Tallant Asia & Convergence Capital Group – Fireside chat

Tallant Asia & Convergence Capital Group – Fireside chat


Well hi everyone I’m Anthony Bowers here
from Tallant Asia in Cebu Philippines today I’ll be talking with Cliff Entrekin from Convergence Capital Group. He’s one of our clients.
Welcome Cliff how you doing? Good thank you good to be here. That’s great
and look Cliff do you want to just give us a little bit of background on
yourself and sort of how you came to be in Hong Kong and what led up to you
starting your own company. Yeah so I originally started out after grad school
at Georgia Tech in the US in management consulting so working with a lot of the
large retailers in the u.s. such as Macy’s and Taylor Payless shoes to
ultimately recreate their sourcing processes find the right countries to
manufacture their goods and better ways to work with their suppliers one of
those ways often dealing in the physical movement of goods but also the
financial processes that support all of those transactions. So after supporting
all those clients and coming over to Asia on multiple occasions to work with
their suppliers I ultimately decided to make the move to Hong Kong and work more
on the supplier side for these buyers specifically in the area of trade
finance. So helping these suppliers get financing for their goods as they await
customer payments so many of the large let’s say retailers or just corporations
in general across the world. They normally don’t pay cash to suppliers as
soon as they receive the goods they’re usually paid on open account payment
terms so they may receive the goods at the port of FOB port but then not pay the
supplier for another 60 or 90 day so supplier still has to pay for all the
inventory and the raw materials and the workers paychecks so that that really
becomes a strain on their own working capital and ultimately you don’t want to
see suppliers cutting corners and not thinking about quality or taking care of
their workers. You’ve seen issues in Bangladesh where you’ve had factories
collapse and things of that nature so really if suppliers are strained for
cash it really creates a bad environment that can lead to many bad things not
just around profitability but sustainability of a developing country’s
society and economy. Got it, so you step in and you know about that sounds like
something I can do in my business sometimes I think. So that’s what
you’re doing and Convergence Capital Group how did it come about? where did
the seed start? where did you make a decision that you think you’d like to
start your own business and when did that happen?
yeah well working with a couple of advisory firms and technology providers
here in Asia and Hong Kong before we started Convergence like I said it was
all in the supplier side but it was focused really on the suppliers where we
were supporting our U.S. or European large buyer clients in these advisory
firms and these technology providers really did not see a reason or just
ultimately wasn’t in their strategy to really have an asia-pacific based focus
they didn’t really want to look at buyer opportunities out here they didn’t want
to look at additional opportunities for the suppliers that extended beyond just
the single buyer customer that we had so yeah those suppliers may have ten ten
buying customers in all and there’s really no reason to
only focus on one of those specific counterparty relationships run you can
help the supplier across an entire portfolio so that’s where we we went to
the US and got investment backing and you decided to specifically do that,
created advisory firm based in Asia that would be Asia centric now we we do
work with U.S. buyers and European buyers and Australian buyers but it’s I’d say
it’s reverse of what my past companies have done they run it you find the
buyers in the US and then they’ll work with the suppliers in Asia we ultimately
find the suppliers first and then if we have the potential to work with the
buyer then we’re more than happy to do so it always results in lower rates for
the supplier okay very cool and so Converegence Capital started it was two
years ago I think was that right I mean how long have you known for a little
over two years ago and yeah I’ve started my own company up about 13 months ago
you know it’s been a it’s been an interesting ride always different things
pop out here and there and before we get into the specifics of what you’re doing
with Tallant Asia just with Convergence Capital what have been some of the more
interesting things that have popped up that you maybe might not have expected
and as hurdles and how did you overcome them? yeah I just think the one
thing about Asia specifically is the fragmented markets that you have to deal
with so if I was selling a product in the US even Europe to some extent it’s
more homogeneous than working with Asia with multiple different languages
cultures above all legal jurisdictions I think that’s pretty bit the biggest
challenge overall yeah and then finding the right staff who can help deal with
that diversity have the resilience to know we’re gonna fall on our our face in
some instances but we’ve had great partners to help us through some of the
legal challenges in certain markets that have come through that so it’s been it’s
been okay great and on the technology side
and yeah how’s that coming long? Where is that at? Do you have your own platform? Do you use other people’s platform? How does that work? yeah so we maintain our own
internal platform but we do outsource our own other platforms in certain areas
specifically in India we work with a domestic provider there and also in
mainland China and then we have a couple other providers we can work with on more
of the international cross-border scene so it we’re really we consider ourselves
almost technology agnostic. We want to make sure and same with our funders so
we don’t fund any of our transactions directly we work in as an advisory
firm to figure out what the suppliers going through what type of buyers what
countries they’re working with what type of credit payment terms and we structure
them the right financing and the most efficient and price effective way. Like I
said if whatever that takes to facilitate the efficiency with the right
technology platform we’ll work within those confines. OK fascinating and
Convergence Capital, my understanding was that you just work with banks but I
actually think that it’s broader than that regarding the credit I
mean who is out there regarding the funding side of things? Yeah a whole
spectrum of funders so we deal with domestic factoring companies
international factoring companies trade funds overseas we have trade funds based
in UK California New York Hong Kong Singapore and then we work with the
global banks so there’s very large European banks operating in Asia that
are that are doing quite well especially for trade finance activities you know a
key area where we shine is we take some of those principles that we learn across
all the spectrums and we go in and advise local domestic banks in some of these emerging markets on how they can act more like a
large multinational bank put in some of those credit risk processes put in some
of those due diligence process yes and allow them to fund on the local level
yeah interests as you’re adding another arm to their product offering basically
that they didn’t have before yeah they give us a more access to the domestic
market so the domestic banks are going to be the best at funding and
domestic currencies yeah so if it’s overseas transactions we can always
bring in an overseas funder that’s that’s easy I think we’re the niche that
we really specialize in is being able to do the whole portfolio on both sides of
the balance sheet for our clients so whether it’s their customers or it’s
their raw material suppliers which as raw material suppliers may be supported
through open account, may be supported through LC, they may be domestic that made me overseas
whatever the case is so that that’s really what we want to be able to do it
is not leave anything on the table and yeah really help our clients in the best
way possible okay that’s absolutely awesome and let’s
drill down a bit on relationship between Tallant Asia and Convergence Capital
Group and you obviously travel around Asia and indeed the world frequently and
probably more frequently than you like. Have you ever used an offshoring team before in any of your roles, not just at Convergence Capital but in previous
companies. Have you had any experience with that and how was that and then you know
how is it being working with Tallant Asia? and we can we can have a chat about that
yeah years ago I tried using a virtual
assistant I think this was back in the U.S. back when I was just doing a side
company that I was looking to start up I’ll say it didn’t go go over really
well okay and I think the lessons learned from that and not just working
with any kind of BPO or virtual assistant or anything like that I think
in general when working with a BPO you treat them
like your staff and you would never bring in staff and expect them to know
everything day one or expect to spend five minutes a day with them and really
get quality work out of them so the key thing and what’s been great
about Tallant, you don’t want to invest that type of time in overseas staff
unless you are sure they’re going to be in it for the long run themselves and
yeah I think with what’s been great about not just Tallant but you personally
helping to make sure we get the right people and that they want to grow with
the company and that our interests are both aligned yes and where our goals
want to be not just tomorrow but five years from now
yeah absolutely I mean it’s a for us it’s about building a team for
you and they’re your team and they’re just as much as your team as if they
were sat next to you in Hong Kong and it’s a really important part of the
process. Doesn’t happen overnight but that’s the that’s the goal that we work
towards so Tallant Asia..your staff for
Convergence Capital are here in Cebu and what are they doing so listeners can get an idea about how they how we’re helping So primarily they are driving our inbound
and outbound marketing activities yes they are creating a lot of our branding
collateral writing white papers, case studies, updating our website but also
researching potential markets potential leads within those markets where we
should be focusing our solutions and then targeting those potential leads to
warming them up to potential sales activities an initial advisory
conversation yeah all right that’s interesting and and so far the feedback
we’ve got that has been fairly successful and did you see any areas of
growth where do you think that the team will head to next there are the roles
that you’re looking at yeah well I think one of the things that
we definitely learn which has been great for us once we got everyone on board we
created a process and but we were very open about involving the team in Cebu
you’re on how to refine that process how to make that process better and I
drilled that into them from day one I said look you’re you’re never going to
make me angry asking a question you’re never gonna make me upset by saying
something doesn’t work what will make me upset is if you tell me something if you
don’t tell me something it’s not working and ultimately I want to hear your
feedback and hear your thoughts on how to change these things and so I think
every week at minimum we’re continuing to you refine the process and we’ve
become extremely structured in that process so we don’t just have a very
step-by-step customer relationship process but it’s got automation through
our CM CRM platform that sends out notification emails to myself my sales
staff and then tracks everything through the pipeline through our dashboard yeah
reporting so it’s been great but look at this it’s actually I’m glad it’s going
well I mean one of the things that we do emphasizing is that people do get the
training manuals and processes down pat and it’s it’s one of the key areas is
the transfer of knowledge and when you’re running a small business often is
up here yeah it’s a very good exercise to be able to take it from up here to to
something that’s written down and that makes it replicable you get and then you
scale as rapidly as you want as long as it’s down there and
someone here can help you with the with the training rather than you have to do
it over and over again we think that’s a key yeah I think I think that was one of
the great things about Tallant because after we first talked I was kind of at a
place where I either needed to hire someone here in Hong Kong or do
something else very very quickly yeah and I think the structure that Tallant
allowed for by you putting a few part-time people in place helped me get
all of that initial knowledge out of my head on paper yeah as we search for some
very specific people and very specific roles because what what we do is you
really have to have a good understanding of three very diverse areas supply
chain yeah finance and technology so there’s not many people on the market
that really fit that spectrum so I think you guys did a great job of
sourcing and finding those right people but that doesn’t happen overnight yeah
but I think we got some initial part-time resources in place that helped
the whole ramping up period so when those people came on board and we agreed to the right folks that they were able to hit the ground running with all of
our documentation in place and I won’t say the perfect process but we at least
had a an initial documented processes I don’t think processes are ever actually
perfect they morph and change as the business morphs and changes. It’s an ongoing battle and to sharpen it up and get it helping your business and and I agree
you know I think that one of the key areas is is if you haven’t really done
much outsourcing before if you haven’t worked with remote teams before I would say just
to just do it and get some part-timers there see how it
works see the difficulties that you have and how you can overcome those
difficulties when you when you’re dealing with remote staff and then move
to finding someone that’s you know really fits well with what you’re
planning to do and then grow from there totally agree cause I think a lot of
people struggle with the concept of it and that we’re very here at Tallant Asia
very cognizant that there are no regional barriers or location barriers
anymore it’s all technology-driven I can do the
work from here you do it from Hong Kong and it’s about I think one of the key
things we do is open up a global market for human resources for companies right
so rather than you just needing to look in your locale in Hong Kong you can you
can also see who’s available in the Philippines and therefore broaden
broaden your net so to speak I think it’s a big plus for companies like
Convergence Capital yeah we really try to get the the best staff you know you
know in a cost competitive manner yeah but I think you hit it on the head for
many people in even for me it was a big mindset change and honestly if we hadn’t
come out with the structure that we did where I could bring so no matter what I
needed to document this process and put all the training material in my head
whether I brought on staff in Philippines or Hong Kong or Kuala Lumpur
wherever the case is so allowing me to I guess get in on the action and see how
things really worked and at least create an initial rapport with Tallant and yes
staff there it was it was a no-brainer after the first six weeks yeah yeah all
right we’ll look I’m I really appreciate you taking the time
Cliff I’m glad the team’s going well we’re looking forward to future
growth with you and wish you all the best with Convergence Capital, I know the team
here at Tallant Asia, you know really feel that they’re part of your team and
I love that and I’m glad that they’re kicking goals for you and onwards and
upwards okay all right all right so that was, cool mate, so just wrapping up my talk with Cliff Entrekin from Convergence Capital
Group my name is Anthony Bowers I’m the founder of Tallant Asia and you know
thank you very much for taking the time to listen to us. you

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