Alternative Risk Finance in a hardening insurance market

| 30-06-2020 | Mark Roelands | treasuryXL

Insurance premium rates are reported to increase on average with about 2% in Europe, confirming the overall market trend of a hardening insurance market. Some markets have, however, seen double-digit growth in premiums, like D&O and Motor Third Party Liability. Other markets witnessed important coverage elements actually being excluded from cover, making the premium comparison apples and pears. As Covid-19 is impacting claims experience across all lines as well as causing negative investment returns, the hardening insurance market trend is expected to continue and get worse in 2020. Premium increases are to be expected and retention levels are expected to be increased.

It is therefore critical to work with your insurance broker in time to understand and mitigate effects for the treasury and insurance function. What is the action plan when retentions are being driven upwards or when cover is disappearing? What alternatives are available next to traditional insurance? Will your organisation be forced to retain risk above the risk appetite or accept double digit premium increases?
Although retaining additional risk may not be the worst solution, as premium increases may not reflect the actual risk that is being transferred and there are awareness benefits to being exposed to risks, the possibility to transfer alternatively is very valuable in the current hardening market.

Captive insurance

A captive is an in-house insurer, enabling efficient and centralized risk pooling while providing cover to operating companies and thereby bridging the gap between corporate and local risk appetite. Key arguments for establishing a captive are to smooth the impact of hardening insurance markets as well as provide additional flexibility in cover. The current market environment is therefore a textbook example for establishing an insurance entity. However, a captive is a licensed insurance company that comes with added costs and a compliance burden. This is especially true since Solvency II became active in 2016. As a general rule of thumb a minimum threshold of captive premium of EUR 2Mio would be required for a Dutch based captive, allowing for claims expenses (70-80% claims ratio), operating costs as well as building some reserves. Establishing a captive in other jurisdictions can make sense, as the route to licensing might still be feasible in 2020 (for the Netherlands at least 6 months are to be expected) as well as the opportunity of some more light-weight operational structures.

An interesting alternative to the fully owned, traditional captive is a Cell Company; either an Incorporated Cell Company (ICC) or Protected Cell Company (PCC). These alternatives provide the benefit of a shared structure (including initial capitalisation) and enable a ring-fenced environment for your organisation. In order to arrange that ring-fencing, specific legislation is required, which is found in Malta in the EU. Guernsey (leaving tax considerations aside) might be very interesting as well. Ireland and Luxemburg did give some hints for establishing cell company legislation but after Brexit this was delayed indefinitely. A Cell Company can provide the same functionality as a fully owned captive, but treasury and insurance will have to work with legal and tax to get a solid business case in place in order to address questions proactively.
Both Aon-Willis and Marsh have Cell Companies and would be able to assist, but insurers can also facilitate this (which has a lock-in effect) while there are also more independent providers like Artex, SRS (completing the top 5 of largest captive managers 2020) and firms like Atlas or Robus which can potentially be of added value as well.

Parametric Insurance

Next to captive insurance, parametric insurance is a promising route to follow.
Parametric insurance has historically been connected to weather insurance (e.g. rainfall exceeding a threshold leading to a pay-out) as well as longevity cover for pension funds (in the form of Insurance Linked Securities, Longevity Swaps). Parametric products enable a highly transparent and quick risk transfer and enable the route to other markets than the insurance market. A parametric product can be structured in an insurance structure but in a derivative structure as well. Conceptually an insurance-linked derivative will not be different than the plain vanilla currency instruments that are traded.

Covid is also attracting significant attention for parametric cover, as lockdown measures can be clear-cut triggers for parametric cover. Most importantly, for parametric cover clear risk information and data analysis is required and both are increasingly available. Increasingly better data and analysis techniques enable to minimise basis risk i.e. the risk in which an incident occurs but the derivative trigger is not being met. For instance site-specific weather stations are set up to ensure rainfall or water level at your organisations’ sites are being monitored. Increasingly, non-weather risks are being covered, for instance Ryskex GmbH and Axis Capital have worked together to develop  parametric cyber-insurance cover.

Where traditional insurance has deductibles and exclusions, parametric risk transfer has basis risk which needs to be managed. Next to that other operational processes may be impacted, claims management for instance and therefore it is recommended to make a well founded and analysed decision.

Roadmap

Starting financing risks in a different manner is not a decision to be made in isolation and to be done quickly. It is a structural decision requiring a structured approach. In our practice, we use our Risk Finance Framework which is composed of (1) Foundation, the objectives to be met (2) People & Organisation, matching the organisation, policies and people involved (3) Processes, adaptive, effective and efficient (4) Data and Technology, the business case based on solid risk information.

In our view, this provides a very practical and structured approach allowing stakeholders like tax and legal to be involved throughout the process. Back planning from a January renewal date, it is critical that conversations with your broker and insurers are taking place in order to ensure no last-minute surprises are presented as a treasury or Insurance professional. In parallel, the (internal) business case can be analysed in order to make a decision.

Therefore, it is recommended to start preparations early, or actually on an asap basis.
Alternative Risk Financing can be highly interesting, but it is not an instant go-to solution and requires some preparations.

 

 

Mark Roelands

Risk and Compliance Specialist

 

 

Trade Finance and ICC Incoterms

| 24-06-2020 | Ger van Rosmalen | treasuryXL

Still up to date every day: “yes do not worry sir, the container will arrive within a few weeks, i hope, it is now the rain season and roads are like rivers”. Many logistics managers are not waiting for these kinds of messages and the irritation grows when they wonders what ***** of Sales has had in mind to deliver this customer on a DAP basis.

This blog is in Dutch language.

De frustratie van iedere logistieke of customer service medewerker is als Sales iets verkoopt zonder zich echt bewust te zijn van de gevolgen en implicaties van die afgesloten deal.

Sales wil geen risico nemen als het op betalen aankomt en heeft van de koper in de binnenlanden van een Afrikaans land wel een Letter of Credit (L/C) als zekerheid gevraagd. De koper wilde die zekerheid wel geven maar dan moesten de goederen wel op DAP basis afgeleverd worden. “Geen punt” volgens Sales.

DAP wil zeggen “Delivered at Place” dus de verkoper moet alle kosten en risico’s voor zijn rekening nemen voor aflevering van de goederen op die overeengekomen plaats ergens in de binnenlanden van dat Afrikaanse land! Sales gaat er maar vanuit dat Logistiek het wel regelt maar weet niet wat voor onmogelijke uitdaging dit is als je je realiseert dat in Afrika sommige geasfalteerde wegen zomaar 5 km buiten de stad overgaan in onverharde moeilijk begaanbare wegen! Zo ook in deze casus, de dure machine moet eerst nog afgeleverd worden in de binnenlanden van dat Afrikaanse land want daar vindt het overdrachtsmoment plaats, aflevering van de machine door afgifte van een “Goods receipt” dat later onder het L/C aangeboden moet worden om betaling te verkrijgen onder het L/C!

Het was toch echt slimmer geweest om de machine af te leveren op basis van een andere  Incoterm, liever geen E- of F-term, maar bij voorkeur een Incoterm uit de C-Groep, maar welke? Het is belangrijk dat iedereen binnen het bedrijf, Sales, Finance en Logistiek de impact begrijpen van iedere afgesproken Incoterm.

Het bepalen van Incoterms strategie bij inkoop en verkoop is maatwerk; praat er over met een specialist!

 

 

 

Ger van Rosmalen

Trade Finance Specialist

 

 

Trade Finance and Compliance | How to properly assess risks

| 15-06-2020 | Ger van Rosmalen | treasuryXL

“As a result of the stricter regulations, the financial sector has been forced to hire large numbers of people. Then, in practice, after intensive investigation on every report, it appears that more than 99% of the cases are false alarms! This results in frustrating and mind-numbing work for highly skilled workers.”  Now the combination of Trade Finance and Compliance / AML (Anti Money Laundering) has been my focus for some time. I was always assuming that Compliance / AML supports the business (customers / products), but because of the stricter regulations, I think the business appears to be supportive of Compliance / AML.

This blog is in Dutch language.

Als je kijkt naar Trade Finance dan zie je dat de definitie vanuit de toezichthouder(s) en de vooraanstaande Wolfsberg Group een breed begrip is. Onder standaard Trade Finance Producten worden verstaan:

  • Documentair Betalingsverkeer: zoals Letters of Credit en Documentaire Incasso’s. Bij deze standaard producten wordt gewerkt met handelsdocumenten zoals facturen, vervoersdocumenten, verzekeringsdocumenten en oorsprongsdocumenten. Door banken wordt gecontroleerd of deze in overeenstemming zijn met de onderliggende handelstransactie. Daarnaast zijn deze producten onderworpen aan internationale regelgeving uitgevaardigd door de ICC Internationale Kamer van Koophandel. Deze regels samen met de gebruikelijke internationale bancaire praktijk hebben ervoor gezorgd dat de banken de “financial crime“ risico’s beter kunnen controleren.
  • Open Account: betalingen; het overgrote deel van de wereldhandel wordt afgewikkeld op “open account” waarbij er een simpele betaling plaatsvindt via het bancaire betalingssysteem voor geleverde goederen of diensten. Hier is de betrokkenheid van de banken ten opzichte van de onder punt 1 genoemde producten gelimiteerd tot de afhandeling van een zogenoemde “clean payment” en is men zich niet altijd bewust van de onderliggende transactie. Banken kunnen hier slechts de standaard AML en sanctie screening op de betaling uitvoeren.

Onder “financial crime” risico wordt verstaan o.a. witwassen, fraude, belasting ontduiking, omkoping, corruptie en terrorismefinanciering. De algemene perceptie is dat Trade Finance door de toezichthouders wordt gezien als een hoog risico. Maar in hoeverre klopt dit? Ten aanzien van “Open Account” betalingen is dit in veel gevallen juist en ben ik van mening dat we juist alert moeten zijn op het hoog risico bij “Open Account” betalingen. Echter in de gesprekken die ik had met de toezichthouder werd “Documentair Betalingsverkeer” juist gekwalificeerd als een normaal risico.

Het verschil zit hem voornamelijk in de mogelijkheden om bij documentair betalingsverkeer veel meer controles te kunnen uitvoeren”, wat bij “open account” betalingen niet het geval is. Veel van de genoemde risico’s bij Trade Finance om illegale verplaatsing van gelden te maskeren zijn bij “open account” zeer hoog. Denk hierbij aan: over-facturering, onder-facturering, meerdere facturen, te weinig verscheept, teveel verscheept, opzettelijke verduistering van het type goederen en spookverschepingen.

Al deze bovengenoemde aspecten worden bij “Documentair Betalingsverkeer” veel eerder gesignaleerd omdat de fysieke handelsdocumenten uitgebreid door de banken worden gecontroleerd. In de eerder genoemde gesprekken met de toezichthouder merk ik een grote nuancering. Waar de toezichthouder spreekt over “richtlijnen” worden deze bij Compliance afdelingen vaak vertaald in eisen en regels. Banken zeggen te voldoen aan de regels (of waren het richtlijnen?) van de toezichthouder en vaak ook The Wolfsberg Group principles.
Wat is The Wolfsberg Group? Zie hieronder de beschrijving die ik op hun website heb gevonden:

“The Wolfsberg Group is an association of thirteen global banks which aims to develop frameworks and guidance for the management of financial crime risks, particularly with respect to Know Your Customer, Anti-Money Laundering and Counter Terrorist Financing policies”.

Saillant detail: Het verbaast mij dan weer wel dat een simpele Googlecheck snel laat zien dat alle van de 13 genoemde banken boetes hebben gekregen voor het niet naleven van hun eigen “principles”.

Duizenden mensen zijn inmiddels aangenomen om 99% nutteloze checks te doen omdat we wel graag die 1% duistere praktijken boven water willen halen. Daar zijn niet alleen de banken de dupe van maar ook het grootste deel van het bedrijfsleven wat te goeder trouw zijn transacties wil afwikkelen. Belangrijk is dan ook dat bij Trade Finance transacties altijd een importeur of exporteur betrokken is, die relatie is van een bank. Het is essentieel dat de bank de ondernemer én zijn onderneming én activiteiten goed begrijpt! Toezichthouders verwachten van de banken dat zij de kennis van handelstransacties kunnen vertalen naar risico’s. Een gevolg kan zijn dat banken een intensiever contact onderhouden met klanten en er meer informatie-uitwisseling zal moeten plaatsvinden. Daarnaast is het van belang dat de beoordeling van risico’s wordt gedaan aan de hand van objectieve criteria en de persoonlijke mening van beoordelaars niet de boventoon mag voeren. Dit is onethisch en onprofessioneel.

Twee voorbeelden uit de praktijk ter verduidelijking

  1. Heel jammer dat een bank een Letter of Credit transactie van een ondernemer met een Afrikaans land niet wilde faciliteren alleen op basis van het feit dat ze amper te eten hebben in dat land!
  2. Of dat de export van gebruikte vrachtauto’s naar een politiek stabiel land ook op Letter of Credit basis niet werd goedgekeurd met als reden dat deze voertuigen zouden kunnen worden omgebouwd tot militair voertuig. Dit werd slechts gebaseerd op een persoonlijke veronderstelling en getuigt bovendien van gebrek aan kennis van zaken. Temeer ook omdat de betreffende exporteur zelf gebruik maakt van een geavanceerd Compliance/AML/Sanctie systeem vergelijkbaar met wat de banken zelf ook gebruiken en zelfs goede contacten heeft met het FIU ( Financial Intelligence Unit Nederland) inzake verdachte transacties.

Dat niet alles door systemen wordt afgevangen mag dit voorbeeld duidelijk maken waarbij een Nederlandse exporteur een “Open Account” betaling ontvangt van een Duits Ingenieursbureau en zonder “red flags” op de rekening wordt geboekt. Achteraf bleek dat de betaling weliswaar uit Duitsland kwam maar dat de goederen direct naar een (dubieuze) Scheepswerf in Rusland werden getransporteerd. Het grootste risico zie ik altijd nog bij de “open account” betalingen. En door vooral in gesprek te blijven met relaties, aandacht voor de klant, weten wat er speelt en gezond verstand laten prevaleren samen met geavanceerde (Compliance/AML/Sanctie) systemen die ongebruikelijke transacties zichtbaar maken zou Compliance in mijn ogen weer ondersteunend moeten worden aan de business (klanten en producten) en niet andersom.

Conclusie

Ook ondernemers doen er goed aan om hun eigen verantwoordelijkheid te nemen en te beseffen, dat men niet meer wegkomt met een simpele Googlecheck en wat financiële data om een relatie met een nieuwe afnemer of leverancier aan te gaan. Het is voor een bank een geruststelling als de relatie aantoont dat zij zorgvuldig te werk gaat en gebruik maakt van ook voor het MKB beschikbare Compliance/AML/Sanctie software. Toegang tot deze informatie voordat je een handtekening onder een contract zet helpt niet alleen van financiële risico’s te beperken maar beschermt ook de reputatie van de ondernemer.

De internationale handel is zeker in deze uitdagende coronatijd gebaat bij een optimaal samenspel tussen de toezichthouder met duidelijke heldere richtlijnen, banken die deze vertalen naar werkbare procedures en ondernemers die de noodzaak van extra controles begrijpen en daarnaar handelen. Zo kunnen we samen ondernemend Nederland nog beter stimuleren in dat waar we van oudsher goed in zijn, succesvol handel drijven in binnen én buitenland.

 

 

Ger van Rosmalen

Trade Finance Specialist

 

 

The ultimate battle between Letter of Credit and Credit Insurance

| 28-04-2020 | Ger van Rosmalen | treasuryXL

For decades, there seems to have been a debate between using Letters of Credit (L/C) and credit insurance. Both methods offer their advantages and disadvantages. Last week, I read an article on how working with credit insurance is so much better than working with Letters of Credit, highlighting that L/Cs are labour intensive, have bad financial implications, and global trade generally prefers credit insurance. Now that some have called credit insurance the better alternative, there is further discussion about the usefulness of Letters of Credit, which raises many questions. In this blog, I highlight the contextual benefits of Letters of Credit and my opinion.

This blog is available in English and Dutch. See Dutch version below.

Scenario

Is credit insurance the fully comprehensive solution for the customer? What if the exporter has a nice deal in the so-called “emerging markets” where the credit insurance only covers 80% or no coverage at all and the importer does not want to pay because of a commercial dispute? Can the exporter afford to take a 20% deductible (residual) risk?

Benefits of Letter of Credit

If the credit insurer does not cover at all, a Letter of Credit is a very good alternative. If the transaction has a delayed payment of, for example, 180 days, it is not certain whether the exporter can wait that long for the money. Banks are no longer waiting for you at the door with a bag of money. Lending is scarce. With a confirmed L/C you don’t have to wait until the end of the payment term, but the bank can make money available when L/C compliant documents are provided. We call this “discounting without recourse”.

Customer interest

Discover the best solution for the customer and the transaction. Often you can accommodate a large part with credit insurance, but certainly not everything! If your sales area is Europe, you may still be able to avoid using L/C’s, but if you export all over the world, you cannot avoid using Letters of Credit.

Are L/Cs really that laborious and difficult?
I think you can influence that yourself. With sufficient knowledge in house, it already means that you can often sit in the director’s chair with L/C transactions. I have seen many L/C ‘s go through my hands and then I also see if you take exporters into the L/C world they find it interesting and more importantly, they will recognize the value of an L/C. The exporter feels himself with the newly acquired information comfortable to start using Letters of Credit.

Letters of Credit vs Credit Insurance

The battle between Letter of Credits and Credit Insurance has to be buried because both methods have pros and cons. Find a combination between the two that suits the needs of the customer and you will realize that both methods actually complement and reinforce each other.

 

in Dutch

De ultieme strijd tussen Letters of Credit en kredietverzekering

Al tientallen jaren lijkt er een debat te zijn geweest tussen het gebruik van Letters of Credit (L / C) en kredietverzekeringen. Beide methoden bieden hun voor- en nadelen. Vorige week las ik een artikel over hoe het werken met kredietverzekeringen zoveel beter is dan werken met Letters of Credit, waarbij er werd benadrukt dat L/C’s arbeidsintensief zijn, slechte financiële gevolgen hebben en dat de wereldhandel in het algemeen de voorkeur geeft aan kredietverzekeringen. Nu Sommigen kredietverzekeringen het betere alternatief noemen, wordt er verder gediscussieerd over het nut van Letter of Credit, waarbij veel vragen naar boven komen. In deze blog belicht ik de contextuele voordelen van Letter of Credit en mijn mening.

Scenario

Is een kredietverzekering de allesomvattende oplossing voor de klant? Wat als die exporteur een mooie deal heeft in de zogenaamde “emerging markets” waar de kredietverzekering slechts 80% of helemaal niet dekt en de importeur niet wil betalen vanwege een commercieel geschil? Kan de exporteur het zich veroorloven om een ​​aftrekbaar (rest) risico van 20% te nemen?

Voordelen van Letter of Credit

Als de kredietverzekeraar helemaal niet dekt, is een Letter of Credit een goed alternatief. Als de transactie een vertraagde betaling heeft van bijvoorbeeld 180 dagen is het niet zeker of de exporteur zo lang kan wachten op het geld. Banken wachten niet langer op je voor de deur met een zak geld. Kredietverlening is schaars. Met een bevestigde L/C hoeft u niet te wachten tot het einde van de looptijd, maar de bank kan geld beschikbaar stellen wanneer er L/C-conforme documenten aangeboden worden. We noemen dit ‘discounting without recourse’.

Klantbelang

Ontdek de beste oplossing voor de klant en de transactie. Vaak kunt u met een kredietverzekering een groot deel onderbrengen, maar zeker niet alles! Als uw verkoopgebied Europa is, kunt u misschien nog vermijden om L/C’s te gebruiken, maar als u over de hele wereld exporteert, kunt u het gebruik van Letters of Credit niet vermijden.

Zijn L/C’s echt zo bewerkelijk en moeilijk?
Ik denk dat je dat zelf kunt beïnvloeden. Met voldoende kennis in huis betekent het al dat je bij L/C transacties vaak op de regisseursstoel kunt zitten. Zelf heb ik veel L/C’s door mijn handen zien gaan en dan zie ik ook als je exporteurs meeneemt naar de L/C-wereld ze het interessant gaan vinden en nog belangrijker, ze gaan de waarde inzien van een L/C. De exporteur voelt zich met de opgedane kennis comfortabel genoeg om ermee aan de slag te gaan.

Letters of Credit vs Credit Insurance

De strijdbijl tussen Letter of Credit en Credit Insurance moet worden begraven, omdat beide methoden voor- en nadelen vertonen. Zoek een combinatie tussen beide die past bij de behoefte van de klant en u zult zich realiseren dat beide methoden elkaar daadwerkelijk aanvullen en versterken.

 

 

Ger van Rosmalen

Trade Finance Specialist

 

 

Be careful what you wish for in crowdfunding

| 02-07-2019 | by Pieter de Kiewit |

Over the last decade bankers have taken over from civil servants and public transport employees as the ones to complain about. Yours truly is also guilty and I still meet bankers who do not like to talk about their profession because they are annoyed about the bashing. Nobody is perfect but haven’t we all been too harsh on bankers?

This question popped up last week when I read about crowdfunding developments. This relatively new form of funding is growing quickly. I see at least three obvious reasons for this. First, regular banks are reluctant to fund SMEs. Regulatory requirements, ROI and risk profiles of their potential clients are some reasons for that. Second, there is a lot of liquidity in the market and it is hard to make proper investments. Third and last, various platforms, with easy accessible IT solutions, facilitate investors finding those who need funds. Why my plea to go easier on the bankers?

With crowdfunding platforms building a track record, issues are becoming very visible. There are two very prominent problems. Many SMEs using crowdfunding facilitate the payment of extremely high interests, the term loan sharks already came up. The other prominent problem is that the credit risk process in crowdfunding is often very weak. This results in the funding of unstable businesses and weak plans, ending up with funders empty-handed.

I am a small business owner, the chamber of commerce sells my address to whoever pays. On a very regular basis I receive mail informing me how much I can borrow. Crowdfunding is not regulated like banks are. Process and expectation management is being done quite aggressively by platforms and I understand problems are becoming obvious as the market matures. I invite you to read input from Lex van Teeffelen and others:

RTL Z/ANP: Failliet door crowdfunding: ‘Hoge rentes nekken ondernemers’
Lex van Teefelen: Dalend rendement crowdfunding 2019 / Flitskrediet: meer vloek dan zegen! 

This brings me back to where I started with: were we right in bashing bankers? Their processes are more sound, their communication is done with more restraint. There were extremes, mistakes were made and greed was obvious. I think most bankers tried and try to do an honest and professional job. Let’s keep each other informed, educated and ask before we judge. Hopefully we will get better in doing a proper funding job.

 

 

 

Pieter de Kiewit
Owner Treasurer Search

 

Blockchain Smart Treasury: game-changer for treasurers?

| 19-3-2019 | Carlo de Meijer | treasuryXL

Though blockchain is not yet well understood by many treasury people, and tangible real-world applications for the corporate treasurer’s day-to-day activities are still scarce, this technology is getting increased interest in the treasury world.

In August 2016 I wrote a blog in Finextra named “The Corporate Treasurer and Blockchain”. My conclusions at that time were that blockchain had the potential to fundamentally change the treasury function at corporates. For some it would even going to be a game-changer for treasury. The change might not be here yet, but it is coming, and treasurers need to take a long view on it.

But that is changing rapidly. The focus of blockchain developers is now turning from proof of concept projects to the creation of more practical, treasury-focused blockchain solutions. Recently we have seen a number of blockchain-based treasury trials that are worthwhile looking at. Last December R3 announced the completion of testing on a new blockchain-based KYC proof-of-concept, which was facilitated in collaboration with the French Association of Corporate Treasurers and a number of French banks.

One of the solutions that triggered me most is Smart Treasury by Boston-based fintech Adjoint, that is aimed to enable real-time gross settlement and continuous reconciliation and improve the liquidity management of the corporate treasurer. Main question is, could Adjoint’s solution be a break-through for blockchain in the corporate treasury world?

It is always interesting – and I am a very curious person – to see new initiatives in the blockchain scene and what they could bring for corporates esp. the treasury department.

So let’s have a deeper dive.

Complex treasury environment

Internationally operating corporates have undergone many transformations in their finance and treasury organisations triggered by technology innovations, regulatory initiatives and changed client behaviours. As a result today’s business environment for these corporates is highly complex from a treasury point of view.

In the digital era, real-time insight into a company’s global cash positions and managing credit facilities across all bank accounts of the group and the ability to move money intraday to where and when it is needed is increasingly needed to support this changing business environment.

Key challenge is to obtain consolidated information of group-wide multi-currency positions across a fragmented banking network in a timely manner. Today’s model of international correspondent banking however does not easily facilitate the ability to manage cash in a real-time environment.

Corporate treasurers are urgently looking for new ways to provide cash management with up to date – and if possible real time – information on cash positions and cash forecasts faster and with deeper insight, allowing corporate treasurers to better react to the company’s current cash and working capital needs.

In this context, they are significantly increasing their spending on treasury technology and innovations, to speed up and streamline their company’s cash, liquidity, risk and working capital management, in order to gain greatest visibility over their business critical function and reach greater strategic control.

Adjoint’s Smart Treasury: what does it bring for corporate treasurers?

Adjoint’s Smart Treasury solution, that was launched last year, contains a number of unique specifics that makes it very interesting for corporate treasures.

Smart Treasury should be seen as a multi-bank, multi-currency virtual account platform for real-time gross settlement and continuous reconciliation. This should allow corporate treasurers to untap liquidity in their various subsidiaries’ bank account.

Adjoint has combined blockchain technology with related smart contracts and APIs (or application programming interfaces) to create a solution that aims to dramatically speed up settling intercompany transactions in a secured way while significantly reducing the costs.

Most important features of this Smart Treasury solution are the following:

Distributed ledger: Auto reconciliation

Smart Treasury uses distributed ledger technology to auto-reconcile transactions information, thereby eliminate netting processes and improve FX management to provide treasurers with streamlined efficiency and improved, real-time visibility on cash positions.

Virtual accounts

Another interesting feature is that it enables a limitless number of virtual or “sub-accounts” for reconciling customer and suppliers payments. Companies can thereby consolidate costly, physical bank accounts into a selected number of blockchain virtual accounts. Smart Treasury thereby enables “purposed drive allocation”, thereby using smart contracts to designate how much and where digitised cash can be spent from these virtual accounts.

“Money can then be debited or credited among those accounts as needed, using smart contracts and APIs to make the necessaire FX translations, apply interest on intercompany loans and similar calculations.” Somil Goyal chief operating officer at Adjoint

In-house self-service bank

Smart Treasury consists of an “always-on” in-house self-service bank with “pre-established” rules for automated intra-company transactions. Here you could think of limits on how much can be automatically borrowed by entities based on pre-established interest rates. Nowadays, intercompany transactions, often conducted via an in-house bank, have become essential for multinational corporations. They seek to leverage internal resources more effectively. However, the overnight batch systems most companies use to settle transactions, can limit the transparency into subsidiaries’ account balances.

Smart Treasury Dashboard: access

The solution allows corporate treasury departments to operate their own private distributed ledger. This may enable them to choose which internal corporate entities and third parties including customers and suppliers may have access to the network via their Smart Treasury Dashboard and settle transactions directly with them in real time, rather than overnight or even longer.

But also regulators could be added on the platform which may help notional pooling in jurisdictions with currency controls, while improving the regulatory reporting process by automatically updating records and centralising all information in the ledger.

Smart contracts

Another key feature of Smart Treasury is the use of smart contracts. The tool’s Smart Contracts System uses blockchain to help teams define and set pre-configured rules that securely enable automated, real time transactions. These may include key corporate treasury functions such as regulatory and corporate compliance requirements including KYC; account opening or transactions such as intercompany loans, FX and netting, manage liquidity in multiple currencies, transfers among any approved entities etc. so lowering the costs of booking transactions between subsidiaries.

API integration with corporate ERP and TMS systems

Smart Treasury offers a nearly real-time API-based integration with organisation’s existing systems. Instead of replacing systems such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) and Treasury management system (TMS), Smart Treasury works with current systems as an easy-to-be-integrated overlay, preventing duplicate entries. In fact Smart Treasury complement these, improving the way they interact by speeding up intercompany transaction settlement. Through using smart contracts, all transaction information is auto-reconciled and automatically posted into treasury management systems in real-time.

“With Adjoint’s solution this takes place much faster, at a much lower cost, and it will actuality accept feed from the banks using APIs, which then feed the ERP – again using API – and it carries all of the information necessaire through smart contracts”.Daniel Blumen, Partner of Treasury Alliance

API integration with banks

Smart Treasury also offers a real-time API-based integration with banks for transactions outside the organisation. The solution allows the use of APIs for real-time intra-day bank transactions processing as opposed to end of day batch processing. They enable the transfer of critical information and data between corporate entities and their banks and data providers, as well as between corporate entities within the corporate.

Read the full article of our expert Carlo de Meijer on LinkedIn

 

 

Carlo de Meijer

Economist and researcher

 

Commercial Paper – alternative short term funding

| 03-05-2018 | treasuryXL |

Instead of just relying on banks to provide short term funding, large corporations are also able to access the European Commercial Paper market (ECP). This is an alternative market that can assist in meeting short term funding requirements. This provides a good alternative to products previously mentioned – such as lines of credit. In this article we shall look at what ECP is, how it can be issued and what the market for this paper is.

Definition

Commercial Paper is a promissory note that is unsecured with a maturity shorter than 1 year. A corporation will, initially establish a CP programme which determines the terms and conditions – such as maximum allowable issuance amount, termination date of the programme or open ended, currencies, bank dealers etc. The issue is subject to a credit rating and the paper is rated. It is also possible to issue your own paper instead of through a dealer, though this is not used as much.

Issuance

The issuer has 2 approaches: issuing paper as and when funding is needed, or being informed by the dealer that there is demand from the market for additional paper. As the paper is negotiable, clearance and settlement is provided via one of the major clearing houses – Euroclear, DTC etc. Settlement is the same as a spot transaction – taking place two working days after transacting. As ECP is in competition with other forms of short term investment, it is necessary to have an active presence in the market – lenders need to know that there is demand for their funds and issuers are in direct competition with other issuers.

Use

ECP allows issuers to fund themselves in a more flexible manner than traditional bank lending – this can be seen in both the issuance amount and the tenor of the paper. Issuers with the highest credit ratings can often achieve funding below the cost of Euribor/Libor. This allows issuers to fund a significant portion of their total funding requirements on a short term basis. As short term rates are normally lower than long term rates, this leads to a reduction in the average cost of funding. An ECP programme for as little as EUR 250 million can be established, though it is more common to see programmes for more than EUR 1 billion.

Motivation

An issuer needs to ascertain that there is a definite funding requirement and that an ECP programme can successfully be utilised. There are ongoing costs involved, so it is not just a question of setting up a programme and then leaving it there in place without using it.
An issuer needs to know if there is a true appetite in the market for their paper. No issuer wants to find that having established a programme that there is no demand for their paper.
How does the short term funding fit into the funding requirements of the issuer on the whole? Not only do they get access to cheap funds, they also gain access to potential borrowers who could be interested in supplying alternative long dated funding.

Conclusion

ECP offers a lower cost of funding, flexibility in both issuance timing and maturity, and is unsecured. As the paper is tradable, investors can always sell their paper on in the secondary market. This must be weighed up against factors such as cost of programme maintenance, reduction in lines of credit, and the fact that only top rated issuers are accepted.

For large corporations an ECP programme is attractive, but needs constant maintenance and attention. It offers an attractive bespoke alternative to traditional bank funding.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us.

 

Repurchase Agreements – alternative short term funding

| 16-04-2018 | treasuryXL |

 

There are times when a corporate needs to borrow funds – this can be accomplished in a manner of ways. If the corporate actually held securities (Government paper, bonds etc.), it could consider entering into a repurchase agreement – better known as a Repo. This transaction entails a trade where the corporate sells securities at an agreed price and date to a counterparty and purchases them back at a future date for an agreed price. In return, the corporate receives cash – in essence, a Repo is a collateralised loan. Let us look at the working and reasons behind this money market product.

As a funding instrument, repos have been around for 100 years – originally used by the Federal Reserve to facilitate open market operations. As a repo is a collateralised loan, the interest rate is, normally, lower than for unsecured lending. The major factor is the type of collateral that is offered. This can normally be Government paper, but can also include other forms of bonds and securitised paper. The interest amount is not paid separately, but included in the final price upon redemption. The classic term for a repo is a “sell and buyback” – the paper is sold in exchange for a principal amount and bought back on the agreed future date. The counterparty that buys the paper is entering into a reverse repo.

By offering the paper as collateral, the lender is entering into a secured transaction – if the borrower defaults, the lender still holds the paper. The preference in the market is for high quality liquid securities, though markets can be found for more opaque paper. After the financial crisis, the demand for repo trading rose sharply as the interbank market was reluctant to extend unsecured funding to counterparties.

The paper falls into 2 distinct categories – specials and general collateral. A special refers to a specific security (recognised by its unique ISIN number) that is in demand. These are bonds that are normally being very heavily traded in the market and market makers need to cover their short positions by borrowing the paper. As such the rates on specials can be appreciably lower than on normal repos – and far below the rates on the interbank money market. In particular times of shortage, rates can even be negative.

General collateral is any paper that is accepted as collateral at that moment – it could be any German Government paper as this is deemed by market participants as being of equal value and standing. Most collateral is subject to a haircut – due to the additional work involved and the potential credit risk. This means that a bond with a face value of EUR 1 million can only be used as collateral to borrow EUR 950,000. Whilst these loans are collateralised, and often cover Government paper, the is always a specific credit risk.

For the buyer of a repo, they are lending funds and receiving collateral. One of the main players on the buy side are Money Market Funds. For the seller there is an opportunity to receive short date finance whilst pledging assets that they are holding in their portfolio.

Repos normally have a short tenor – from overnight to 3 months. They facilitate the short dated market and provide funding at attractive rates, and assist bond traders in covering their positions.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us.

 

 

Peer to peer lending – just a fad or a change in the market?

| 27-03-2018 | treasuryXL |

 

Almost 2 years ago we reported that KNAB Bank had started a crowdfunding initiative to allow, mainly companies, to access an alternative area to fund their businesses, whilst at the same time allowing investors to directly participate in these loans and lend directly – via KNAB – to the borrowers. An extra incentive was that KNAB would directly participate in all loans – their role was not only as an intermediary and facilitator. Now is a good time to look back on their progress and refresh ourselves with the concept of peer to peer lending (P2P).

What is it?

It is an online service that matches the needs of the borrowers with that of the lenders. As the service is only related to lending and does not encompass traditional banking roles, the service providers are able to provide these services cheaper and more quickly than a traditional bank loan. The P2P service provider takes a fee – a margin on the interest rate and/or an annual service charge. In recompense, they enable the matching service to take place, administer the loan and ensure that the investors receive their money back – in the form of capital repayments and interest.

What are the features of the system?

  • It is an online facility
  • Intermediation is provided by the site owner
  • Borrowers can post their proposals online
  • Lenders can choose which borrowers and loans meet their criteria
  • Repayment schedule is included
  • Loans can be secured on unsecured
  • Credit ratings are applied to the borrower
  • Loans can be tracked and monitored for compliance

What role does the intermediary play?

  • Process the loan applications
  • Authenticate the validity of the borrower
  • Perform relevant credit checks
  • Process the cash flows
  • Service the loans
  • Ensuring correct compliance and reporting are carried out

What are the advantages?

As the service is an online matching service, it is fast, simple and cost efficient, This leads to lower interest costs for the borrower and allows investors to directly access the loan market and earn a higher return on their money than traditionally obtained at the bank. Also, the administrative processing time can be a lot quicker than by a bank. The system also can appeal to the ethics of a lender – they have the opportunity to directly help a company that is looking to expand or who require finance for major investment. Furthermore, an investor knows exactly who is borrowing their money – depositing money at a bank does not detail how that money is used by the bank. There has been a political and ethical backlash to banks over the last decade in response to the perceived domination they have within the market. As a lender, it is possible to get yields of between 5% and 9% on your investment. This will be lowered by the costs that the intermediary levy – KNAB take a service charge of 0.85% per annum on the outstanding balance.

What are the disadvantages?

As a lender your money is not guaranteed. You bear all the risks and, in the worst case, could lose your investment. Despite all the due diligence that has taken place before the loan request was placed on the platform, it is still necessary to perform your own checks on the potential borrower – your criteria may be different to that used by the platform. You cannot demand early repayment from the borrower – money that you invest must be money that you can miss for the duration of the loan.

 

How is KNAB doing with their P2P?

  • They have arranged funding for 57 loans totalling EUR 9,125,000
  • The average loan is for EUR 160,087, takes 49 hours to complete and charges an interest rate of 7.83% pa
  • There are 4,533 investors with an average exposure for EUR 905 and a yield of 6.98% pa.
  • All loans are based on linear redemption, have a tenor of between 6 months and 10 years.
  • To date there have been no defaults on principal repayments and there are not payments in arrears.
  • Participation can be from EUR 100 per loan – this allows for diversification.

Conclusion

For investors looking for an alternative investment with a longer duration, P2P can appear interesting. The risks are greater than depositing money at the bank, but the potential rewards far exceed the returns offered by banks. Additionally, for investors looking to approach the market more ethically, it does give the possibility of directly participating in someone else’s ambitions – knowing that your participation is having an effect on society. There are considerable risks, but these must be weighed up against the potential reward. Any investor needs to work out how much they can afford to lose on their principal investment against the higher return being offered.

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