GTR and Standard Chartered gathered a group of US-based corporate finance executives in New York in late 2023 to find out how they are adapting their supply chains – and financing approaches – amid geopolitical tensions, a high-interest rate environment and the growing emphasis on ESG.



  • Jordane Rollin, head of trade & working capital, Americas, Standard Chartered (chair)
  • João Galvão, head of trade sales, transaction banking, Americas, Standard Chartered
  • Louri Amador, assistant treasurer, PVH Corp
  • Lenny Floria, head of Americas regional treasury and structured Finance, Nokia
  • Jessie Wang, VP of finance, Telamon Corporation
  • Stephanie Kim, chief administrative officer, Telamon Corporation

Pictured: From left to right: Jordane Rollin, João Galvão, Louri Amador, Lenny Floria, Jessie Wang, Stephanie Kim


Rollin: What types of changes have we seen in the trade, supply chain and working capital finance environment over the past 12 months? What are your perspectives on the current financing landscape and are you anticipating major changes in the next year?

Floria: For 2024, Nokia’s main structured financing activity is arranging export credit financing for our customers. I consider it my job to make sure every customer gets a competitive proposal from us. We use two main export credit agencies (ECAs): Export Development Canada (EDC) and Finnvera from Finland. EDC usually provides direct loans, while Finnvera provides bank guarantees. For both products, it is very difficult. Clients are, of course, looking at the rate environment and alternatives. The current rate environment has complicated the landscape of proposing these types of loans but we see a lot of opportunity.

Nokia has two sets of clients: on the one side you have ATT, Verizon and T Mobile, which are being pitched to by every bank in the world, and I’m also competing with the capital markets. They have alternatives. Nokia funds them because we’re very competitive and can deliver financing at rates they would not normally be able to get, while still priced within the market.

There’s a second type of client Nokia is able to serve, bearing in mind my perimeters are the Americas. These are single-B-rated or triple-C-rated clients, including clients in Argentina and the US. Every dollar capacity we can bring in these markets is generating sales. One of the unwritten rules is that ECAs are fundamentally insurance companies, so they want to have a balanced portfolio risk. The more I can feed these agencies investment-grade exposure from transactions including companies such as AT&T, Verizon or T Mobile risk, the higher the likelihood the ECAs will accept single B or triple-C risk.

I am very proud and thankful for the support and the success we have had with EDC and Finnvera in 2023 and I am looking forward to 2024.


Rollin: Across these various solutions, have there been any specific challenges in the past 12 months?

Floria: The biggest change we have seen in structured finance regarding the ECA guarantee is that there was a change in the OECD export credit guarantee structure. ECAs were previously only permitted to provide guarantees for 8.5-year amortising loans but are now allowed to go up to 15 years. Following an assessment of the market, it appears financial institutions have decided a 10-to-12-year amortising credit would be appropriate for the life of my sales. Despite the rate environment, my clients are interested in these longer tenors.


Rollin: Bearing in mind the high interest rate environment and some of the other challenges present in the market, what other specific solutions have been helpful in boosting working capital?

Amador: PVH does not finance directly; we use GT Nexus to provide a supply chain financing option to our suppliers and, given the higher rate environment, it is becoming very expensive to obtain financing. Still, PVH’s suppliers are at an advantage, especially those that would struggle to independently secure financing from our partner banks. At the same time, the rates are more favourable to those that are ranked as green or gold suppliers through our ESG programme.

GT Nexus is a platform we use not only for our logistics – all the documents for shipment are recorded on the platform – but we also use it to pay our suppliers. We pay Infor Nexus and they pay the suppliers who have the option to finance their receivables or not. Our banking partners help with participating in the programme and can extend favourable rates. But in truth, it is still challenging in this interest rate environment – for the smaller companies at least.

Kim: Our perspective is a little bit different because that’s not how we finance. Telamon takes on the financing for others as our company is privately held. We can offer our balance sheet up to other companies who want to offload items on their balance sheet. What we find is that a lot of the customers are not all that familiar with trade finance, which can pose a challenge as these clients are very rate-conscious. They have to take into account what the bank rate is and then add our fee on top of that. Our role is to get them comfortable and outline how trade financing works, and then ensure they are familiar with Telamon as a company. They may not have heard of us as we are privately held.


Rollin: In the past two years, banks, corporates and other supply chain actors have been talking about a shift from just-in-time to just-in-case supply chain management. This speaks to the need to build out and hold a larger inventory. Do companies see inventory finance as a key financing option for their full supply chains?

Wang: Yes, definitely. A bank recently said they could provide 100% value on the collateral held in a warehouse via a technology platform. In the past, one of our major success stories was a programme which was structured to allow our vendors to get paid 10 days after shipment. Under the programme, lenders could get shorter payment terms and savings on their financing – and as part of the agreement, Telamon would carry the inventory for 90 days. This structure enabled the vendor to use a just-in-time approach whereby they could withdraw the inventory whenever they needed it, without carrying any inventory on their balance sheet. This is a win-win situation for everyone, including Telamon, because there is no customer credit risk and banks are also participating, so in essence, there’s no inventory risk. Telamon can earn a margin by managing the whole supply chain.

Nonetheless, there are challenges in the inventory finance market. A customer may come to Telamon and ask: ‘Can you buy and hold this US$20mn shipment of equipment for us?’ Our primary bank may be able to do asset-based lending, but this approach does not necessarily work because the lender is only giving Telamon 50 cents for every US$100. Under the traditional bank asset-based lending structure, they will not consider any commercial arrangements even if I have a customer guarantee. This is why we are looking beyond banks to non-bank financers such as GE Capital, IBM Capital or Castlepoint Capital, all of which allow me to use 100% of the inventory as capital. At the end of the day, Telamon wants to manage and diversify its portfolio to ensure we are not solely or heavily dependent on just one bank.

Recently, we initiated plans to diversify, grow, and expand our long-term relationship with Verizon to be an authorised distributor into their indirect retail channel. If our aim is to significantly grow this business across thousands of point-of-sale locations within three years, then I need to be able to finance all the inventory. So that’s my challenge; I need to figure out a way that we can diversify, all the while still locking in reasonable financing costs. We do not want to just grow our top line; we also want to make sure we are profitable.

Galvão: It’s a great point. From our perspective, companies like GE Capital can take a different type of risk. Banks are more restricted by risk considerations, regulations and capital metrics, and there is a huge gap in the market that lenders need to address. Eventually, we should develop a product whereby we extend inventory financing without an offtake agreement already in place, but it will take some time.

Floria: There have been discussions in the bank market about this type of offering, but for now, we are yet to see banks operating directly in this space – only indirectly. Lenders still require the offtake agreement to be firmly in place. Nokia is slightly unique because we are both an IT and a construction company. The IT part is microchips, and, in this segment, my business groups have entered into different commercial relationships to help anticipate demand. Especially over the last few years, demand has been very high. There was the microchip shortage and now the industry is suffering from a downturn in demand. Nokia ended up working with some trade companies to help us manage the microchips, which they held as inventory in anticipation of quickly moving that to a factory to be manufactured into a finished good. The challenge is to use these tools correctly to manage external demand.


Rollin: More broadly, given talk about a potential recession or slowdown in the domestic US economy, are you taking a different approach to counterparty risk? Is there more due diligence at the moment, given rising risks?

Wang: We have been warned several times of a looming recession, but so far we haven’t seen any signs of a significant downturn in our business. Of course, we are forecasting a slowdown in business in 2024, but as I mentioned earlier, Telamon has just been awarded a cell phone distribution project by Verizon and we are planning to grow our business. As a company, we still want to expand our relationships and diversify our banking relationships to make sure we have the right tools to support our expansion. We are cautious about the prospect of a recession as the cell phone distribution business is very consumer driven. Hopefully everybody keeps purchasing new phones.

Floria: In Latin America, we have seen some additional due diligence requirements as a result of Russia-related sanctions. These are affecting commercial relationships as some investors and holding companies have suspected ties to Moscow. But, for the most part, credit in the telecoms operator sector deteriorates like an ice cube – gradually. You can see the risk as it gets worse over time so due diligence is straightforward on this part. The more complicated part is related to startups in the telecom segment that want Nokia to participate as a financier, which is a whole different conversation. We are not looking to take on private equity risk and, in truth, are reluctant to play in this space. Nokia will try to be constructive and plug a financing gap, but we’re not going to be the first or the largest financier. As a company, we have ECAs and development banks we work with, and also private equity firms.


Rollin: These issues are presenting themselves on the demand side, as well as on the supply side. Supply chains are shifting globally and access to raw materials is becoming tighter, in some instances. How are corporates strategising and securing access to raw material given the difficult geopolitical context and environment?

Amador: PVH’s supply chain organisation is very mindful of the geopolitical context and environment, but it has always been common practice to assess counterparty and country risk from all perspectives. This includes reviewing all of our suppliers and the factories that we do business with.

Wang: We no longer see the supply chain challenges. In fact, the chip shortage ended some time ago.

Kim: Where we do see supply chain shortages, it results in a backlog as Telamon is in the middle. If we are providing a product or service that is exposed to a shortage, this inevitably leads to an increased wait time. At one point about a year ago, the backlog for the services was over one year.

Floria: Microchip shortages haven’t been on our radar lately. But at the same time, we do want an agile way to manage these supply chains because there are two steps: microchips and finished goods. As a company, Nokia is trying to get more dynamic about how we manage the capacities of both production lines. It is not simple, there are many different products and these supply chains are incredibly complicated.


Rollin: Looking more broadly at longer term trends in global trade, to what extent are you seeing a nearshoring or reshoring of supply chains?

Floria: This is complicated. There are a lot of conversations taking place on this topic, especially in the US. Nokia is ultimately looking for the most competitive supply chain and the extent that we can do that in the US, we will gladly do so, but fundamentally we are an electronics company so there is a limit to how we how many changes we can make today. Nokia has its own captive manufacturing capacity around the world, but we do not manufacture semiconductors. Instead, we talk with – and purchase from – various chipmakers, wherever they are based. Nokia’s general supply chain approach is to be as competitive as we possibly can be.

Galvão: A couple of years ago, Telamon invested in a copper plant in Macedonia. To what extent did friendshoring, or cost, factor into your considerations there?

Kim: Cost was a big driver. The raw material is the raw material, so there is never a significant amount of fluctuation in the raw material prices, but labour costs on the other hand are a significant consideration. Additionally, part of our thinking was to better support the customer base following the outbreak of the pandemic. In the middle of the Covid-19 crisis, freight was a huge factor and prices soared. In the past, where it might have cost US$5,000 to ship a container overseas, it was US$30,000 to ship the container overseas. To lessen the blow, companies like ours have had to nearshore closer to our customers.

Wang: We have a plant in Mexico and frequently buy Mexican pesos as part of this business. If you compare the labour costs, it is much more cost effective to continue doing business in Mexico than the US, even if inflation is high and the currency is weakening. Still, despite all the turmoil, we expect to leverage another client in Mexico in the coming two years. It is almost impossible to bring those labour-intensive jobs back to the US.

Galvão: As a very strong bank in Asia, we hear a lot about the China-plus-one strategy and companies attempting to diversify their supply chains to also include India or Vietnam, but people often neglect to mention Mexico, which has been a major beneficiary of this shift from China. We have seen huge investments in clients in Mexico. Eventually, the country will become a less cost-effective place to do business and it will become more expensive. However, for the meantime, opportunities are emerging.

Amador: We started slightly moving away from China a few years ago because our supply base was heavily concentrated in the country. Since the pandemic, we are seeing more sourcing in other regions – South America, for instance. But this is another area that is carefully assessed as the macro and political environment changes. We are continuously assessing the risks associated with every country we do business in.


Rollin: The tracing of ESG issues within supply chains has become another key consideration for corporates as well as banks. How has this topic shaped your supply chain strategies in the last year or two – and how do you imagine this trend will evolve in the future?

Amador: For PVH, this area has evolved a lot. The corporate responsibility team has been working with our suppliers in order to assign them with their ratings. For the past five years or more, they have done a lot of work to understand how they operate and then rank them on certain environmental and social aspects. A year or two ago, we started providing a programme where suppliers that are rated gold or green – which means they have certain initiatives that are very impactful – can obtain lower financing rates from our banking partners. This area of ESG-linked incentives is growing rapidly and we now have suppliers saying, ‘Okay, I want to participate, I’m willing to do this, I’m willing to do that,’ because they can see the financial benefit. Some of our banking partners are also open to extending loans or financing the construction of eco-friendly plants – and what each bank offers can be different, of course, depending on the supplier and the risk assessment. Such support can help suppliers that want to develop their ESG credentials but, as of yet, are lacking the means to do so.

Floria: Almost everything we do has an ESG benefit and we probably need to do more to broadcast that. A lot of the 5G technology generally consumes less power than the 4G technology, so there is a business case for operators to make investments in newer technology as it is better for the climate. There’s also the social part whereby greater capacity and coverage means more people have access to the internet and better digital tools. A typical Nokia sale has some form of ESG benefit. This is still the business of electronics, but we are burning less carbon than before. Nokia also has a carbon scorecard in our revolving credit facility. We have done some transactions on the export credit side whereby some banks have given an independent rating highlighting the transaction’s ESG benefits.

Kim: All publicly facing companies need to have public ESG goals and once you have announced these targets, it’s up to you to continue to promote and further them. Companies need to self-measure, self-monitor and self-report. A lot of our customers will outline their published ESG goals and ask us to enact changes to help them abide by their stated goals. It’s been challenging. For a small company, ESG is on our radar, but we don’t have any published goals just yet. Still, it’s interesting that other companies are yielding a decreased interest rate cost by meeting certain ESG parameters. Going forward, ESG is going to become a social norm so if your company doesn’t participate, you’ll eventually be left behind.


Rollin: In a similar vein, another area which is a work in progress and where companies – and banks – are at risk of being excluded is digitalisation. Fintechs are playing an increasing role in the trade finance sector, especially when it comes to developing working capital solutions. What impact are fintechs having – whether by themselves or alongside banks or funds – in the broad trade environment?

Amador: We have been using Infor Nexus for a while and this technology solution has been very helpful. It contains everything we need on one platform, including trade documents to help us from both a logistics perspective, as well as for providing information to our suppliers. I can easily log onto the platform and see how much we need to pay in the next 90 days, for instance. It brings benefits from a treasury, logistics and planning perspective – and is utilised in many different departments within the organisation. It can only be a good thing if companies keep coming up with ideas to help corporates like ours automate and use data more wisely.

Galvão: Infor Nexus is certainly very strong in the global apparel industry and highlights how different fintechs have developed different niches. Eventually, do we think these fintechs will branch out into other business segments? Take a pharmacy, for instance, which grows and becomes a grocery store. Do you think these offerings will all one day merge?

Floria: It is hard to predict. Our supply chain is very complicated and we are in a multiple enterprise resource planning (ERP) environment. Nokia has developed some fintech solutions in-house and covers core treasury management, to manage APIs, as well as our multiple bank relationships. There are a lot of different legal entities in different countries so we need to be able to move cash around while maintaining visibility on liquidity and foreign exchange positions. Sometimes fintechs will call us and offer a portal which gives us oversight of our liquidity, but Nokia implemented these types of solutions a long time ago. Right now, we are focusing on cash flow forecasting and trying to use third parties or in-house resources that leverage machine learning to help us manage the business.

We are very proud of the in-house technology and we feel our solutions are generally more advanced than what is available in the market. We have a multiple SAP environment and multiple legal entities, and these, in turn, have several banks and numerous accounts. It’s nice to be able to view the whole financing picture using APIs or Swift with our in-house solution.


Rollin: Are there any specific opportunities in the market that could answer some of your business needs, or which help your customers or suppliers?

Floria: The pie is getting smaller so there’s a lot of conversations about who’s getting the biggest slice – and these discussions are going to continue for the next 12 months. Who will be willing to offer commercial pricing? We need to have a very competitive commercial proposal to get that big slice, and as such, need a competitive financial offer to close the deal. ECAs are giving us the support to do just that.

Wang: We need to find a solution for a problem two years or three years down the road. We have a few models we are testing. We’re looking for a creative solution that goes beyond a traditional API.

Amador: PVH will continue to work on ESG opportunities that involve both our suppliers and banking partners. Understanding the needs of our suppliers to make impactful decisions and connecting them with banking partners that can be helpful is something that we expect will continue to evolve.