The COVID-19 pandemic is causing a paradigm shift, not only in how we live our lives, stay in touch with friends and family or do our shopping, but also in the way we do business. In an industry that has long relied on face-to-face interactions, particularly in the rough trading business, the crisis is accelerating business processes at a rapid pace. The Diamond Loupe spoke with Johan Erikson, CEO of First Element, a tender house operating in Antwerp, on how their processes have changed in the past few months to adapt to “the new normal”.
Typically, in a tender, customers will evaluate whether or not they want to buy by inspecting the rough goods in parcels or single stones physically. How do you deal with the challenges posed by COVID-19 measures and restrictions?
Johan Erikson: In these uncertain times, where international travel is severely restricted, it was imperative for First Element to allow all their buyers from around the world, the opportunity to bid and participate in their upcoming tenders. This can now be done from their own offices due to the upgrades made in conjuction with Bidgemmer LTD, to the First Element online infrastructure and secure online bidding platform. The buyers will be able to view and bid on the diamonds with confidence in the information provided to them which in turn will keep them competitive in our future tenders.
What kind of information will be made available to clients?
Johan Erikson: The clients will have access to high resolution professional-grade pictures of the parcels as well as in-depth information on the breakdown of the composition of each parcel. This will be consistent with our regular assortment which is very well known and relied upon by our existing clients.
Additionally, for select premium stones, we will provide advice on the color, clarity and specific features of the stone. We will also make a downloadable file available to allow the buyers to work on the stone.
But most importantly First Element will make a three-person expert panel available to clients to discuss and advise on these select stones. This panel has over 100 years combined experienced in diamond polishing, diamond marketing, diamond planning and diamond valuation. By appointment First Element will host a Zoom meeting and provide opinions and advice on the stone and answer any questions the potential buyer may have.
Do you think a digital model of tender will eventually replace physical tenders or are we more likely heading in the direction of a hybrid model?
Johan Erikson: From our experience, we believe there will always be a preference for buyers to view the goods physically. However, in these uncertain times it is essential that we allow our clients who are unable to travel, the ability to view and bid competitively on the diamonds with confidence.
The enhanced e-services will be available in First Element’s next Jagersfontein and Rooipoort tender, scheduled for the first week of July.