Why Sustainable Growth Will Outshine Economic Uncertainty in 2020

In 2019, the economy defied expectations. Despite talk of a downturn and hordes of executives sitting on pins and needles, it never materialized. Economists were baffled by the juxtaposition of record-performing markets amid indications that a recession was on the horizon. To be fair, in any other cycle, those predictions would have probably come true — but not this time. It’s hard to remember a time when the economy was this … well, mystifying.

As we enter 2020, global uncertainty is still the name of the game. On one hand, conventional indicators of a boom economy are in full effect. In the first full week of 2020, U.S. stocks set records as all three major indexes — the Dow, S&P 500 and NASDAQ — closed at all-time highs. In Europe, interest rates are expected to remain in negative territory throughout 2020 while the trend of lower interest rates persists across much of Southeast Asia. In the U.S., interest rates remain low as the Fed claims it expects to maintain the current benchmark rate (a range of 1.50% to 1.75%) through 2020. On top of that, U.S. unemployment is holding steady at a 50-year low.

On the other hand, the full picture is less than rosy. Key trade agreements are either nascent or still in a state of flux. The Senate recently approved the USMCA deal (formerly NAFTA), and it’s to be signed into law tomorrow. And the U.S. has only recently made strides on phase one of a trade deal with China. Some tariff reductions are anticipated, but will it be enough to ease concerns? The average tariff on Chinese goods is expected to be 19.3%, which is six times higher than what it was before the trade war with China began in 2018. That’s one reason why U.S. manufacturing output contracted again for the fifth consecutive month in December 2019. The 2020 outlook for global manufacturing isn’t faring any better. According to Moody’s Investors Service’s annual year-end report, slowing economic growth worldwide alongside trade tensions will continue to weigh on manufacturers’ earnings.

And then there’s corporate debt. Global figures indicate corporate debt levels are at $19 trillion. In the U.S., at nearly $10 trillion, or 47% of the overall economy, companies are continuing to acquire debt at record levels as they enter 2020, including low-rated companies.

How will companies pay down this debt without negatively impacting working capital? What will happen when interest rates rise?

These are fair questions that have caused the Fed and the International Monetary Fund to sound the alarm that the current trajectory is both unsustainable and dangerous over the long term — especially the destabilizing impact it would have if a recession occurs.

Speaking of recession, what are the odds of this in 2020? If 2019 taught us anything, it’s that all predictions should be taken with a grain of salt (or maybe a salt lick). But here’s what the experts have to say:

In a recent survey by the National Association for Business Economics, 74% of U.S. business economists think the economy will slip into recession by the end of 2021. According to the Duke University/CFO Global Business Outlook, over half (53%) of U.S. CFOs believe the U.S. will be in an economic recession by the third quarter of 2020, and 67% predict a recession by the end of 2020. Similarly, 72% of CFOs in Asia believe their countries will be in recession by the third quarter of 2020, as do the majority of CFOs in Europe (69%), Canada (68%), Latin America (65%) and Africa (81%).

A Speed Bump, Not a Road Block, to Investment in Growth Initiatives

Fear of a recession in 2019 caused many companies to hold onto cash and be more conservative in their investments. While it’s likely this conservatism will continue in 2020, there is danger in the inaction that often accompanies the unknowns of economic uncertainty. Many market leaders have been buoyed by their ability to invest in the right initiatives despite challenging business conditions. Downturns and recessions have a way of teasing out high performers.

The outperformers aren’t shying away from investing in initiatives that will help them grow their businesses. Transformation continues to be a good example. We are still in a period of historic transformation across virtually every industry. Consumer electronics companies can’t afford to press the pause button on AI, just as industrial manufacturers can’t do the same with robotic process automation (RPA). Neither can their suppliers. To stay ahead of competitors despite economic uncertainty, automotive companies and suppliers should continue to accelerate self-driving initiatives, while the struggling retail industry would benefit from scaling investments that improve the customer experience.

Another example of growing investment amid economic uncertainty is sustainability across its three pillars — economic, social and environmental. Companies face increased demand from consumers to manufacture goods using fair labor practices, sustainable materials and supplier-friendly business protocols. Meeting this demand requires companies to align their sustainability pursuits with suppliers in a way that empowers suppliers rather than hampers them. The backlash for those companies that fail to rise above these pressures can be severe.

Regulatory scrutiny, particularly in Europe, is also shining a light on sustainability. Regulators are paying closer attention to nearly every aspect of the business — from monitoring environmental impacts to issuing directives on when suppliers should get paid.

“Checkbox” sustainability won’t cut it in 2020. It’s not enough for companies to pay lip service to sustainability or to view it only in the context of their organization. They have to show how their commitment is executed deep within the supply chain and demonstrate the mechanisms in place to ensure transparency and accountability. Consider this: Pre-2013, only 20% of S&P 500 companies chose to disclose their environmental, social and governance (ESG) information. Today, that number is closer to 85%, according to researchers at Nielsen.

A Focus on Sustainable Growth

Working capital requirements will increase in 2020 as companies juggle transformation, sustainability and fiscal responsibility. Economic uncertainty will continue to set the tone for how business is conducted, but it’s also pushing companies to rethink how they fund growth. The onus is on companies to find new, sustainable ways to fund these initiatives without amassing additional debt — and all while strengthening their supply chain and supplier partnerships.

Source URL: https://spendmatters.com/2020/01/28/why-sustainable-growth-will-outshine-economic-uncertainty-in-2020/

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Stephanie Wargo

VP, Global Head of Marketing

Stephanie joined PrimeRevenue in 2015 and oversees the company’s global marketing team and strategy. With a data-driven approach, Stephanie focuses on demand generation and thought leadership to drive brand awareness, strengthen client/partner relationships, and generate new sales opportunities. Stephanie has guided PrimeRevenue through new technology releases and an evolving FinTech landscape. In addition to leading PrimeRevenue’s internal and external communications, she implemented innovative demand generation and marketing strategies to enhance the company’s overall sales pipeline.

Stephanie has extensive experience in marketing and customer success. She previously served as Vice President of Marketing and Communications at BitPay and Vice President of Client Relations and Marketing at FirstView Financial. Stephanie earned a B.A. degree in Political Science from Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia.

Brian Medley

VP, Global Head of Sales

Brian joined PrimeRevenue in early 2012, after more than 20 years of sales leadership, executive-level consultant and business growth experience. As VP, Global Head of Sales, Brian leads a growing team of fintech sales professionals with a focus on developing strong customer relationships, improving sales predictability and helping PrimeRevenue enter the lucrative mid-market.

Prior to PrimeRevenue, Brian honed his enterprise software sales leadership skills at Clarus Corporation. He also served as an operations and IT management consultant for Kurt Salmon Associates. In addition to his sales and consulting background, Brian has deep experience in the financial industry having founded a successful residential mortgage broker and lending business. He is a graduate of the Georgia Institute of Technology having earned a B.S. in Industrial Engineering and Economics and M.B.A. in Global Business.

Jason Green

SVP, Global Customer Success

Jason joined PrimeRevenue in 2021 following more than two decades in the fintech/financial services industry. He brings a strong background is sales leadership due to his impressive relationship building capability as well as a successful track record in creating structure and process improvements. In his role, Jason uses his keen attention to detail to strengthen the customer experience and enhance the company’s solutions to deliver more value to clients.

Prior to joining the company, Jason held several senior level and executive roles with a focus on building and scaling sales and support organizations at both large and small companies. Jason graduated from Murray State University with a B.S in Marketing.

Matt Ford

SVP, Global Product Innovation

Matt joined PrimeRevenue in early 2015 and is responsible for overseeing all commercial, strategic and operational aspects of PrimeRevenue’s supply chain finance offerings throughout EMEA, based in Prague. He has been instrumental in gaining global alignment and developing supplier enablement processes for the region.

Matt joined PrimeRevenue following a 15-year career at Morgan Stanley, where he worked in fixed income operations covering debt syndication through bonds, EMTNS, corporate loans and other debt securitization. Notably, he set up non-core location operations in Europe (Budapest) and all lending operations in Baltimore from scratch.

Matt, who was born and raised in South East England, earned a B.S. in Sports Science at University of Teesside where he mastered the art of TEAM development and accountability as a youth international rugby player.

Dominic Capolongo

EVP, Global Head of Funding

Dominic joined PrimeRevenue in 2016, and is responsible for leading our bank and capital markets funding strategies and execution. He focuses on building global, scalable and highly efficient funding structures that maximize options for supporting PrimeRevenue’s programs. Dominic began his career as an attorney and was a partner with Kaye Scholer before joining DLJ as a senior banker. Dominic brings tremendous strategic and capital markets experience in all areas of finance having held senior positions at, among others, Credit Suisse and RBC Capital Markets in addition to DLJ. Dominic earned a JD from Fordham University School of Law and a BA from SUNY Binghamton.

Gavin Cicchinelli

Chief Operating Officer

Gavin joined PrimeRevenue as Chief Operating Officer in 2021. With more than two decades of leadership and executive experience along with a deep understanding of the payments space, Gavin provides a unique focus on improving and strengthening operational strategies and implementing GTM growth execution. He is responsible for leading transformation across corporate and operational strategies as well as building a repeatable and scalable commercial growth strategy that aligns with PrimeRevenue’s core business while delivering key adjacent growth opportunities.

Prior to joining PrimeRevenue, Gavin served as President and Chief Revenue Officer of Integrated Solutions at TSYS, a global payment processing services company acquired by Global Payments (NYSE:GPN). There, he also served as Head of Product and divisional COO. Throughout his career, Gavin has held multiple leadership positions including VP of Sales, SVP of Business Development, and President of Financial Institutions. Gavin graduated from the University of Northern Colorado, Greeley.

David Quillian

Chief Legal Officer

David joined PrimeRevenue as General Counsel in 2007. He and his team have been instrumental in successfully creating the unique legal structures that support PrimeRevenue’s multi-funder model and global funding capabilities. David is also the lead named inventor on PrimeRevenue’s two patents for Electronic Time Drafts, which allow PrimeRevenue to manage supply chain finance programs using electronic negotiable instruments as opposed to accounts receivable. Prior to PrimeRevenue, David was General Counsel at Harbor Payments, which was acquired by American Express (AXP) in 2006, and Magnet Communications, which was acquired by Digital Insight (DGIN) in 2003. He holds degrees in Economics and History from Duke University, and Juris Doctor and M.B.A. degrees from the University of Georgia.

Nathan Feather


Nathan has successfully ushered PrimeRevenue from our very early days as a visionary startup, through the financial crisis to today’s position as a thriving mid-sized leader in the cloud-enabled supply chain finance marketplace since joining PrimeRevenue in January 2006. He was instrumental in recapitalizing the company with an $80M investment led by BBH Capital Partners in 2015. Prior to PrimeRevenue, he held various financial management roles with Ariba, Freemarkets and PriceWaterhouseCoopers. Nathan holds a BS in Accounting from Pennsylvania State University.

PJ Bain


PJ has an impressive and accomplished track record as an enterprise software entrepreneur and executive. PJ has built a solid record of success with PrimeRevenue since being appointed Chief Executive Officer in July of 2009. The company has received numerous awards for growth, customer service, innovation, along with being recognized as a top employer.

PJ is a life-long software and technology entrepreneur having been involved in numerous firms in the roles of founder, executive, advisor and investor. Immediately prior to PrimeRevenue, PJ was the VP and General Manager of Exact Holding N.V. (NYSE/AMS: EXACT), a leading global provider of business software solutions. He was previously Founder and CEO of Inspired Solutions, an Atlanta-based, B2B software and services firm that grew to be the largest reseller of Exact Software in North America, later acquired by Exact. PJ holds a Bachelor of Industrial Engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology.