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

 

 

treasuryXL announces partnership with SpendLab Recovery

| 28-5-2020 | treasuryXL | SpendLab Recovery |

VENLO, The Netherlands, May 28, 2020 – treasuryXL, the independent community platform for everyone who is active in the world of treasury, and SpendLab Recovery, the Dutch market leader in spend justification that is currently in the process of expanding internationally, today announced the signature of a premium partnership.

As a marketplace, treasuryXL will offer SpendLab Recovery market commentary and insight to its audience. Offering a continuous flow of relevant treasury content, making treasury knowledge available, results in treasuryXL being the obvious go-to platform for its’ audience. SpendLab Recovery will have a prominent role in the Treasury Topic environment with coverage in Operational Risk, Liquidity, Treasury Software and Fraud & Cybersecurity.

SpendLab Recovery generates liquidity for clients by using their Accounts Payable Recovery Analyzer (APRA). APRA is a technology platform that combines over 400 algorithms, Big Data, AI, and machine learning, and audits all the raw Accounts Payable data in any ERP system to identify anomalies. Several examples of anomalies include but are not limited to: undue payments, double invoices, overpayments, and overpaid VAT. Over the past years, SpendLab has analysed over 321 million invoices and has recovered more than €200 million EUR for its clients.

treasuryXL and SpendLab Recovery strive for a fruitful partnership where its’ audience are top of mind making sure that (potential) clients are always up to date with the latest news and events in their field, benefit from a comprehensive range of innovative solutions, services and experts.

According to Iris Lopes, Managing Director at SpendLab “Nowadays, there is more and more demand for concrete and useful data, especially data that can be used to empower financial decision-makers. We as SpendLab focus specifically on the accounts payable of organisations and can contribute to generating liquidity, providing complete insights into accounts payable data, and reducing any related risk. Our goal of this partnership with treasuryXL is to share our profound accounts payable knowledge to the Treasury community and to gain a better understanding of the processes and difficulties that financial decision-makers have to deal with.”

“SpendLab Recovery is a great addition to our treasury community and offers unique services. In these COVID-19 times businesses have an even stronger focus on liquidity than before. SpendLab Recovery creates transparent insights in accounts payable. These can be the basis for recovering unjustified spendings and will create the control of future risks. Especially in times where treasurers are expected to connect their specialty with that of their colleagues, the solution of Spendlab enables very visible results of cooperation”. says Kendra Keydeniers, Community & Partner Manager at treasuryXL.

About treasuryXL

treasuryXL started in 2016 as a community platform for everyone who is active in the world of treasury. Their extensive and highly qualified network consists out of experienced and aspiring treasurers. treasuryXL keeps their network updated with daily news, events and the latest treasury vacancies.

treasuryXL brings the treasury function to a higher level, both for the inner circle: corporate treasurers, bankers & consultants, as well as others that might benefit: CFO’s, business owners, other people from the CFO Team and educators.

treasuryXL offers:

  • professionals the chance to publish their expertise, opinions, success stories, distribute these and stimulate dialogue.
  • a labour market platform by creating an overview of vacancies, events and treasury education.
  • a variety of consultancy services in collaboration with qualified treasurers.
  • a broad network of highly valued partners and experts.

About SpendLab Recovery

SpendLab Recovery is the Dutch market leader in spend justification. The company is a former spin-off from the Dutch government with a 98 year old heritage in procurement. It currently specialises in generating liquidity for clients by analysing -and identifying anomalies in accounts payable data.

In terms of certification, SpendLab is GPR compliant and is ISO-certified for Information Security Management (ISO/IEC 27001) and Quality Management (ISO 9001:2015).

By having insights in the accounts payable and being able to recover unjustified liquidity, treasurers will be able to identify and control (liquidity) risks in their vendor data.

For more information visit SpendLab.com

Corporate Governance and Treasury | Embrace the Corporate Treasury Policy

| 18-02-2020 | François de Witte | treasuryXL |



Corporate Governance

Corporate Governance is a mechanism through which boards and directors can direct, monitor and supervise the conduct and operation of the corporation and its management in a way that ensures appropriate levels of authority, accountability, stewardship, leadership, direction and control.

The ultimate responsibility for Treasury management within an organization lies with the board of directors. Due to the practicalities and technical aspects involved in corporate treasury, the board typically delegates the daily management of risk to responsible individuals in each department. In the case of financial risks, many of these are delegated to the treasurer.

Whilst, due to its specific activities, the corporate treasurer needs to take a lot of actions and decisions independently, it is important that he does this within a framework and Governance. Quite a lot of corporates have formalized this in a “Corporate Treasury Policy”.

Corporate Treasury Policy

The Corporate Treasury Policy is the mechanisms by which the board, or risk management committee (RMC), can delegate financial decisions in a controlled manner. This document should be a summary of all the principles approved by the Board or the Financial Committee of the Board as a mandate of the Board to the treasurer (the Treasury Mandate).

The Corporate Treasury Policy is a framework document, which covers the following areas:

Organization of the Treasury Function

In most of the companies, the Corporate Treasury Reports to the CFO. The CFO is usually himself a Member of the Executive Committee, which itself reports directly to the Board of Directors. (Treasurer – CFO – Treasury Committee – Audit Committee – Board):

A policy should set out clearly which decisions are delegated to the treasurer and when the treasurer should refer a decision back to the board or other person within the organization. Within several corporate, the Board of Directors have delegated the decision process to dedicated committee, like the Risk Committee, and the Liquidity and Funding Committee.

Treasury Control Framework (including the Code of Conduct)

Procedures and controls to manage the risk should be put in place to provide an overall framework for decision-making by the treasury team.

Ideally, this should also include a code of conduct. The Corporate Treasurer should act as a Corporate Custodian. In other words, he is Protector of the company’s assets, and should act according to a strict Code of Conduct and Ethics. There exist examples of codes developed by professional organizations such as IGTA, ATEB, AFTE, ACT and ATEL.

Liquidity and funding

The board should be informed about funding possibilities to put currency, maturity, cost and equity/debt character into a wider context. The board should decide on the strategy but can delegate fund raising decisions and actions to treasury. However, I recommend that Treasury asks the final board approval for strategic decisions (e.g. major syndicated loans, bond issues, etc.).

The board should have an overall view on the liquidity risk of the company. The Board should also define the financial policy, covering the gearing and maturity issues, fixed and variable interest rate obligations, dividend policy and covenants.

Banking Relationship

Banks chosen by the treasurer must be able to meet the needs of the organization, both domestically and internationally. I recommend that the Board approves annually criteria for selecting the banks with whom it will work.

Risk Management

The Treasurer must identify the various risks to which the company is exposed, quantify the impact, and should inform the Board thereof. He should estimate the size of these exposure risks and their impact on the he overall operations and financial performance of the company, and make recommendations in these areas

The board must approve the hedging policy, the company’s foreign exchange, interest rate and commodity risk management policy and its attitude to risk. It should define which part of the risks must be hedged and the hedging horizon. I recommend that the Treasurer submits at regular intervals to the Board the list of authorized instruments, the amount per instrument and their term

Investment Policy – Counterparty Credit Risk

The board should approve the treasury’s Investment policy including the choice of instruments, the list of counterparties used + the maximum amount/counterparty & maturity. It is recommended that the Board provides guidelines and limits per instrument.

It is recommended that the Board approves the guidelines for fixing counterparty limits, and maximum exposure per counterparty.

Authorized instruments and Arrangements – Authorized Approvers

The Treasurer should make sure that the board must understands and approve the strategies and instruments used and sets guidelines for the appropriate limits for their use. These guidelines need to ensure that treasury has not sacrificed long-term flexibility or

survival for short-term gain, especially in view of the volatile financial market’s situation.

Treasury Operational Risk

The treasurer should make the Board aware of the operational risks to which the company is exposed. He should provide recommendations in this area. Furthermore, the treasurer should also submit recommendations to the board on the treasury organization and the ways to reduce the operational risks.

Monitoring

A Corporate Treasury Policy has only sense, if there is a regular follow up and control framework; Hence procedures and controls to manage the risk should be put in place to provide an overall framework for decision-making by the treasury team.

It is also important to provide to the Board a regular update on the way the treasurer complies with the policy. The policy should also be regularly reviewed.

Treasury must alert the board to external changes and internal strategic developments, which may have long-term implications for the organization and make proposals for managing them.

The policy needs also to be reviewed at regular intervals each “Policy” in function of the market and of other internal or external developments. I recommend having treasury on the Board’s agenda on a quarterly basis.

Conclusion

Treasury is not an island in the company. It is closely linked to the corporate governance. Hence it is important to define the right framework.

I recommend to corporates to put in place a treasury policy validated by the Board of Directors and reviewed regularly. It is important to update the Board at regular intervals about strategic topics, such as strategic financing topics and risk management.

The treasurer has also an important educational role, as he must be able to make complex treasury topics understandable for the board members.

Hence there must be a good interaction between the treasurer, the CFO and the Board is key, where the Treasurer is the linking pin.

 

François de Witte
Founder & Senior Consultant at FDW Consult
Managing Director and CFO at SafeTrade Holding S.A.
treasuryXL ambassador

Managing treasury risk: Operational Risk (Part VII)

| 21-3-2017 | Lionel Pavey |

 

There are lots of discussions concerning risk, but let us start by trying to define what we mean by risk. In my last article on how to manage treasury risk I will write something about operational risk. The Bank for International Settlements (BIS) defines this as “the risk of loss resulting from inadequate or failed internal processes, people and systems or from external events.  If you want to read my earlier articles on managing the different treasury risks please refer to the complete list at the end of today’s article.

 

Whilst this is the last article in this series, it is actually – potentially – the most significant risk that a company can face, as there are many different ways that a loss could occur, together with the fact that when it happens the amount lost can be very large. Even if the size of the loss could be considered small, there is always the threat of reputation risk which, once identified, is very difficult to erase from the memory.

While it is possible to insure against rogue trading for a company (the risk present in the Treasury function can be quantified and qualified) it is very rare that damage is caused by just one individual – a financial version of the lone wolf theory. Operational risks tend to be interlinked – a fraudulent payment could be initiated by human involvement (either as fraud or human error) and facilitated by weak processes together with insecure technological systems.

There are 2 main areas of operational risk within treasury for a company

  1. Internal
  2. External

There are 3 main categories of operational risk within treasury for a company:

  1. Computer System, Information Technology
  2. Theft and Fraud
  3. Unauthorised Activity

Computer System, Information Technology

A lack of robustness and deficiencies in the technology and systems contribute to circumstances for failures, errors, data losses, corruption and fraud. Internally considerable care and attention should be given to the protocol for Static Data. This encompasses all the relevant reference data for a counterparty and should be subject to at least an input and verification procedure before entering the computer system. Changes to Static Data have to be recorded, together with the proper paper trail and authorization matrix. Externally the risks relate mainly to illegal entry (hacking), together with the complete theft of data.

Theft and Fraud

Both internally and externally main areas include:

  • Theft – both physical and electronic
  • Extortion
  • Embezzlement
  • Forgery
  • Misappropriation
  • Willful destruction
  • Bribes
  • Kickbacks
  • Insider Trading

Unauthorised Activity

From the Treasury point of view, this is an internal activity and mainly relates to 2 types of transactions – unauthorized by transaction and or type; transactions that are not captured in the system and reported. These can lead to monetary losses (though a gain is possible – at the price of an operational risk), together with loss of reputation.
The last category clearly shows where the biggest risk occurs within a company – at the human level. Generally speaking, these are caused by incompetence, lack of knowledge, misuse of power or compulsion to act caused by external factors – extortion.
It is clear therefore that whilst the electronic systems employed by a company can be a liability if not properly programmed or safeguarded, even here, most of the errors can be traced by to human intervention.

So why are the human risks so often underestimated? Naturally a company wishes to have the feeling that its staff can be trusted (within reason). After all, the company felt that the staff were the right people to employ. It is not my intention to formulate the reasoning and thinking of people who perform illegal acts. However certain areas that can be considered include how staff are treated; the demand placed on them; the rewards given; the levels of transparency and inequity within the company; a closed-off attitude (problems in one department are kept within that department and not discussed throughout the company); the role model set by owners, directors and managers; loss of personnel, reduction in morale; disinterested and unmotivated staff.

 Solutions

An effective framework of operational risk management needs to be designed and implemented within the business. This requires input and commitment from all departments within the company, meeting one agreed standard and not being shaped to every individual department’s wishes. The framework has to run and meet the requirements for all different strategies within the company.

I wish to finish with 2 examples of operational risk to illustrate how large they can be.

In 1995 the world’s second oldest merchant bank (Barings Bank) collapsed due to the actions of a rogue trader. Corruption and a lack of internal control led to a loss of GBP 827 million.

Around the same time I was employed as an international money broker working in the interbank market and travelled every day from The Hague to Amsterdam via train. As I knew the route off by heart, I read all the time – magazines, papers, books – anything. I purchased a book called “The Cuckoo’s Egg” as it seemed interesting and would pass the time away sitting on the train.
The synopsis told me that an unreconciled accounting discrepancy of just 75 cents would lead to a world of computer espionage and spies. I highly recommend reading the book to understand how a simple error can grow to show the dangers of ignoring operational risks. If you like acronyms then you will enjoy reading about the FBI, CIA, NSA and KGB – all hacked via a UNIX server at a laboratory linked to the University of California.The story is true and threatened national security.

Trust people – but do not place temptation in their way.

Lionel Pavey

 

 

Lionel Pavey

Cash Management and Treasury Specialist

 

 

Safety of payments

| 3-1-2017 | Lionel Pavey | GT News

Fraud and cybercrime protection is of major importance for corporate treasurers. In the past year a new risk had to be added to the list: connectivity. Reports of banks being hacked and losing millions through unauthorised payments appeared more and more frequently and since protecting payment connectivity workflows was not a high priority item on the list of treasurers, it created damage in the industry.
GT News deals with the topic of how to protect payments in their article’ ‘Five tips for keeping your payments safe‘ on december 21st, 2016. We asked our expert Lionel Pavey to comment on the article and give us his own view on how to protect payments.

Safety of payments

As even medium size companies can easily have over 100,000 bank transactions per year, it is imperative for a company to ascertain the validity of all payments so that no fraudulent payments take place.

Authorisation Matrix

It is necessary to embed a clearly defined matrix within the company. This should follow a six-eye principle and be traceable within the payment system – invariably a bank payment system. The matrix should include the names of all those authorized; the amount they may authorize; the distinct legal entities they may represent etc. This data also needs to maintained and secured away from the payment centre (IT or legal department). If a new person needs to be added to the list who implements the procedure – Treasury or IT?

Types of payments

There are various workflows that will generate payments and these should be mapped and a complete process should be designed for each one – procurement system and creditors in the book keeping; financial obligations from the existing financing operations (loans, bonds etc.); tax on wages; social premiums; Value Added Tax (BTW); manual payments normally arising from expense claims and incidental purchases outside the normal procurement channel.

Validity of payments

Normal payments relating to creditors are relatively easy to follow – authorization has taken place in 2 different areas (procurement and book keeping). VAT requires data from book keeping for both debtors and creditors. Tax on wages and social premiums are normally presented just once a month either through the administration/controller channel or directly from HR. The biggest area of concern relates to manual payments.

Manual payments

These generally relate to purchases (normally one-off). The obvious question that arises is why is there a need for suppliers that are not in the existing procurement system? It is not impossible to ensure that there are preferred suppliers for all normal desires. Another source is repayments to debtors that are not balanced off against outstanding balances. If a company does not have dedicated software relating to the financing operations who, beyond the Treasury Department, can verify the amounts and dates? The area that requires the greatest vigilance relates to expense claims. Just because a line manager authorizes an expense claim does not mean that it is always compliant with company policy – this is an area where the onus should be on the controller to validate the integrity of the expense claim. Is the expense a genuine expense made in direct relationship to working for the company? An employee away on business and staying in a hotel is entitled to a meal at the expense of the company, but what is the policy towards alcohol and entertainment? Is the amount being claimed excessive and work related?

Integrity of bank systems

How secure is the bank system? When a batch is prepared for payment and an authorisation code produced, how is the code produced – what are the underlying factors that generate the code? Is it possible to alter the beneficiary’s account number after the batch has been produced? Would an alteration be seen by the system, resulting in an incorrect authorisation code? Banks generally do not provide a lot of information as to how their system generates codes.

Reconciliation

Who can extract data from the bank systems? Does this occur daily? Are all entries processed the following day in the book keeping system? What happens to items that are not immediately reconciled?

Conclusion

With regard to standard procurement, it should be easy to construct a solid working system that can be followed at all times. Manual payments are a weak link and a serious amount of time and effort has to be used in constructing a strong framework that has to be enforced and maintained at all times.

Lionel Pavey

 

 

Lionel Pavey

Cash Management and Treasury Specialist