Recently, I caught up with CTRM Thought Leader Mr. Jan van den Brom of Agiboo. He told me that Agiboo had gained quite a few new clients in softs since we had last spoken, mainly in coffee and cocoa. He also saw an increased appetite for CTRM in recent months as the market appears to be recovering. Interestingly, he also felt that the buyers knew a lot more about the CTRM market and that they increasingly knew exactly what they wanted. He thought that this was down to increased experience in selecting CTRM. Another interesting observation about buyers was that they focus more on the technology and functionality and less on the vendor meaning that smaller vendors are doing better these days – something ComTech predicted early last year.
Agiblocks has also seen a lot of added functionality and several new releases since we last spoke including handling of bulk commodities. They were now in the process of identifying and adding very specific pieces of complex functionality, he told me. Agiboo has also grown in terms of staffing and is up 25% in terms of headcount.
A significant growth factor for the company has been the requirement for SAP integration, he told me. Companies running SAP for accounting or production are increasingly in need of CTRM for the purchasing side of the business or they have a separate trading unit that needs the software. He said that as much as 60% of their work is now SAP-related. SAP users need a sophisticated level of integration with CTRM such as obtaining inventory levels for valuation, for example.
I also asked about disruptive technology and in particular blockchain. Mr van den Brom thinks that blockchain could change the entire commodity value chain but not for another 5-10 years. He said that it will provide absolute transparency into the value chain in that time but that traders prefer opaqueness. He also made the point that unlike some earlier technologies focused on supply chain transparency, blockchain doesn’t require a trusted third-party to verify. He also sees microservices having impact in the near future but isn’t sure how some established vendors can adapt to that as they are on ‘legacy’ software. In that sense, he sees microservices as a disruptor for some but not all CTRM vendors.
Interesting views and observations indeed and much of what he said tends to support our views at ComTech. We increasingly see smaller vendors benefiting at the expense of the more established vendors and the demise of Triple Point – a ‘can’t fail’ sort of company, has also eroded the larger vendors credibility somewhat making it easier for smaller vendors to win business. Increasingly we also see a focus on ‘fit for purpose’ solutions at the expense of the all singing, all dancing multi-commodity solution. We will also feature Jan and other CTRM thought leaders in the first CTRMradio podcast due out in February.