The Silicon Review
"Our approach is to be the provider of systems that our customers know will help keep them compliant with international trade regulations – and for these systems to automatically take account of ongoing changes in these regulations – so that they can focus on their core business”: Marc Roy
Recently in the same week, a robotics company, an aerospace manufacturer, an online retailer and a bank conveyed a similar message to their software vendor for international trade and finance (OFAC) compliance solutions. The message was that they were pleasantly surprised that the integration of their selected vendor’s solution with their respective Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system – each with its own technological, functional, industry and corporate idiosyncrasies and complexities – was faster and much more straightforward than they had anticipated.
For these same companies, the surprise was all the sweeter: one of the reasons that they had selected this particular vendor was its reputation for taking a thorough and forward-looking approach to keeping its proprietary software up to date with newly promulgated trade rules and regulations, well ahead of their enforcement.
The vendor in question was eCustoms, a leader in its field for decades, with customers from across the spectrum of industries, and around the world: North and South America, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia-Pacific and Australasia.
The solutions that eCustoms provide are cloud-based and include restricted and denied party screening, OFAC screening, import and export compliance, controlled goods classification, license management with the capability to submit license applications to relevant government authorities, and so forth.
One of the features that makes eCustoms stand out from the pack is that these solutions, branded as Visual Compliance, are designed to be integrated into a wide range of business systems from SAP, Oracle, Microsoft Dynamics to in-house built processes, along with other critical systems such as customer relationship management (Salesforce, Netsuite, for example), human resources, accounting, visitor management, etc.
This ease of integration with so many disparate systems was one of the key reasons The Silicon Review selected eCustoms as one of the ‘50 Best Companies to Watch’.
eCustoms President, Marc Roy, reported that the company’s software integration and upgrade strategy was set during its early years because there was an understanding that while customers sought automation for efficiencies and competitive advantage, as well as compliance reasons, they also wanted solutions that could be up and running within a short timeframe and that could run in the background with minimal maintenance on their part.
“Our approach is to be the provider of systems that our customers know will help keep them compliant with international trade regulations – and for these systems to automatically take account of ongoing changes in these regulations – so that they can focus on their core business,” Mr. Roy said.
Mr. Roy added that this methodology meant that implementation times can be counted in less than a day to a few days or weeks at the outside, rather than the months or years that a typical integration takes. It also meant that the Visual Compliance suite of solutions were truly robust over the years, and this is reflected by the fact that many of their customers have been with them for a decade or more.
In recent years, this implementation approach has also greatly benefited companies other than those directly involved in international trade.
Executive Vice-President, Maria Sheppard, said: “Direct participants include importers and exporters but also banks and insurance companies. And there has been an exponential growth in the number of customers not involved in international trade in the traditional sense.”
“These would be the more innovative and forward-thinking companies which can be found across industries. They are organizations who plan to export at a later date or are aware that their planned diversification of products will require compliance protocols down the road. They also include companies that understand the importance of corporate due diligence, because denied parties can exist domestically, not just abroad,”
Ms. Sheppard said.
Another reason why customers are so pleasantly surprised with eCustoms’ Visual Compliance solutions is that at the front end of the software they can select only what they need now and implement just that.
Ms Sheppard added that when it comes to software from most other vendors, more often than not businesses have to purchase bundled solutions and pay for features and functionalities that they do not need.
“Our customers appreciate the modular selection we make available to them. They fully comprehend the need to comply with international trade regulations for national security reasons, but because profit margins are often thin, having the choice of what they pay for is very important. At the same time, customers are aware that if and when other compliance requirements emerge for them, we have it covered and can seamlessly add modules at a later date,” she said.
This architecture that is inherent in Visual Compliance is the result of the experience, expertise and technical and management knowhow of a central group of people who have built the company since its inception in 1981, when it became one of the earliest providers of trade compliance solutions.
This central team who is still with the company today knew from the outset that meeting the needs of their customers was a long-term effort.
As Mr. Roy described it: “With this long-term mission, we understood that leadership in meeting these needs included encouraging regular feedback from customers, engaging in ongoing dialogue with the relevant government bodies, allocating research and development funding and applying faster and more advanced technologies as they became available to create proprietary solutions that benefit our customers.”
Another factor that led to the inclusion of eCustoms on the list of ‘50 Best Companies to Watch’ is its holistic approach to delivering solutions to its customers.
The software is developed in-house by a team of subject matter experts and programmers with up-to-date knowledge of the international trade compliance arena.
“This team lives, eats and breathes compliance,” said Mr. Roy. “They are trained in compliance, regularly attend events organized by the U.S. departments of State, Commerce and Treasury as well as by the authorities of other jurisdictions to learn about upcoming regulatory requirements involving denied, restricted and OFAC screening, classification, license and document submission protocols, and more,” he said.
Of course, Visual Compliance is supported by seasoned customer service representatives and technical support staff to help ensure that the solutions being used are being used to their fullest potential.
Taken in its entirety, eCustoms has made it a habit to deliver the highest quality possible to its customers: having that “above and beyond” attitude is embedded in its culture.
“And that’s why our customers are pleasantly surprised by our solutions, by our people and by our knowledge,” said Mr. Roy. “Complaints are few and far between, but when these come up, we deal with them immediately and resolve issues to the customer’s satisfaction, digging down to root causes and implementing permanent solutions,” he said.
“Our team lives, eats and breathes compliance. They are trained in compliance, regularly attend events organized by the U.S. departments of State, Commerce and Treasury as well as by the authorities of other jurisdictions to learn about upcoming regulatory requirements involving denied, restricted and OFAC screening, classification, license and document submission protocols, and more” Marc Roy