Accelerated Payments last week announced the appointment of Steve Box as new chair. Here is a short introduction to Steve Box followed by an interview conducted following the announcement.
Steve Box has held several senior executive roles in the past, including as head of Europe for Falcon Group, CEO of Bibby Financial Services and global head of receivables finance at HSBC. With over 35 years of experience in banking and invoice financing and working with SMEs, Box currently holds the position of strategic advisor to a number of related institutions, including the World of Open Account, Muse, Hitachi Capital Invoice Finance and Channel Capital Advisors.
Congratulations on the announcement of your appointment as new chair of Accelerated Payments and thank you for taking the time to speak to us today. It feels slightly strange to be doing this over a conference call, but this seems to be the new norm!
Before we launch into your work with Accelerated Payments, how have you been adapting from being in a different country weekly to the new world of work through video call?
One of the most positive things about the current situation of working from home and not travelling, whether commuting domestically or overseas, is that it offers up a perspective on time. It has allowed most people in business to take a step back, reflect on the ways in which they work and what is important, whether that is through the lens of business efficiencies, work life balance, technology enablers, trusting employees to ‘get things done’.
Personally, and I can only speak for myself, I found that the pace at which people were working was a little extreme. This is in terms of time on business, meetings for meetings sake and the immediacy in which people expect things to be done. Having a little time back to rebalance can be hugely beneficial to a company as well as the individual. I also believe that this terrible pandemic has made most people a little bit more respectful of others and of themselves and smarter in their thinking of options in the future.
You have to remember; it’s been an evolution over a period of time. I remember not too long ago, clients would only bank their money by walking into a branch and handing the cash over. Online banking did not exist even as a concept let alone now having the ability to set up an account with a branch-less bank in a matter of minutes.
We’ve reached a tipping point in the transition and the pandemic has changed people and business mindset of what is important, and ultimately what overheads can be sacrificed if need be but still allowing business to run “as usual”. So, I think we’re arrived there slightly sooner than expected – I can only see this adding to the momentum and fuel to that way of working going forward.
How did you initially come across Accelerated Payments?
Well, I’m fortunate now to be able to choose which businesses, which owners and ultimately which bosses I work for so that’s a huge plus point for me.
Accelerated Payments, as well as a number of other companies that I work with, contacted me to ask if I would wish to be involved in accelerating innovative alternative finance away from the incumbent banking. I had not met Ian Duffy, David Ingram and the team before – so inevitably our initial contact was over the phone. We spent a bit of time in London together shortly afterwards when they were over and I was sold.
First of all, I like the fact that the team had been through the experience of setting up businesses before, they were used to the intricacies of raising capital and they had a real appetite and desire to serve and support their clients. Plus, to back this up Accelerated Payments had developed strength in their technology which really put both the buyer and the supplier at the forefront of transactions.
What also appealed was, rather than believe they had all the solutions already in place, they were willing to be open to new ideas and listen. Frankly, as an external advisor that’s a really welcoming feeling when you know that you’re going to be able to contribute from day one, add something and make a difference to a company and their clients. Obviously only if it’s good advice of course!
After a few trips over to Dublin to meet the team, I was invited into observe some of the board meetings. To put it frankly, the team’s incredible, agile in their thinking, continuously learning and challenging and they get things done. Decisions with speed, efficiency and most importantly accuracy is commendable.
What attracts you most to their offering?
Unlike many other factoring solutions in the market, Accelerated Payment’s platform provides SMEs with complete control of their finances as offers clients the full visibility of what they are borrowing, how much it will cost and if they are going over payments. This transparent service is precisely what SMEs need during this challenging period where liquidity is scarce, and confidence in the market is low.
I love that the proposition can be truly selective invoice finance, invoice by invoice, customer by customer. Having spent the majority of my career working international trade and cross border transactions, I love that this product is also international from the outset – across a multitude of borders and trade corridors – leveraging best in class partnerships to make sure that the SME gets the level of and the availability of service that they deserve whether trading domestically or overseas.
AP also has the technology angle, the ecosystem is being built and with that comes huge amounts of data, metrics that we can use to drive continuous improvements along with product scope and reach which will go beyond just invoice financing.
The vision for the future is even more exciting! To be invited to become the Chairman of such an innovative visionary team is a great honour, and a really exciting moment in my journey in the life of working capital solutions.
Great that’s such a wonderful note to end on, thank you very much and we look forward to following your journey!