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The IFG 50th Annual Meeting.


All were gathered to build on the International Factors Group platforms of networking, business development, education and knowledge sharing. Not just to look back, but to embrace the future of the Industry.

Outgoing Chairman Peter Ewen opened the Conference by outlining what he sees as the key future developments in the Industry; harmonisation of legal systems, the increasing prevalence of regulation, the creation of a common language and terms, the embrace of new technology and the need for greater representation of the industry.

These themes clearly struck a chord with the audience as throughout the Conference the issues of harmonisation and regulation were prevalent sources of debate and discussion.

The IFG was delighted to be able to introduce as keynote speaker Guy Verhofstadt, the 47th Prime Minister of Belgium and Leader of the European Liberal Group at the European Parliament, who outlined his compelling assessment of the causes of the current Eurozone difficulties (in essence a common currency without common political control) and proposed his solution of a more integrated federalist Europe to offer centralised fiscal control and common political authority and order.

Bruno Dupont of Euralia, a monitoring and lobbying organisation working with the EU Federation for the Factoring and Commercial Finance Industry (an IFG initiative), gave an overview of how Europe has been reacting to the Eurozone problems and the need for the Industry to exercise its voice in the design and implementation of the increasing regulation designed to help recovery and to protect the EU 27 from further shocks. He alluded to the changes proposed in CRD IV, Shadow Banking rules, VAT harmonisation, the implementation by the USA of FATCA regulations and Anti Money Laundering provisions as examples.

These strategic overview introductions were followed by a panel discussion led by Bob Lefroy, in which Magdalena Wessel (Germany), Kate Sharp (UK and Ireland), Francoise Palle-Guillabert (France), Rony Hamaui (Italy), Josep Selles (Spain) and John Fox (USA) compared and contrasted the level, nature, value and desirability of the regulatory and legislative models for factoring in their respective countries. Their wide ranging discussions served to reinforce the diversity of conditions (from highly to non-regulated environments) and the range views that currently exist.

Erik Timmermans, representing BZIX bvba, Secretary General, then updated the Meeting with an overview of the State of the Nation for IFG. In 2011, global turnover for the Industry had increased by 25% to almost €2Tr, with around 2,700 suppliers and approaching half a million clients. He noted IFG’s focus on developing its four Regional Chapters (Conferences and Meetings), on Networking and Events, Education (the IFG Academy and new e-learning programme), Industry co-operation (with many cross border examples cited) and the provision of information (for example the Global Industry Activity Report).

Whilst overall member numbers have remained stable, the reach has increased, with IFG now represented in 62 countries.

Two factor volume has reduced as a result of the withdrawal of one large scale user, but is steadily being replaced by a new set of users.

Education remains key to developing the Industry and the presentation focused on the development of IFG’s ground breaking and unique programmes. The IFG Academy has finished its third cycle and is going from strength to strength with highly positive endorsements from users. The new e-learning Foundation course was introduced by IFG Consultant John Brehcist; available now in English, it will soon be offered in Russian, Spanish and Chinese.

IFG finances remain robust with an anticipated surplus despite membership fees having been held constant for a number of years.

Four break out sessions were organised in which attendees debated the issues and opportunities raised by Regulation and Harmonisation (a group chaired by Dr. Ulrich Brink); The future of factoring in 2022 (Jorg Diewald); Developing International Business (Carlos Baudrand) and Growing Emerging Markets (Margrith Lutschg –Emmenegger).

This intense and involving first day was followed by a visit and reception held at Brussels Town Hall, a wonderful medieval building with unique charm and atmosphere. The sense of history, both that of the City and of the IFG’s 50th Meeting was palpable and present.

The second day of the Conference opened with voting session for officers of the Organisation. The IFG is delighted to confirm that the new Chairman of the Organisation is Mr Gerhard Prenner of Austria and the new Vice Chairman Mrs Margrith Lutschg –Emmenegger of Malta.

Messrs Carlos Baudrand (Chile), Philippe Zamaron (France) were re-elected to the Board and a new Member, Mr John Bevan (Barclays Sales Finance UK) was elected for the first time. The Budget for 2013 was also approved at the same session.

Richard Laxer, President and CEO of GE Capital EMEA gave a tour de force review of the global economic situation and its implications for the Industry. Whilst there is considerable economic uncertainty, volatility translates to opportunity. Our industry is increasingly recognised by users who value flexibility and by funders who value the potential returns. However, greater awareness is still required to improve acceptability and we need to strive for simplicity for both customers and regulators.

Dirk Van Strijthem, CEO of KBC Commercial Financed followed with an in depth review of the Basel II regulations and their impact upon the daily operations of a bank provider in the Industry. He focused on the complexity of the models and the relative benefits for our industry where an advanced internal ratings based approach can be followed.

Peter Ewen then led a panel based session on the future of factoring in mature markets in which he challenged the members Jan Berent Heukensfeldt Jansen (Netherlands), Joachim Secker (Germany) Martin Cooper (UK), Simon Featherstone (UK) and Philippe Zamaron (France) to answer a recent assertion from a new technology platform provider that “factoring is dead!”

A lively defence of the prospects for Industry ensued, with Joachim being particularly Anglo-Saxon in his response, welcoming the opportunity to compete! However the panel did recognise that in order to build and develop, the Industry has to ensure it continues to attract good quality people to take on the challenge.

IT provider Members and Sponsors then considered the impact of technology development and their roles in taking the Industry forward. The importance of working together to identify and implement innovative uses of technology was noted as a key opportunity for IFG and its members.

Martin Henley of The Effective Marketing Company then challenged attendees to consider the benefits of social media based marketing and to adopt the approach within their businesses. With the democratisation of knowledge, information and experience, new tools to interact with influencers and users are required. He urged attendees to consider using applications like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Survey Monkey, You Tube, Slideshare etc to improve their interaction with their potential and actual audiences.

Fernando Gonzalez del Riego and Jan Danielson fed back the output from the break out sessions. They reported that the Regulation and Harmonisation group generally felt there was a willingness to be subject to more regulation providing it was appropriate to the industry. Bank owned providers were more likely to be amenable but a general view was that the market is the best regulator.

The Developing International Business group considered that two factor business fits better with emerging markets and should remain a key pillar of IFG business support. New products (such as umbrella insurance and cross border ABL) should be encouraged but introduced after careful analysis. The emerging markets group were optimistic about opportunity and recognise the potential will be affected by, for example, legislative controls and business environment. IFG must work to harmonise, educate and provide partnership and support. Finally, the group looking at Factoring in 2022 fortunately agreed that the industry will still be here! There will be changes in model, with IT innovation playing a part in improving efficiency. There will be more regulation; we have to deal with it and build from the here and now.

To close the Conference, Bob Lefroy ran through the discussions, highlighting the cogent and informative contributions from presenters and audience. We have now had 50 years; all agree the best is yet to come!


Source: IFG

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