Behind the Scenes: Atradius Payment Practices Barometer

Trade Credit Protection

The Payment Practices Barometer (PPB) is an annual review of corporate payment practices and behavior as surveyed in more than 30 countries around the world.


Every year, Atradius publishes four different PPBs focused on survey results and findings from the United States-Mexico-Canada (USMCA), Eastern Europe, Western Europe and Asia. The survey also contains dedicated reports for each of the 30 countries surveyed each year.

This year’s USMCA PPB was published in July with data collected from the United States, Mexico and Canada in Q2. The time dedicated to data collection and analysis, alongside publication of the report, spans more than three months. This allows us to gather feedback directly from businesses and share valuable insights on several aspects of their trade credit policy and receivables management.

The report covers a wide range of topics, such as the current state of their trading on credit with B2B customers, the average time given to customers to settle invoices, the impact of late payments and bad debts on their business. In addition, the report covers credit management tools and techniques they employ to mitigate the impact of payment risks on their business. Furthermore, the report also includes an outlook for the business environment over the months ahead. This year’s USMCA PPB was especially valuable as it highlighted the businesses’ experiences in the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The PPB is based on survey research, which allows peer-to-peer learning. Readers can hear directly from the experiences of other businesses and understand how businesses like them are treated by customers in terms of the latter’s payment practices and how they manage their receivables. We collect data and focus on essential industries in each of the regions we study, so that benchmark for payment practices and business performance can be created for each region.

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This report allows readers to learn from other businesses with similar models and characteristics – and what they are facing in terms of customer payment behaviors. In addition, they can learn about measures businesses take to protect receivables and reflect on their own business’ performance. This knowledge sharing is important because we can provide information and insights that are key to protecting businesses from risk.

One of the most interesting parts about this survey research is that it gives you unexpected insights into “first detection” of trends. The PPB helps the reader understand the evolution of various topics. For example, the days sales outstanding (DSO) or payment terms that are set for customers. Surveying businesses in the markets we study can give us a closer look into the trading and credit management environment and the perception of risks with trading on credit.

This report started in 2007 as a project focused on European countries and has grown in scope each year to now surveying businesses in more than 30 countries. We are constantly optimizing and revising our research in order to provide businesses with the information they need. The PPB also promotes an educational approach to receivables management so that we can help businesses understand how the correct evaluations and assessments may prevent risk. If a business dedicates too much time and money to collecting overdue payments and uncollected receivables, they may lose sight of what they need to do – focus on safe growth. We offer solutions to this, backed by data.

One thing we’ve learned through our survey research is that credit insurance is a niche market. With some countries, the usage rate of credit insurance is low, even though it’s a powerful tool to enable business growth. This is the core message that we want to share with each PPB.

As we all know, 2020 was an unusual year. When you look at this USMCA from a distance, there are some unexpected results. The fact that despite the pandemic, there is still optimism throughout the region, is a powerful statement. Businesses have encountered difficulties – with lockdowns and containment measures – but we saw that trading on credit is still very popular and hence, has created a sense of stability.

Although businesses are still concerned about an uncertain end or evolution of the pandemic, respondents in the USMCA region are overall optimistic. And in using the PPB as a resource, businesses can better prepare for the future.