the whole, the positive U.S. outlook Hakkio describes, shows possibility for growth in future investing and productivity.
The first panel of the day, “Debt 2.0: The future of regulation, transparency and intermediaries,” was a commingling of brains across banking, investment funds and financial technology. Speakers included Sandy Kemper, Chairman and CEO, C2FO; John Ahearn, Managing Director and Global Head of Trade, Citi; Bryan C. Krug, CFA and Managing Director, Artisan Partners; and Jim Sangster, Vice Chairman and EVP, UMB. They shared their observations about how the Dodd-Frank Act has affected banks across the country, and how it will affect the future of transparency within businesses. Kemper expressed the positive impact working capital has within financial markets for buyers and sellers, and how C2FO relationships with those who understand these regulations have proven mutually beneficial.
In listening to this panel, I learned about the tightening regulations being imposed through Dodd-Frank, and the implications (both positive and negative) associated with them. Recently, the Dodd-Frank Act has been under heightened discussion in the House of Representatives. This made the panel discussion even more applicable for me as I research the debate behind the regulations and how they affect the future of a market where working capital has been liberated.
The Debt 2.0 panel discussion was the highlight of the day for John Hamilton, a finance major and summer intern on the C2FO data management team. Seeing the correlations between credit lines and the U.S. economy greatly interested him, because of his field of study. One of the most shocking pieces of information he learned during the strategic retreat came from the information shared about the Dodd-Frank Act and its effect on small banks in the U.S.: Between 1990 and 2008, two thousand new banks were created; between 2009 and 2013, only seven new banks were created. John agrees the immensity of the Dodd-Frank Act poses issues for the small banks, as the implementation of this legislation is difficult to maintain.
As the day continued, we were privileged to listen to a second panel, “International Markets: APAC and EMEA scaling strategies and learnings.” This panel included great minds from several international markets: Justin Ho, Managing Partner, Elements Advisors; Geoffrey Prentice, Partner, Oriente; Lawrence Chu, Partner, Oriente; and Colin Sharp, SVP of EMEA, C2FO. They provided the audience with ideas about the translation of businesses to foreign markets, and the importance of recognizing the existence of major differences between foreign and domestic market practices. At times, the mission of a successful business in one country may not translate to the cultural sensibilities of another country. The panel made some powerful recommendations on remedying this issue.
Colin Sharp emphasized the importance of companies planning to grow internationally to understand the culture and the market tendencies associated with these different areas. The companies must assess how their relationships and partnerships with the references who help to bring them into the market will affect their future relationship with a prospective partner company.
Olivia Beins, a fellow intern at C2FO working in the Market Operations department, commented on how relevant she found the International Markets panel. As an international business major interested in company expansion, Olivia found the panelists’ opinions regarding joint ventures intriguing. She was, “fascinated about… doing a joint venture and giving the partner company a bigger share than the original company [as a way to remedy some of the issues posed by such expansion].”
As Geoffrey Prentice explained during the panel, a business expanding to a foreign country needs a heightened understanding of the geographic business propensities. In the past, by giving entities in certain Asian markets a 51/49 majority, Prentice was able to enter the marketplace and gain more business coverage. Some of his colleagues were surprised by how much of the company he had allowed the Chinese companies to own, but Prentice explained that had it not been for the joint ventures, the marketplace would have been nearly impossible to access. “One hundred percent of zero is nothing; 49 percent of a market is still a sizable portion.”
After the panels concluded, Christian Hjorth with Tradeshift presented “The Long-Game: Tradeshift Vision and Roadmap.” Tradeshift is a C2FO partner, and helps to provide a network where business connections can be made more easily. Tradeshift benefits companies because they offer a foundation to build a stronger digital connection with suppliers. A key aspect to responding quickly and with agility to dynamic marketplaces is the ability to connect digitally. By building this foundation, information and communication can be processed promptly.
Following Tradeshift, Kevin Daniels, CPO, John Christopher, CTO and Pete Thomas, CIO, all from C2FO, presented different angles on “Excellence in Innovation: the future of the C2FO Market.”
Kevin Daniels touched on the driving factor of the success of C2FO: the mission has stayed the same since the founding of the company. C2FO liberates working capital. Not only has C2FO stayed true to the mission, but relationships between buyers and suppliers have improved through use of C2FO.
The four big areas of focus for C2FO include the working capital market, buyer needs, supplier needs, and the WFC Fund. To properly adjust to the dynamics of a real-time market, C2FO continually innovates features and functionality, while constantly reviewing market activity. Feedback shared from buyers and suppliers drive insights to develop how the market can better support their needs. In response to new needs derived from buyer and supplier insights, C2FO created the WFC Fund, which is yet another way C2FO offers better financial tools and options for customers.
John Christopher addressed the audience on how C2FO is scaling the data capacity as the market expands globally. This type of vigorous attention to technology services and data security is just one way C2FO establishes mutual trust with customers.
Pete Thomas continued the discussion with the necessities of trust with customers as well. Thomas elaborated, with “different kinds of trust exist among people and businesses, and to move forward, a business must have an infrastructure of trust. It is something that never sleeps, especially at C2FO. As trust collides with technology, some businesses have found it easier to gloss over their missions. Luckily, C2FO holds our mission and our trust with our customers with the utmost regard.”
One of the last speakers to present was Ron LeMay, Co-Founder and Managing Director, OpenAir Equity Partners; previous President and COO of Sprint Corporation, previous CEO of Sprint Wireless Division, and previous CEO of Japan Telecom. His eloquent and invigorating call for action focused on the current state of investing and technology in Kansas City. With a region so heavily populated with great minds and investment capital, he argued for local entrepreneurs to be unique, persistent, and hard-working in order to drive their ideas into successful businesses. A great message for everyone to hear, regardless of whether you’re starting your own business or contributing to a current business.
Entrepreneurs who can recognize their failures as a learning experience, brush the dirt from their knees, and move forward are more likely to prove themselves as willing to put in the work for a successful start-up. Ron LeMay is passionate about bringing more innovative, entrepreneurial businesses to Kansas City. He started the KC Rise Fund to help improve the funding for entrepreneurs in the Kansas City area.
Consensus between the interns here at C2FO, confirms the strategic retreat was an absolute success. The cooperation of the brilliant people associated with this organization was an experience gave us exceptional information regarding working capital, the state of the U.S. economy, debt and regulation, international markets, Tradeshift, the future of the C2FO marketplace, and the current state of investing and technology in Kansas City.
Olivia Beins relayed to me her awe of meeting the people associated with C2FO and her reflection of the importance of the partners and clients who attended the retreat. “I think it was a great experience. I enjoyed how [C2FO] brought the cream of the crop, but still invited the interns. I also wanted to thank Sandy for inviting us.”
John Hamilton also said, “the collaborative mindset that everyone [at the strategic retreat] shared” was interlaced throughout the whole day. “Everyone was focused on and invested in having a positive contribution to C2FO and our community at large.”