A conversation with Jan van den Brom is always enlightening and this one was long overdue. His company, Agiboo, now has around 40 customers, he told me, and he has seen so much demand that he has a waiting list of customers to bring onboard. Offering a SaaS CTRM solution in the broader commodities space, Agiboo has remained relatively small at around 20 staff. Jan pointed immediately to what he sees as a huge emerging issue for the entire industry, finding staff. “Finding good, experienced developers is almost impossible right now, as the demand at other industries is huge. If you hire them it is difficult to keep them as they are approached each day by headhunters with tempting offers, which are difficult to resist and they move on,” he said. We have heard this sentiment echoed by others more and more recently and one person I spoke to at E-World added that they want to work at home and never enter the office as well, which makes things difficult.
“It is the perfect storm,” he told me. “Everyone wants a system at the moment, and we are overloaded with demo requests and inbound inquiries.” He points to the staffing issue as partly driving the demand for systems as “they can’t find staff, can’t afford them or can’t keep them so instead, they are forced to automate with systems.” Not only is demand high in smaller trading forms and the like but he is seeing and signing larger customers in commodities like Cocoa, Sugar, Grains, Oil seeds and Edible Oils, for example, who are looking to replace older legacy solutions and failed systems. “There is a growing replacement market, and most are seeking SaaS solutions and a subscription payment model these days. If you are a vendor and you didn’t catch up on technology, forget it,” he says.
Jan says that technology awareness seems to have grown immeasurably as well among prospective buyers. “Maybe it’s a new generation thing or perhaps there is an understanding and appreciation of the benefits of newer technology solutions,” he says. He also sees a growth in understanding of the true nature of CTRM software in that “Buyers are no longer seeking the holy grail of all singing, all dancing solutions. They have learned that these are non-existent and doomed to failure so they look for solutions that can do most of what they want like deal capture, position keeping, risk management and reporting and so on. The focus has changed for buyers.”
Another area where Jan sees demand and change is in the provision of data and the need to integrate that with the CTRM solution. He points to the emergence of all sorts of data – not just price and market data – but things like tracking and movement data, crop assessment data and so on. Connectivity to this growing outer world of data is an increasing need amongst buyers.
Finally, Jan suggests that outside of energy, the buyer’s choice has diminished especially if they want a modern solution on modern technology. We named vendors together and I must agree with him. In ags and softs specifically, there do seem to be just a few solutions on modern technology while in areas like concentrates, there is a bit more choice.