November 3rd, 2015

OFAC levies another HUGE penalty. Will you be next?

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The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) released information on October 20th about yet another violation of their sanctions program and the dollar amount is sure to raise some eyebrows.

Crédit Agricole Corporate and Investment Bank (CA-CIB) settled their civil liability for apparent violations of multiple sanctions programs.  For a number of years, dating back to 2003 and up to and including 2008, CA-CIB and some of it’s operating entities processed thousands of transactions to or through U.S. financial institutions that involved countries and/or persons subject to the sanctions regulations administered by OFAC.

OFAC determined that CA-CIB did not voluntarily self-disclose these apparent violations, and that the apparent violations constituted an egregious case. The initial monetary penalties in this case were nearly $1.5 Billion !  Ultimately CA-CIB agreed to settle with OFAC the apparent violations of OFAC regulations for nearly $330 Million.

There is a lot to this case for the casual observer to consider; the most obvious element is how incredibly high the dollar amounts have grown in these cases.  The impact of these fines, at these levels, would be crippling to many companies and to the employees that allow this to happen on their “watch.”  Of course in the cases of CA-CIB, they were found to be in egregious violation and they did not self-disclose, but we have observed in many instances where the wrong-doing company was not in “egregious” violation and they did self-disclose there are still very hefty fines to pay.

The message we are hearing from the Office of Foreign Assets Control is that they are looking everywhere in pursuit of violations even as far back as 2003.  Ignorance is not an excuse and companies are expected to have a program in place to identify any suppliers or business partners that show up on these sensitive watch lists – and it is not enough to pre-screen or screen suppliers at the time of set up.  As per the OFAC rules, companies must remain constantly vigilant to ensure that suppliers do not move onto any watch lists even after they have been on boarded as a supplier.  The responsibility rests on you!

For questions about how your company can avoid the risk of working with companies on the OFAC list and threat of enormous monetary penalties read about the Lavante OFAC compliance solution.

You can also read more about the growing presence of OFAC and the growing volume of penalties an our informative white paper available for free download from our website.

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October 29th, 2015

Lavante Employee Interviews: Abby Ventura & Liz Bettencourt

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Abby Ventura & Liz Bettencourt

Lavante Customer Support Specialists

 

Abby, Liz, What are your roles at Lavante?

Abby: I started at Lavante in audit support in 2010.  About one year ago I moved into a customer support specialist role.  My responsibilities include working directly with suppliers that need help getting set up in Lavante SIM.  I also assist with customers who have questions about the application, I train them in the system so they can become SIM experts, and finally I work a lot with our product team relaying customer and supplier comments on how to make the product more user-friendly.

Liz: I’m also a customer support specialist.  Since we work directly with the customers and suppliers, we know both sides the issues that they have.  Since Lavante SIM is a self-service portal,  it really is important that the product is as easy to use as possible so that they don’t actually need support in the first place. So our goal is to work with all the parties involved to make a product that really works well.

Abby: Yes, but sometimes you have people calling in that are very computer literate, and then you have some people that don’t even have an email address – so we help at every level. This involves completing their profiles, generating their W9, or answering any questions that callers may have about the portal.  One of the problems with other portals – and I hear this frequently from customers and suppliers – is that there is not a real person helping the process along when needed.  It just takes a call sometimes and then it “clicks” for people.

Liz: That’s right; we also do a lot of training with the customers and, because these companies are so big, communication can become a huge issue between customer and supplier; we help connect all parties. We walk them through the steps and give them a very detailed explanation on all of the functionalities.  We’ve also learn a great deal about the preferred procedures for each of our customers so we can direct their suppliers to the right parties if the problem extends beyond Lavante SIM. We know where to send their invoices and we know how their payment process works, so I feel like for both parties we give all that additional information that really helps make the whole process much easier.

What would you say are the main benefits that customers or suppliers get from using Lavante SIM?

Abby: I always hear about how useful the supplier data can be outside of our portal.  Customers use the data to support everything else; the portal can route suppliers and supplier information into every other system that our customers have in place whether it’s dynamic discounting, spend analytics, score carding, contract management, and almost anything you can imagine.  This offers tremendous value to the suppliers and the clients get a huge benefit by getting more use from all of their software solutions.

Liz: (Lavante) SIM also makes the process simple for customers that are looking to request or approve new suppliers as well as update existing ones.  The process is very easy for both sides, which is good, but I always hear from customers that they feel safer with our process in place.  Fraud is such a major concern right now, nobody wants to take on unnecessary risk.

Are suppliers as concerned as customers about fraud?

Liz: Yes, it can go both ways. You really never know who’s emailing you or who’s on the phone these days because scams are so widespread.

Abby: Both sides prefer to use a secure portal because they know that they’ve logged in and they’re able to verify credentials before inputting information.

Liz: From the supplier’s perspective, it’s valuable to have a direct and reliable connection to customers so they can safely update their information for getting paid, and want to make sure everything is input correctly, validated, and accurate.  When they have changes to their company, such as legal name, tax ID, the SIM system communicates all of that to the customer.  I hear horror stories about how our customers and suppliers were doing this before they started using  SIM, it all had to be done manually.   Our customers have suppliers all over the world, so it can be really challenging to keep all of their records updated.

What’s the best part of your job?

Abby: I really do feel the frustration of suppliers who are faced with on-boarding for yet another customer!  One of the most satisfying things is at the end of support conversation when I tell them “it’s complete, it’s done, you’re good to go, the system will notify you if we need anything else” it just really brightens their day to have this one task that is usually so tedious to be done. I think it really gives them this kind of relief.

Liz: It’s really satisfying when suppliers call us and we immediately address their issue. Our support is very personalized and most companies don’t have the kind of support we have. Actually calling and reaching a live person is a huge relief to them and they often get excited that they’re not just talking to another machine. Our service is personal, live, and we can help each individual and for customers, a lot of their suppliers don’t even have computers so it’s a really big help for them that they can call us and we can help them through it, as well as give them other alternatives. They’re always really happy and thankful that we’re able to assist them in a timely manner.

Are there times when you’ve spoken with a client or supplier and they’ve been surprised by what we can do for them?

Abby: Oh yeah, customers don’t always realize how easy it is for them to edit supplier profiles.  They want a portal that suppliers can use to get all of their data and documents entered in correctly, but they still need a secure controlled process to change and edit supplier profiles from their end.

Liz: I think language is always a huge issue; since we work with a lot of suppliers internationally, it can sometime be a barrier. English is often not their first language and they are often surprised that we such a diverse language base supported on our system. They can choose from practically any language and if it’s not there and they can tell us and we can communicate with the product team to have it added in, which I think is awesome. I’m fluent in Portuguese, and we have a lot of Brazilian production companies and they’re always really excited when they can communicate in their native language.

Abby: Also, customers do not always realize how easily they can communicate with suppliers through the portal.  They’re often surprised when I say “Hey, I can just reach out to the supplier through the application” and just get that done for them no problem.   Customers are always telling me that they have a difficult time reaching out to suppliers but the application makes it easy.

How do suppliers view the network? What do they think it’s supposed to do for them.

Abby: I always tell suppliers it’s a tool for our client’s AP department to ensure that they have all of the correct supplier data.  And the portal provides a lot of information about the appropriate  AP protocol back to suppliers, such as where to send their invoices, what insurance coverage you need, how do you qualify as a diverse or small business, and how to contact different employees, it covers everything you can imagine.

Liz: I think when people first contact us, ask about the functionality, and we explain what it does, I think it goes beyond their expectations. After we explain all the different functionalities, such as compliance, document management, validations and everything else – they’re definitely satisfied. After taking the time to talk with them about all the benefits they’re going to get from using the system, they definitely get excited about using it.

 

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October 28th, 2015

Lavante and Experian working together – An Unbeatable Team!

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Big news today!  Lavante and Experian are teaming up to change the game as it relates to managing supplier risk.  Read all about it in today’s press release.  By teaming up with Experian, Lavante will incorporate multiple commercial attributes from Experian’s BizSource database into its flagship solution, Lavante SIM, to deliver a financial stability modeling Read More…

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October 22nd, 2015

Free Webinar Replay: Expert Advice for Reducing Risk in Your P2P Environment

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A huge thank you to Chris Doxey for joining me on today’s webinar, “Managing Supplier Risk: A Multi-Disciplined Approach for Mitigating and Detecting P2P Fraud.”   Great turnout for the webinar and a great topic!   We discussed how supplier information is the foundation for managing supplier relationships and P2P processes.  It is also the first Read More…

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October 20th, 2015

Do you really know how FATCA affects your business?!

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Very proud to announce a new Lavante White Paper presented by our friends at IOFM and TAPN and authored by myself and Joe Flynn of Lavante as well as Kelli Wooten of Markit/CTI.  This latest educational white paper offers a deep dive exploration of how an enterprise can become compliant with FATCA standards in 2015/16. Read More…

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October 16th, 2015

The “Real” Story Behind Accounts Payable Recognition Week!

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Hello everybody.  We are coming to the close of another magical “Accounts Payable Recognition Week” and it got me thinking…  Why do we honor Accounts Payable professionals?  Actually, the better question is, “why have we dedicated only one single week to this celebration?”  Think about it…. On the premise that Accounts Payable (AP) is the Read More…

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October 13th, 2015

Control Your Supplier Information

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Thanks to our good friends at the Institute of Financial Operations for giving me an opportunity to  write a piece in their magazine about a topic that I am quite passionate about – Supplier Information Management!  This article ran in the Q3 2015 edition of FinancialOps and they have been gracious enough to allow Lavante Read More…

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October 6th, 2015

The 3 Pillars of Managing your Vendor Master File

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Today, we are releasing a free Lavante White Paper entitled “3 Pillars Maturity Model – Managing your Vendor Master File“ to recap our three-part Webinar series from this summer.  With an emphasis on Supplier Information Management and Vendor Master File excellence, the series hit a nerve and drove nearly a 1000 downloads and views!  Understanding how relevant Read More…

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October 2nd, 2015

“The Cabin” – A Fable about Data Quality and Procure-to-Pay

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Have you heard the old riddle about the cabin in the woods? It goes like this:  You are alone walking through the woods and you spot a cabin in a clearing up ahead. You are tired, cold and hungry and it is getting dark.   You do not see or hear anyone in the cabin and Read More…

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September 30th, 2015

An Expert Discussion on Supplier Portals!

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Wow… just… wow. You know how when film critics are talking about movies they say, “If you see only one movie all summer… make sure to watch ‘blah blah blah.’”  Well I have to make the same claim for the Supplier Portal webinar from yesterday.  If you sit through only one webinar all year long, Read More…

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