Quebec B2B marketplace first of its kind in Canada

A Canadian bank says it is creating the only one-stop-shopping online outlet for the province of Quebec.

The National Bank of Canada and ClicCommerce, a Quebec B2B company 90 per cent owned by the bank, announced yesterday the launch of ClicInc, a the first B2B electronic marketplace of its kind in Canada, according to the companies.

Tony Meti, National Bank’s senior vice-president of commercial banking for North America, said ClicInc is part of the bank’s plan to evolve faster than its clients are.

“The e-procurement portal will now allow our clients to save substantial dollars in terms of their purchases and efficiency,” he said. “Every company has to buy stationery, for example. Studies indicate that companies can save 80 per cent buying it over the Internet and this can help save money.”

Meti said the National Bank has a 65 per cent penetration rate and about 150,000 clients, up to 30,000 of whom he expects will be actively using the B2B marketplace by the end of next year.

“Then we will grow it exponentially,” he said. “This is also a major attraction for the public sector. Take hospitals, school boards – the public sector is probably the most important target for this service.”

It is a Canadian first in that it offers both a private marketplace, which enables buyers and suppliers access to the platform, and to a public marketplace, which is open to everyone free of charge.

Meti added that the National Bank has been “very selective” about who will become suppliers on ClicInc. However, Guy Berard, president of ClicCommerce, said it won’t be selective to the point of exclusivity.

“We made it clear from the beginning that we are not granting exclusivity to suppliers so we can have more than one in each category,” Berard said from his Montreal office. “As time goes by, we will have more than one in every category, but right now we are hoping to cover every category. It is already fully function in terms of the basic procurement functionality.”

Berard said that one of the main advantages for suppliers like IBM Canada, which is already on board, is that they get preferred access to an additional pool of about 180,000 clients. He added that the coming months will bring more features such as auctions and automated requests for quotations.

“We are rolling these things out at the pace that we can train the market,” he said. “We are strongly leveraging on the relationships the bank has built over the years with the small and medium, as well as large, businesses in Quebec.”

Tosia Manka, analyst with Kanata, Ont.-based Yankee Group Canada, said National Bank’s venture is positive, both for suppliers and businesses in Quebec and other provinces.

“Being the first Canadian Web site of this sort could have nothing but good consequences,” she said. “It is good to finally see something that is Canadian and it will be good for all the companies that might be tired of working in U.S. dollars.”

As Meti pointed out, however, this venture didn’t come cheap.

“The actual portal was several million dollars,” he said. “The cost will be absorbed. If you want to keep your position, you have to keep investing. In terms of revenue stream, this will be worth several more million dollars than we paid.”

National Bank is at http://www.nbc.ca

Yankee Group Canada in Kanata, Ont. is at http://www.yankeegroup.com

ClicCommerce in Quebec is at www.cliccommerce.com