Disrupted supply chains and their consequences

Since the outbreak of the Corona pandemic two years ago, global supply chains congestion has threatened the existence of many companies.

Since the outbreak of the Corona pandemic two years ago, global supply chains congestion has threatened the existence of many companies. The supply bottlenecks extend across industries and products – from A for aluminium to Z for zippers.

Supply Chains Interruptions

Almost daily we read about interrupted supply chains, backlogs of orders, price increases for energy and raw materials, payment defaults and economic difficulties of companies. Many of these are pandemic-related after-effects and the war in Ukraine is fuelling the tense situation even further.

Since the outbreak of the Corona pandemic two years ago, global supply chain congestion has threatened the existence of many companies. The supply bottlenecks extend across industries and products – from A for aluminium to Z for zippers. Electronic parts and metals in particular, but also wood and packaging, are in short supply and more expensive due to the change in demand, and limited transport capacities are driving up prices even further.

„Supply Chain Risk” force field

What is striking about individual risks in the supply chain is that a general assessment is very difficult to estimate due to their possible “spillover effect” on other areas of the company.

Risks in the supply chain can be quite diverse. They can range from minor disruptions to the destruction of the entire chain. Minor problems – especially due to close business dependencies of the individual companies in the supply chain – can already cause considerable difficulties and trigger the well-known domino effect.

When financial strength is in short supply

What is striking about individual risks in the supply chain is that a general assessment is very difficult to estimate The current pandemic also shows that companies can get into a financial crisis or even become insolvent despite full order books. This predicament is caused by several special effects that – considered individually – could have been managed. These include delays in processing and invoicing orders, significant price increases in the procurement markets and longer delivery times. In addition, transport and logistics are sometimes subject to massive price increases and delays.

Sales activities, project processing and service business (especially in the project business) also suffer from the travel and quarantine regulations of the individual countries and further aggravating the situation. If price increases cannot be passed on to customers, or only partially, due to existing long-term contracts with buyers, the economic situation becomes even more acute.   

Full order books and yet insolvent

If the flow of goods falters or even comes to a standstill because missing materials or product parts interrupt the production, the spiral turns further downwards.

There is a lot of talk about back shoring or nearshoring production, but finding and implementing alternative sources of supply is difficult in the short term and usually expensive, plus many inputs cannot be sourced in the EU either. A supply chain disruption can be responsible for a massive loss of revenue if goods do not reach the customer on time or at all. Negative effects can include penalties, a possible loss of follow-up orders or the loss of key customers. In short, long-term disruption of supply chains can put a company under severe pressure and ultimately even lead to insolvency – both on the supplier side and the customer side.

Risk management through creditworthiness information

The risk management process of credit risks on the customer side can of course also be applied to the supplier side, although with increasingly long and complicated supply chains it is not always easy to know all risks sufficiently and to keep up to date.
 
Many companies use credit insurance to cover the debtor risk, whose core service is to check and monitor the creditworthiness of their buyers. But up-to-date information on financial stability is important not only on the debtor side but also on the supplier side.

Conclusion

In the face of pandemic supply difficulties, creditworthiness checks and monitoring should not be forgotten, from the supplier’s upstream supplier to the customer’s customer. All the more so when the supply chain encompasses all services – from creation to delivery of the finished product. So it’s not just the production process and the flow of trade that needs to be ensured, rather one of the key questions is: “How are my key suppliers doing financially?” The credit check provides the answer.

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Lisbeth Lorenz

Group Practice Leader Credit & Political Risk

T +43 5 04 04 280

Ukraine crisis – trade credit insurance and political risk

In view of the current developments in Ukraine and the unforeseeable consequences, the private credit insurers are not providing any new or additional cover on Russian and Ukrainian buyers for the time being.

In view of the dramatic developments in Ukraine, many companies are asking themselves how (and if at all) their trade receivables are secured in the event of a default in connection with an economic or political risk.

Frankly speaking, there is no simple yes or no to the different questions: the wording of the insurance contract and the corresponding General Conditions of Insurance must be examined in detail.

Risk-adjusted Credit Management

In view of the current developments in Ukraine and the unforeseeable consequences, the private credit insurers are not providing any new or additional cover on Russian and Ukrainian buyers for the time being. The private credit insurers are currently in talks with the credit-insured companies in order to understand and assess their risk situation and position in Russia and Ukraine.

The current development is extremely dynamic and restrictions must be expected on an ongoing basis. In near future, risk-adjusted measures can therefore be expected from the credit insurance market, such as starting with the reduction of the cover to the amounts currently outstanding.

Sanctions

In principle, the credit insurance contracts or their underlying General Conditions of Insurance contain so-called sanction clauses, which exclude any cover and other obligations on the part of the insurer if this violates applicable sanction provisions of the United Nations and/or the European Union and/or other national economic or trade sanctions or regulations to be observed get violated. Due to the complexity of sanctions clauses and their consequences as well as the currently tougher sanctions course (possible exclusion of Russian financial institutions from the international payment system SWIFT), we recommend monitoring the status of the sanctions measures particularly closely. For further information on sanctions, you may also contact your Chamber of Commerce.

At this point we would also like to mention the due diligence of a prudent businessman: You must manage all business which is covered under the trade credit contract with at least the same diligence and prudence as you would reasonably be expected to exercise were it not insured.

Scope of Cover – Trade Credit Insurance

In credit insurance contracts, the scope of coverage is usually individually designed. Hence, the wording of the respective insurance contract and the corresponding General Conditions of Insurance must be considered in detail.

Commercial Risk – Protracted Default

The commercial risk can be described as the deterioration of the creditworthiness of a private buyer, resulting in a payment default by or the insolvency of the buyer, not caused by political circumstances or occurrences.

The Protracted Default (=payment default) as an insured event usually occurs when a buyer cannot meet his obligation to pay the contractual debt within the agreed waiting period. However, under the given circumstances, the payment default is to be seen in the context of the wording of the contract and the General Conditions of Insurance.

For instance, if a foreign buyer (from the perspective of the Insured) wants to fulfill its contractual obligation and has deposited the equivalent value of the insured receivable at a bank but the deposited amount is not converted into the agreed currency or is not transferred due to authority or governmental orders, this event would not fall into the coverage of the commercial risk.

Political Risk

If the coverage of the political risk (basically only for defaults outside the policyholder`s country) is agreed in an insurance contract, the underlying wording must also be checked whether it is included in the coverage or has already been explicitly excluded by the insurer (= exclusion of political risk coverage for Russia, Ukraine…) and furthermore whether the political risk is not excluded by General Disclaimer.

Further questions?
The CC Credit Team will be happy to answer any specific questions you may have about your trade credit insurance contract. Please contact us directly.

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Lisbeth Lorenz

Group Practice Leader Credit & Political Risk

T +43 5 04 04 280

The new narrative for “good” companies

Those who take ESG principles into account in their company could benefit from better risk assessment in the future. Gudrun Meierschitz, Member of the Management Board of Acredia Versicherung AG, on this current topic.

ESG is the new standard for the “good company” of the future. Customers are demanding more sustainability. Social and environmental concerns are becoming more and more important and an increasingly engaged and critical public is openly questioning the future viability of organisations without environmental and social commitment.

Sustainably managed companies that meet the ESG criteria for the environment, society and corporate governance can already raise capital on more favourable terms. Companies that make slow progress on climate neutrality, for example, receive a lower ESG rating. Acredia and Euler Hermes are developing ESG decision parameters for credit insurance that will be used in future risk assessments.

Since the Paris Agreement 2015, sustainability risks – especially climate risks – have been more in the focus of evaluation. “Sustainability risks” are events and conditions of sustainability factors that could have a negative impact on the net assets, financial position and results of operations as well as on the reputation of a company. Sustainability factors include environmental, social and employee concerns (ESG risks), human rights and the fight against corruption and bribery.

Now we know that climate neutrality cannot be achieved overnight. Therefore, there are increased transition risks, those risks that arise from the transition to a climate-neutral economy and society. For example, assets emitted by CO2-intensive industries are exposed to the risk of impairment.

ESG assessment: These factors have an impact

When evaluating companies, demand, profitability, liquidity and the general business environment of an industry are important key figures. It is a simple question: What makes a company fit for the future? With the experiences from the pandemic, the stability of supply chains and the digitalisation competence of companies are also coming into focus. At the latest with the presentation of the EU climate strategy and the European ESG taxonomy directive, compliance with climate targets and ESG requirements also determine the assessment.

The fundamental questions are: What makes a sustainable company? Which company is particularly sustainably positioned?

In future, the ESG Taxonomy Regulation of the EU will set the standards for ESG measurement. Another important assessment basis is the credit rating with regard to financing decisions and third-party funds, for example by banks. The fact that credit decisions are based on ESG criteria is increasingly becoming the standard.

Governance is becoming even more important!

The aspects of corporate management, so-called governance, will take on an even more important role. Investors and rating agencies in particular see this as the most dynamic ESG factor. This factor will become all the more important the more fragmented the public’s position on individual issues becomes. The accompanying public polarisation points to a potential reputational dilemma. The decisive factor will be how corporate managers deal with this in external communication.

Action instead of reaction

Acredia is Austria’s largest credit insurance company. What we take for granted in other companies must be a matter of course for us. This means also taking responsibility for our own actions. We therefore want to start developing ESG standards ourselves. To this end, we are working on reducing our carbon footprint, firstly by changing our own individual behaviour and secondly by managing our investments accordingly.

In addition, we are working on ESG products and services that support sustainable business practices, among other things through our own ESG analysis criteria. These include internal factors such as ethical standards, the handling of diversity and attractiveness as an employer. And external influences such as customer structure, environmental analyses and the quality of external relationships also play an important role. In summary, in the future it will not only be about what a company does, but how and why it does or does not do something.

Only reporting is not enough

ESG is becoming the new narrative for the “good” company. This means an (even) higher demand on corporate communication. From the point of view of risk assessment, communicative risks in a highly mediatised public sphere are a topic that above all corporate management, i.e. governance, is decisively influenced.
While proactive communication with the public has been important in the past, in the future a transparent, honest and timely information policy will contribute significantly to a positive assessment of a company’s future viability.

Gudrun Meierschitz
Gudrun Meierschitz, 52, a native of Carinthia, economist and risk expert, has been working for Austria’s largest credit insurer for 30 years. She has been a member of the ACREDIA Board since 2017 and is responsible for Risk Management & Controlling, Finance, IT, Risk Underwriting, Information & Grading and Claims & Collections.

gudrun.meierschitz@acredia.at

Acredia Group
Acredia is Austria’s leading credit insurer, with a market share of over 50% and a total exposure of EUR 27.1 billion, protecting outstanding receivables in Austria and abroad. The company is owned by a management holding company in which Euler Hermes AG, Hamburg holds 49% and Oesterreichische Kontrollbank AG, Vienna 51%. The turnover of the Acredia Group totals EUR 79.7 million.
www.acredia.at

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Lisbeth Lorenz

Group Practice Leader Credit & Political Risk

T +43 5 04 04 280

“The economic buzzword of the crisis is securing liquidity!”

Lisbeth Lorenz, GrECo expert for credit insurance, in conversation with Rainer Kubicki and Gerhard Weinhofer, Managing Directors of Creditreform in Austria, about credit risk management in times of crisis.

Lorenz: In its 140-year history, Creditreform has expanded its range of services from classic business information reports to credit and receivables management and insolvency representation. In 2020, there were around 40 % fewer insolvencies than in 2019. What development do you expect in 2021?

Weinhofer: Insolvency activity as a seismograph for overall economic development has decoupled from the real state of Austrian companies. Despite the biggest economic crisis since the Second World War and a massive economic downturn in the wake of the pandemic, the number of corporate insolvencies has fallen to just over 3,000 proceedings. The last time there were so few insolvencies was 30 years ago. The paradox of sharply declining corporate insolvencies in an unprecedented economic crisis can only be explained by the serious interventions of politics.

What can we expect for 2021? Creditreform has analysed its balance sheet database with around 150,000 companies subject to filing requirements. Taking into account the current economic development with an estimated GDP decline of at least 7%, this results in around 50,000 companies at risk of insolvency. They could and can only continue to survive because of the low interest rates and the current aid measures.

Lorenz: When will the insolvency surge come?

Weinhofer: That will probably be the case at the latest when state regulations ─ however well-founded they may be ─ are scaled back and the free play of market forces is allowed again. This development will largely depend on how quickly the pandemic is brought under control through vaccination and confidence in the economy returns. What is clear, however, is that payday will come, both for companies and for all taxpayers.

Lorenz: Creditworthiness and payment behavior are known to have an impact on the results of a company’s business. Which aspects of risk and accounts receivable management do you have to pay special attention to now?

Weinhofer: What is new is that in 2020 it was not management errors that were the main cause of bad debt losses and insolvencies, but the lack of capital. Insolvency liabilities have risen to over EUR 2.3 billion despite the decline in corporate insolvencies. The federal government also calculates that of the current EUR 11 billion in loan liabilities, around EUR 2.5 billion will fall due. The economic buzzword of the crisis is therefore securing liquidity. Only sufficient liquidity protects against one’s own insolvency.

Kubicki: Risk and accounts receivable management is even more important in times of crisis than in normal times. In general, there is a confusing volatility in the markets. The saying “trust, look, whom” should therefore be the guiding principle in business relationships. In concrete terms, it is a matter of constantly keeping an eye on the solvency of one’s customers and evaluating it on an ongoing basis. It is often neglected that suppliers should also be increasingly in focus. Just think of the effects on one’s own production chain if an important supplier fails.

Lorenz: What useful tips and advice do you have for companies?

Kubicki: Especially in times of crisis, even customer relationships that have been free of friction for years can quickly become a credit risk. It is all the more important now to also subject these credit exposures to a credit check. This is exactly where we come in. With our monitoring services, our clients can check their entire client base daily for current developments and react immediately to changes in creditworthiness, etc. A portfolio analysis also offers the possibility to get a general overview for a risk assessment.

Special attention should also be paid to accounts receivable management. A tight, professional dunning system reduces the risk of bad debt losses. Our team of experts, who can distinguish legitimate debtor interests from possible tricks of individuals, provides support in pre-court debt collection. Since every crisis also holds the opportunity to win new customers, we offer credit-checked marketing data to find new potential in a precise and targeted manner.

Lorenz: One more personal question in conclusion. How has the pandemic affected your life?

Kubicki: I was initially sceptical about the regular home office and had to learn how to deal with the new situation. But our IT department worked highly professionally, and so the changeover went smoothly at all locations within a very short time. The commitment and dedication of our employees impressed me and our entire management team. We also took measures at an early stage and communicated comprehensively from the beginning, e.g. with our own explanatory video. Since autumn, we have been almost completely home office. Personally, however, I am looking forward to meetings and customer appointments being possible on site again.

Weinhofer: I have gained new experience on how to lead a team from the home office and motivate it ─ especially in uncertain times. It was and is important to maintain social contacts in addition to my professional life in order to find a balance ─ even if it is only virtual.

Thank you for the interview!

Rainer Kubicki
Managing Partner Creditreform Wirtschaftsauskunftei
Kubicki KG
T +43 218 62 20 101
r.kubicki@wien-creditreform.at

While still studying economics in Cologne and Wuppertal, Rainer Kubicki trained as a managing director at Creditreform Düsseldorf and Neuss. Since 1982 he has been managing partner of Creditreform Wirtschaftsauskunftei Kubicki KG. Rainer Kubicki is also President of the Austrian Creditreform Association (ÖVC), Chairman of the Professional Group Committee of Debt Collectors in the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber, member of the Professional Group Committee of Credit Reference Agencies in the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber, board member of the Austrian Debt Collectors Association (IVÖ) and member of the Regional Advisory Board of AMS Esteplatz, 1030 Vienna

Mag. Gerhard M. Weinhofer
Managing Director Österreichischer Verband Creditreform
T +43 218 62 20 551
g.weinhofer@wien-creditreform.at

Gerhard Weinhofer studied law at the University of Vienna and then worked as a legal intern at the Vienna Higher Regional Court and as an intern at the European Parliament in Brussels. In 2005, he moved from the Federation of Austrian Industries to Creditreform Wirtschaftsauskunftei Kubicki KG as an authorised signatory. Since 2011 he has been Managing Director of Creditreform.

Creditreform
Creditreform is Europe’s most important creditor protection organisation and has been active in Austria since 1889. 4,200 employees in 167 offices in 22 European countries and in China provide professional services for 157,000 clients: from marketing databases to risk and receivables management, business reports and company ratings. In Austria, Creditreform also represents creditors in insolvency proceedings before the insolvency courts.

Related Insights

Lisbeth Lorenz

Group Practice Leader Credit & Political Risk

T +43 5 04 04 280

Economic rollercoaster

Strike a blow for trade credit insurance

Due to the Covid-19 crisis, private credit insurers expected a drastic increase in corporate insolvencies and thus high losses. Therefore, they had to tighten their underwriting policy considerably. The credit insurers reacted to the changing risk environment by downgrading and reducing cover in many countries, sectors and industries.

Hence, the EU Commission assumed that the capacities of private credit insurers would very soon no longer be sufficient for exports for all countries, but that at the same time the demand for credit insurance was likely to increase considerably due to the crisis.

State schemes for exports

The aim of state schemes (like in Germany, Belgium, UK, Netherlands, Slovenia, Norway, Italy…) was to ensure that the private credit insurers continue to maintain their granted credit limits in order to enable exporters to conduct new export business despite the crisis. These schemes gave early comfort to credit insurers to maintain the granted credit limits on commercial buyers. However, they showed little effect only.

At the end of June 2021 these schemes will expire. Why? Many governments have passed huge economic stimulus programmes to fight against the economic crisis caused by Covid-19. As a result, predicted claims from insolvencies and non-payments were much lower than normal in many countries.

According to ICISA (the International Credit Insurance & Surety Association) it is noted that on a global level, claims were up in comparison to last year reflecting that state aid was different according to the financial possibilities and capabilities of countries. It was stated by ICISA that premium and exposure remained at high levels despite some reductions, also mirroring the economic impact of government interventions in support of the real economy.

  • Despite the challenging economic environment and uncertainties, insurance coverage for trade reaches new peaks in 2020. A few figures (Source: press article “The-ICISA-Insider_June-2021”):
  • Insured exposure was 2.4 trillion EUR in 2020 despite the COVID-19 pandemic, thereby supporting world trade.
  • Premium written was 6.3 billion EUR in 2020 compared to 6.9 billion EUR in 2019 at constant FX rates, showing the effects of COVID-19 early in 2020.
  • Claims paid increased by 12% to 3.8 billion EUR.

Some companies are now specifically questioning their trade credit insurance. In terms of the risk of non-payment and working capital, the payment method “open payment terms” is not the safest payment method.

On the one hand importance of the trade credit as a sales promotion instrument has become an integral part of business life. On the other hand, the risk is quite high. The risk for the supplier consists in the fact that the customer will be late, only partially or not at all fulfilling his payment obligations. The supplier bears all risks and the financing costs for the supplier credit granted.

Prepayment as an alternative?

Let´s have a look at two different payment methods in trade. Prepayment” may be the best alternative in relation to the risk of non-payment as well on working capital because the payment takes place before delivery / service provided that the prepayment is accepted by the customer. But in international trade it could be a major competitive disadvantage for the supplier.

Letters of Credit as an alternative?

Letters of credit are most often used in international trade when the buyer is unknown to the exporter or in politically more risky countries. On the one hand, letters of credit offer exporters security of payment. In practice, there are several varieties of letters of credit. It is very important for exporters to be aware of exactly what kind of letter the buyer has obtained. On the other hand, letters of credit have disadvantages as well. Letters of credit involve a large amount of minutest details, and payment will only be made if the terms of the letter are met accurately. Costs for the buyer should not be disregarded either as these could make the exporter uncompetitive compared to other exporters who sell their goods on open payment terms.

You can say that effort, complexity, practicality and price are not really an alternative to a trade credit insurance solution.

Trade credit insurance is the first choice

Many of our clients use a credit insurance as a tool to manage the risks of their business. This has been the case for many years and will likely remain the mean of first choice to protect business transactions on open payment terms with an appropriate credit insurance solution. It is not just the indemnification in the event of a claim, but rather the professional monitoring of the market participants` creditworthiness in a manner that cannot even come close to being checked internally. This claim is realised in the best possible way through the risk transfer in the form of credit insurance. Credit Insurance as an early warning indicator helps to prevent payment defaults from occurring in the first place, which in turn is much better than suffering from losses.

Nonetheless, the credit insurance sector is called to action. Rebounded economic developments must be supported by the credit insurance industry with sufficient revolving cover for goods being delivered or services rendered. The credit insurance industry should support suppliers to take advantage of opportunities and at the same time quickly identify, minimise and cover risks.

Related Insights

Lisbeth Lorenz

Group Practice Leader Credit & Political Risk

T +43 5 04 04 280

Manage receivables safely!

Lisbeth Lorenz, Group Practice Leader Trade Credit

Especially in difficult economic times, the risk of credit default plays an explosive role. Every supplier who sells his goods or services on open account with a payment term is exposed to this risk. In the short term, the receipt of payment is at risk, in the medium and long term, sales can drop off.

The success of a company is also determined by taking the “right” risks. Managing credit risks also means estimating the payment risk of customers as accurately as possible and operating efficient credit management.

In times of crisis, companies often unintentionally become larger “lenders”, as is the case now, as many customers are already asking their suppliers to extend payment terms. However, unplanned changes in the period during which capital is tied up can create deadline risks for the company and endanger its own liquidity.

Internal data in particular provide the first indications of imminent payment difficulties on the part of customers. Even healthy companies can get into financial turmoil. If this happens, professional risk monitoring by the insurer is advisable for the supplier.

The most common early warning indicators are:
– A change in payment behaviour, a strong deterioration in payment behaviour, an extension of payment terms as well as an unjustified discount deduction despite the utilisation of the payment term.

– A significant reduction in the usual order quantities (possibly lack of demand) or an extraordinary increase (possibly a sign that other suppliers are already withdrawing due to negative indications).

– Unexpectedly demanded payments on account, partial payments or unfounded complaints.

– First signs of liquidity deficiencies, such as uncashed bank debits, bill protests or bounced cheques
– Instalment payment plans.

A closer look should be taken at financial risks, especially liquidity risks. The monitoring of these risks ensures that a company’s solvency is maintained at a level that is essential for its existence.

Challenges for credit management as part of working capital management:

– Up-to-date and comprehensive information about one’s own receivables structure and the payment behaviour of customers is crucial for the management of receivables inventories, especially now.

– Your dunning strategy, which includes the start and end, frequency, number and type of dunning notices, is well established. Examine the customer portfolio. The dunning activities can vary depending on the fulfilment of defined criteria (e.g. amount due, customer risk class, countries, etc.)

– Check your room for manoeuvre within the framework of the planned corporate development. Permanent monitoring of the receivables inventories makes current developments clear and thus enables you to react quickly to negative trends. In this way, the necessary measures can be initiated immediately in order to identify problematic developments in the receivables inventory at an early stage and to counteract them.

Companies like to use credit insurance to secure supplier credits. This at least partially shifts the risk of default.

Related Insights

Lisbeth Lorenz

Group Practice Leader Credit & Political Risk

T +43 5 04 04 280