How Royal FloraHolland grew a global cash management bank relationship from scratch
In a changing global floriculture market, Royal FloraHolland created a new digital platform where buyers and growers can connect internationally. As part of its strategy to offer better international payment solutions, the cooperative of flower growers decided to look for an international cash management bank.
Royal FloraHolland is a cooperative of flower and plant growers. It connects growers and buyers in the international floriculture industry by offering unique combinations of deal-making, logistics, and financial services. Connecting 5,406 suppliers with 2,458 buyers and offering a solid foundation to all these players, Royal FloraHolland is the largest floriculture marketplace in the world.
The company’s turnover reached EUR 4.8 billion (in 2019) with an operating income of EUR 369 million. Yearly, it trades 12.3 billion flowers and plants, with an average of at least 100k transactions a day.
The floriculture cooperative was established 110 years ago, organizing flower auctions via so-called clock sales. During these sales, flowers were offered for a high price first, which lowered once the clock started ticking. The price went down until one of the buyers pushed the buying button, leaving the other buyers with empty hands.
The Floriday platform
Around twenty years ago, the clock sales model started to change. “The floriculture market is changing to trading that increasingly occurs directly between growers and buyers. Our role is therefore changing too,” Wilco van de Wijnboom, Royal FloraHolland’s manager corporate finance, explains. “What we do now is mainly the financing part – the invoices and the daily collection of payments, for example. Our business has developed both geographically and digitally, so we noticed an increased need for a platform for the global flower trade. We therefore developed a new digital platform called Floriday, which enables us to deliver products faster, fresher and in larger amounts to customers worldwide. It is an innovative B2B platform where growers can make their assortment available worldwide, and customers are able to transact in various ways, both nationally and internationally.”
“Our business has developed both geographically and digitally, so we noticed an increased need for a platform for the global flower trade”
The Floriday platform aims to provide a wider range of services to pay and receive funds in euros, but also in other currencies, and across different jurisdictions. Since it would help treasury to deal with all payments worldwide, Royal FloraHolland needed an international cash management bank too.
Van de Wijnboom: “It has been a process of a few years. As part of our strategy, we wanted to grow internationally, and it was clear we needed an international bank to do so. At the same time, our commercial department had some leads for flower business from Saudi-Arabia and Kenya. Early in 2020, all developments – from the commercial, digital and financing points of view – came together.”
RfP track record
Royal FloraHolland’s financial department decided to contact Zanders for support. “Selecting a cash management bank is not something we do every day, so we needed support to find the right one,” says Pim Zaalberg, treasury consultant at Royal FloraHolland. “We have been working together with Zanders on several projects since 2010 and know which subject matter expertise they can provide. They previously advised us on the capital structure of the company and led the arranging process of the bank financing of the company in 2017. Furthermore, they assisted in the SWIFT connectivity project, introducing payments-on-behalf-of. They are broadly experienced and have a proven track record in drafting an RfP. They exactly know which questions to ask and what is important, so it was a logical step to ask them to support us in the project lead and the contact with the international banks.”
“Selecting a cash management bank is not something we do every day”
Zanders consultant Michal Zelazko adds: “We use a standardized bank selection methodology at Zanders, but importantly this can be adjusted to the specific needs of projects and clients. This case contained specific geographical jurisdictions and payment methods with respect to the Floriday platform. Other factors were, among others, pre-payments and the consideration to have a separate entity to ensure the safety of all transactions.”
The project started in June 2020, a period in which the turnover figures managed to rebound significantly, after the initial fall caused by the corona pandemic. Van de Wijnboom: “The impact we currently have is on the flowers coming from overseas, for example from Kenya and Ethiopia. The growers there have really had a difficult time, because the number of flights from those countries has decreased heavily. Meanwhile, many people continued to buy flowers when they were in lockdown, to brighten up their new home offices.”
Together with Zanders, Royal FloraHolland drafted the goals and then started selecting the banks they wanted to invite to find out whether they could meet these goals. All questions for the banks about the cooperative’s expected turnover, profit and perspectives could be answered positively. Zaalberg explains that the bank for international cash management was also chosen to be a strategic partner for the company: “We did not choose a bank to do only payments, but we needed a bank to think along with us on our international plans and one that offers innovative solutions in the e-commerce area. The bank we chose, Citibank, is now helping us with our international strategy and is able to propose solutions for our future goals.”
The Royal FloraHolland team involved in the selection process now look back confidently on the process and choice. Zaalberg: “We are very proud of the short timelines of this project, starting in June and selecting the bank in September – all done virtually and by phone. It was quite a precedent to do it this way. You have to work with a clear plan and be very strict in presentation and input gathering. I hope it is not the new normal, but it worked well and was quite efficient too. We met banks from Paris and Dublin on the same day without moving from our desks.”
“You only have one chance – when choosing an international bank for cash management it will be a collaboration for the next couple of years”
Van de Wijnboom agrees and stresses the importance of a well-managed process: “You only have one chance – when choosing an international bank for cash management it will be a collaboration for the next couple of years.”
The future plans of the company are focused on venturing out to new jurisdictions, specifically in the finance space, to offer more currencies for both growers and buyers. “This could go as far as paying growers in their local currency,” says Zaalberg.
“Now we only use euros and US dollars, but we look at ways to accommodate payments in other currencies too. We look at our cash pool structure too. We made sure that, in the RfP, we asked the banks whether they could provide cash pooling in a way that was able to use more currencies. We started simple but have chosen the bank that can support more complex setups of cash management structures as well.” Zelazko adds: “It is an ambitious goal but very much in line with what we see in other companies.”
Also, in the longer term, Royal FloraHolland is considering connecting the Floriday platform to its treasury management system. Van de Wijnboom: “Currently, these two systems are not directly connected, but we could do this in the future. When we had the selection interviews with the banks, we discussed the prepayments situation – how do we make sure that the platform is immediately updated when there is a prepayment? If it is not connected, someone needs to take care of the reconciliation.”
There are some new markets and trade lanes to enter, as Van de Wijnboom concludes: ”We now see some trade lanes between Kenya and The Middle East. The flower farmers indicate that we can play an intermediate role if it is at low costs and if payments occur in US dollars. So, it helps us to have an international cash management bank that can easily do the transactions in US dollars.”