A Latin Impact on the Finance Industry

Financial Institutions are a fantastic business model to learn from when considering ever changing market conditions. Their traditional target markets are stable, but, the needs of an emerging market, the Latino market is extremely underserved. It is certainly not for lack of money. Many Latinos have zero debt and healthy saving habits. The question arises, are financial institutions doing enough to serve this population? Are they adapting to the Latino needs? The answer is complicated.

There are two types of Latinos in the USA. One is the immigrant seeking a better life and wanting the American dream, whether they came through the proper channels or not it is irrelevant. The second, are the Latinos that are born here. These are two very different groups of people with different needs and goals. Most immigrants bring their culture, traditions, and customs with them to the US. Those born here develop a blended culture that is both Latino and American.

Financial Institutions are taking notice and making strides to accommodate this very economically influential population. The main reason is that there is a lot of investment in education and developing trust. An untold detail is that in Latino countries, people do not trust banks and financial institution because of corruption. Everything is paid in cash and there are no debt or traditional credit scores. This means that the Latino community have cash, probably stored under their mattress or in a shoe box. This is very dangerous considering that a house fire could burn an entire life savings. Another scenario is they could become a target for robbery. This is a foreign concept for Americans. What is happening is a huge learning curve, educating them on the process of building credit, saving their money in a financial institution, getting loans (mortgage, car, etc.), and most important having trust in the financial institutions.

The younger generations that are born here learn from their parents and surroundings. There is still a disconnect from the importance of financial products, building credit, and how that process works. Many of these young people are just translating for their parents, explaining financial products, and become an intermediary for conducting business. You will notice an increase in bilingual support at many financial institutions for this reason. There is still a lot of work to do in this regard, and this process will take time.

However, more and more financial institutions are offering products specific to Latinos. Information is becoming available in Spanish and more financial institutions are hiring bilingual and multi-lingual speakers. It will be interesting to see how we as a country adapt to this important demographic. It is truly an untapped market that has an important function in our economy for growth and stability.

E-Invoicing in 7 Steps

Step One: Know your ‘as-is’ process:

I knew all too well in my days of selling e-invoicing, that if a prospect didn’t know their ‘as-is’ process, they were a good 12 to 24 months from implementing e-invoicing. So don’t skip Step One.

If you don’t know your process, you probably don’t know key metrics like your First Time Match Rate. This means you won’t know the degree to which e-invoicing might help you (and you may have problems in your process which need other solutions, as well).

And, you probably don’t know the true cost of your invoicing process, and therefore will not be able to put together a water-tight business case.

By mapping out your ‘as is’ process you will come to understand:

  • Why invoices fail
  • How e-invoicing can remedy problems in your process flow
  • How many invoices would be ‘in scope’ should you proceed with e-invoicing
  • What your ‘as-is’ cost is, and how much it will go down by moving to electronic
  • How many days it’s currently taking to process an invoice, and how e-invoicing would reduce the time
  • How, by reducing the number of days, your capturing of negotiated discounts might be favorably effected

Step One is likely to take you 3 to 6 months, but by the end of it you’ll be clearer and more realistic when you make your business case.Importantly, knowing your cost-per-transaction is essential for negotiating effectively with the provider you end up signing.

Step Two: Know the vision of the company:

Process change makes sense to stakeholders when it is contextualized against the overarching ambitions of the company.

This means it’s worth taking the time to understand where the company wants to be in 6, 12 or 24 months’ time, and you can extrapolate that intention back to how e-invoicing might accelerate or bolster the realization of that goal. Take the time to lift yourself from the ‘day to day’ and understand where the company is headed. (Ask lots of questions, and really listen to the answers.) Then you can:

  1. Understand and communicate the wider purpose of e-invoicing and position e-invoicing as a key enabler for realizing goals
  2. Use the language of the senior management to present e-invoicing back to them
  3. Move e-invoicing up the priority list

This endeavor requires planning, and an investment of time outside your day job, but it will pay off down the road, when your CFO and CPO and CTO (Chief Treasury Officer) see e-invoicing as their single point of failure.Step Three: Get procurement on board early

This is easier for an organization where Finance and Procurement are already aligned, already share reporting lines and objectives, and operate as one team.

But in organizations where this ‘joined-upness’ doesn’t exist, it’s common for Finance to own the project, because they get the more immediate gains, and involve Procurement almost as an afterthought. This can kill the project on the spot.

This is largely because e-invoicing is a supplier-focused program, and even though Finance, or rather Accounts Payable, pays suppliers, they are actually owned by Procurement. This means suppliers will listen to Procurement regarding the e-invoicing project first, and finance second. So if procurement are not brought in, or are at all dismissive of e-invoicing, your suppliers will feel this mood, and drag their heels in signing up.

This is perhaps the key to getting e-invoicing right, and so easily overlooked as a small detail. It’s not. It will make – or catastrophically break – your project.

When working with Procurement, consider the following:

  • Drivers – why are we doing e-invoicing?
  • Scope – all suppliers, invoice types, AP transaction types, countries?
  • Solution scope – just e-invoicing or an end to end solution?
  • Message – mandatory or optional?
  • Quality of the database – will the comms ‘land on the right desk’?
  • Signatory – how senior will the signatories be? The CPO and the CFO? (Ideally, yes.)
  • Targets – are Finance and Procurement KPI’d on the same targets?
  • The non-compliant – who will respond to the suppliers that resist?
  • Who will own the project? Perhaps Finance and Procurement together?

Investing time in seeking out a partnership from Procurement early on is fundamental to a successful project.Step Four: Give the project a name

You will likely find that the nameless projects stay in project status for a long time, and rarely move to operational or ‘go live’. This is not a coincidence.

By giving your e-invoicing project both a pre- and post- contract name, you:

  1. Give it an identity which helps people ‘get it’
  2. Create interest and curiosity (‘what is this Globe project everyone’s talking about?’)
  3. Avoid confusion because you’re all talking about the same thing
  4. Heighten engagement and inspire greater emotional attachment, especially, I find, if you stay away from the obvious like Globe, Probe, e-Procurement Project – all decent names, but how about something more fun, like names of characters from movies or fiction? Or having a competition (with a really good prize) to come up with the most creative name?

Step Five: Know what you’re shopping forWhat do you want? Is it a best-of-breed e-invoicing solution? Is it e-invoicing with dynamic discounting? Is it e-invoicing with workflow and routing, or an e-procurement functionality for your upstream procurement process? Do you need it to be VAT compliant and language sensitive because you are rolling out across multiple countries? And do you need to use their onboarding capabilities? (This is always advisable.)

Knowing what you want, and then capturing these requirements in a document is key.

You will have:

  • Commercial and business requirements
  • Process requirements
  • Scope requirements (impacting the legal treatment and the languages supported)
  • IT requirements (but these are probably weighted lightly, as all e-invoicing solutions I know of are system agnostic)
  • Resource or/and timing requirements

Then make sure that the companies you invite to respond to the RFP all offer similar-ish services, so you are not comparing one solution type against another completely different solution type in order to make a decision.Step Six: Determine the cost of delayed-implementation

Quantifying the cost of doing nothing – ‘continuing as per’, and having this as a daily, weekly, monthly and annual figure, will help drive a deadline.

It’s advisable to build this figure with the main stakeholders, so they all agree on it, and understand that, allowing the project to slip by a month is actually costing the company X.

Having the daily figure will help drive the pace of the project.

Step Seven: Follow the best practices of the provider

The provider you end up selecting will have likely rolled out 20 – 100 e-invoicing programs (if it is one of the bigger providers like Tungsten, Ariba, Taulia or Tradeshift). This means you will be benefiting from their experience, which is now structured, and documented.

Some providers swear by their best-practices so much that they attach a guarantee to their invoice conversion.

Best practices will include advice like “clean your suppler data, or let us clean it”, “have procurement sign off on the communication”, “be available and ready to respond when some suppliers say they won’t comply with the request”.

10 Rules for Composing Terms and Conditions for Your Invoices

Solid terms and conditions for your invoices are extremely important for your small business. If your invoices are complicated to understand or confusing to read, you may do some severe damage to your cash flow. Why? Mainly because if the client can’t understand your invoice they’re not going just pay. Your client wants to be sure that they’re being priced the proper amount of the goods or services that they requested.

1. Start thinking about all potential legal problems and scenarios.

The first thing that you must do before writing down your terms and conditions is to list all the probable legal obstacles or circumstances that could happen.

As an example:

  • What measures will you take if the client does not pay the invoice?
  • What will happen if you’re past due on delivering your services or products or service to the customer?
  • What will you do if the client is dissatisfied with your goods and services?
  • What will happen if the product or service is damaged when being provided by your client’s delivery service?
  • Are there any incentives if your customers pay beforehand?
  • What kind of rate of interest would you like to charge for late payments?
  • What if the customer is interested to renegotiate the contract just after the two parties agree to the terms and conditions?
  • Can your customer request a reimburse? If it does, what scenarios would allow for this?
  • What will happen if the scope of the work becomes wider?
  • If there was a misestimate on a budget or quote, who is going to pay for it?
  • Who is responsible if a product breaks after being bought?
  • What strategy will you undertake it the agreement or contract is terminated?

It might take a little time to think about and formulate this list, but as soon as you have got all of this written down you will be in a position to write future conditions and terms in a flash with the other clients that you will add to your client list. Most importantly, having the most appropriate terms and conditions for your firm will ensure that you are compensated and take care of your business if legal action is ever undertaken.

2. PROVIDE ALL CRUCIAL PARTS OF AN INVOICE.

Featuring the all-important elements of an invoice isn’t going to only speed-up the payment process, it will also answer whatever questions that the client has with regards to the goods or services that you provided for them.

When generating invoices, ensure that that you include:

  • Your logo
  • Invoice number
  • Your contact information
  • Your client’s contact information
  • The due date
  • The products or services you provided and their costs
  • The forms of payment that you accept
  • Early payment invoice discounts or enforce late fees

Before mailing out the invoice, ensure that all the information is right and that it’s being sent to the correct person. Any errors can easily slow-up the payment process and make you appear less professional.

3. CLEARLY EXPLAIN THE PRODUCTS/SERVICES BEING PROVIDED OR SCOPE OR THE PROJECT.

This is certainly the most relevant part of the terms and conditions on your invoice. Why? Because it describes what particularly the client is paying you for.

Like for example, if you are hired to make an internet-site for a client and it’s more than the client has imagined, having a description of the time and expenses it cost you to finish job answers any kind of questions or doubts relating to the final sum of the invoice.

4. SHORTEN YOUR PAYMENT TERMS

This should be {is kind of} obvious, but when you give customers a lot of time to make a payment, the longer it takes for you to get paid, which in turns leads to a slower cash flow.

So if you have a customer 45 days to pay an invoice, for instance, and that customer paid you a couple of weeks late, that means you’ve waited 2 whole months to receive a payment.

A payment term of 30 days or even less is the standard when it comes to invoicing simply because it’s helpful in keeping the cash flowing. Nevertheless, review your industry’s invoice standards and check with the client when their pay cycle runs. These factors can help you establish your payment terms.

5. HIGHLIGHT GUARANTEES AND WARRANTIES

It is not unusual for any business that is selling goods and services too often give guarantees and warranties. It makes them look more legit and reputable and gives the customer assurance. If you do provide a guarantee or warranty, make sure that is clearly outlined in your terms and conditions.

Never forget to address topics like situations where the client/customer loses their guarantee or warranty.

6. PURSUE LATE PAYMENTS.

Generally, there will be times when customers won’t pay invoices by the due date. Instead of being passive, you need to be persistent by tracking down those particular late payments.

Regularly keep track of your customers’ payment due dates and get in contact with them by telephone, e-mail, or mail if they have not paid you by the due date and feature late-fee terms on your invoices, like charging interest on over due payments – which a trusted cloud-based invoicing software will do for you automatically.

In case you can’t get a hold of the late-paying client, or they are not responsive to follow-ups, you may possibly have to send a collection letter, hire a collection agency, or take them to court. Make all of this information crystal clear from the beginning.

7. ONE SIZE DOES NOT FIT ALL.

Be sure that your terms are specifically created for your business. Remember, your business does not have the identical requirements, resources, and clients that other businesses have. Because of this you can’t really just copy and paste the terms and conditions from a commonly used template or another business considering that they probably won’t address your particular needs.

A template is really good for starting and directing you in the right directions, but ultimately you have to write terms and conditions that best match your business and clientele.

8. ALWAYS BE PROFESSIONAL AND POLITE.

Being polite can have a beneficial influence on your business. Simply adding a phrase such as kindly pay your invoice within twenty-one days” or “thank you for your business” can, in fact, increase the number of invoices getting paid by more than 5 percent! This may not sound like much, but this can result in thousands of us dollars per year right into your banking account.
Aside from assisting you get paid faster, being professional and polite can easily make improvements to your brand’s image.

9. MAKE THE TERMS AND CONDITIONS UNCOMPLICATED TO READ.

Keep the language in your conditions and terms simplified and intuitive. Put yourself in the shoes of your clients’ customers and realize that they’re not all familiar with industry terminology and even bookkeeping terms, like for example “net 30.”

Additionally, don’t aim to hide every single thing on just one page by using a small font so that your clients are not able to read the fine print. It will look tricky to your client and will ruin your reputation (regardless if there is nothing tricky on your invoice).

10. WHEN IN DOUBT, ASK FOR HELP.

When all else fails to perform as expected, or you wind up in a sophisticated or specialized situation, don’t hesitate to seek guidance from your mentor, fellow business managers, or your attorney. These are individuals that have experience in writing terms and conditions and are more acquainted with laws and regulations then you are.