Are we entering an unprecedented economic situation?

| 28-02-2020 | treasuryXL | Pieter de Kiewit

One of my favourite professional pastimes as a corporate treasury recruiter is digesting treasury technical content and bridging it to the “rest of the world”. Or see what is happening in the global news and projecting it on the field of corporate treasury.

Currently there is a constant flow of news about too much money in the market. One would say this is a good thing. Let me give you some positive and negative examples of the effects:

But also:

  • Pension funds are not able to invest in a future-proof way;
  • We have to pay for our savings (if you have a lot);
  • Hedge fund managers use external funding, instead of the funding of their investors, to safeguard their bonuses.

We enter an unprecedented economic situation only encountered by Japan and there is no obvious path to take. I will not try to clarify macro economics, it is not my field of expertise, but do know that changing demographics contribute. Us getting older and people retiring rich, most likely richer than their kids, has to do with this. What do I see as effects on corporate treasury? Let’s focus on three main tasks of a corporate treasurer.

In cash & liquidity management there are many exciting initiatives in the improvement of cash flow forecasting. Payments can technically be done smoother, safer and quicker. Cash visibility can be increased and liquidity is centralized. Most corporate treasurers want to implement these new solutions. As liquidity is high, many CFOs do not feel the urgency to invest in these initiatives. Doing nothing will not result in higher cost, so what is the ROI?

In risk & investment management the obvious focus is on interest developments. The general opinion is that interest will be low for a very long time. Getting long term funding for (almost) 0% is doable. So why bother matching long and short term funding options? This results in a situation that the use of hedging instruments is less important. Investing excess cash or helping the company pension fund with their strategy currently requires analysis and choices.

Corporate Finance has the fun task of optimizing the balance sheet and lowering funding costs to an extreme. I recently met the group treasurer of a real estate company who is able to make money attract funding for his company! The more challenging task of corporate finance is participation in business development and M&A. The willingness of entrepreneurs, shareholders and boards to invest in adventurous ways is high. The corporate treasurer has to hold on to his role of risk manager and hit the brake. This does often not increase his popularity…

A lot more can be said about the topic, that will be for other blogs. Back to a non-corporate mindset and not pretending to be a socialist, I hope all this money will be used to improve the world: better the environment, lowering the income gaps, makes us all happier. The real philosophical approach I leave to Notorious B.I.G.

Enjoy your money,

 

 

Pieter de Kiewit

Owner at Treasurer Search

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

Top 5 most common pain points in Treasury

14-02-2020 | treasuryXL | Michael Ringeling

The purpose of Treasury is to manage a company’s funding, liquidity and to mitigate its financial and other risk. Made up of three sub-disciplines, Treasury’s overall objective is to safeguard the company’s holdings and to follow the long-term strategy set forth by Corporate Finance (and strategy). Cash Management, on the other hand, is primarily focused on operational, short-term, efficiency and process optimisation, whereas Risk Management is oriented towards financial research and operational controls.

Michael Ringeling, corporate treasury expert,  made a top 5 of the most common pain points he encounters in Treasury, including consequences and a solution.

Top 5 of the most common pain points in Treasury

 

  1. Too many bank accounts at too many banks

Consequence:
Complex to manage, poor control, higher risk of fraud, higher costs, more KYC/AML requirements

Solution:
Less bank accounts at fewer banks, all via one or two electronic banking systems or multibank platform to manage payments and cash flows. The result will be more efficient, more secure and more cost-effective payment transactions, reporting and reconciliation into the ERP system.

  1. No reliable cash flow forecast

Consequence:
Poor liquidity management. Insecure about the required short and long term funding and poor management information.

Solution:
A good cash flow forecast, providing adequate insight in the organisation’s short and long term cash flows, will contribute to an efficient funding strategy and lower cost of funds.

  1. FX results, (negatively) impacting the company’s P&L

Consequence:
The company’s financial results are impacted by unforeseen and unknown FX results

Solution:
FX risk management analyses, create a FX policy and perform deal execution (hedging) to control FX results

  1. New Loan Agreement needed – negotiations

Consequence:
Difficulties in assessing if the loan terms and conditions are fair. Risk of overpriced loans and/or unfavorable terms and conditions required by the bank(s).

Solution:
Assist the company when negotiating with the bank(s) to get a fair deal with terms and conditions that will not unnecessary limit the company’s flexibility.

  1. Cash is trapped on too many stand alone bankaccounts around the world

Consequence:
Company cannot effectively use a significant amount of cash, resulting in higher (short term) loans and higher interest costs.

Solution:
Implementation of a cross border cross currency cash pool to centralise the company’s cash balances. As a result the amount of local trapped cash will be reduced and that cash can be used for general corporate purposes. Less short term loans and lower interest costs.

Sounds familiar?

Do you recognize the pain points that we mention above in your business? Or are you experiencing other critical treasury pain points in your business?

In our active network there are several treasury experts who can offer treasury support. They can be hired for specific projects or on a regular basis. Check Rent a Treasurer and let us help you.

 

Michael Ringeling

Corporate Treasurer Expert

treasuryXL announces partnership with XE.com

| 12-12-2019 | treasuryXL | XE |

treasuryXL announces partnership with XE.com, The World’s Trusted Currency Authority and provider of currency data, FX Risk Management and Technology solutions for businesses

VENLO, The Netherlands, DECEMBER 12, 2019 – treasuryXL, the community platform for everyone who is active in the world of treasury, today announced the premium partnership with the world’s most trusted currency authority XE.com.

XE.com is the first major currency specialist to work with treasuryXL. As a marketplace, treasuryXL will offer XE.com market commentary and insight to her 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. The partnership kicks off with the new ‘Treasury Topic’ environment where XE.com will have a prominent role in the FX, risk management, payments and FinTech environment.

XE.com is the world’s most popular foreign exchange website, and a leading global destination for foreign exchange rate tools and data. XE Business Solutions support companies across the world with robust responses to unpredictable currency markets; whether they rely on XE for information about currency markets, seek support when managing their FX risk, or trust them with business-critical international payments.

treasuryXL and XE.com 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 global currency news and benefit from a comprehensive range of currency services and products. XE Business Solutions and currency expertise provide companies with robust responses to unpredictable currency markets, so that bottom line is protected by currency risk and not impacted by it.

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 XE.com

XE can help safeguard your profit margins and improve cashflow through quantifying the FX risk you face and implementing unique strategies to mitigate it. XE Business Solutions provides a comprehensive range of currency services and products to help businesses access competitive rates with greater control.

Deciding when to make an international payment and at what rate can be critical. XE Business Solutions work with businesses to protect bottom-line from exchange rate fluctuations, while the currency experts and risk management specialists act as eyes and ears in the market to protect your profits from the world’s volatile currency markets.

Your company money is safe with XE, their NASDAQ listed parent company, Euronet Worldwide Inc., has a multibillion-dollar market capitalization, and an investment grade credit rating. With offices in the UK, Canada, Europe, APAC and North America they have a truly global coverage.

Are you curious to know more about XE?
Maurits Houthoff, senior business development manager at XE.com, is always in for a cup of coffee, mail or call to provide you detailed information.

 

 

Visit XE.com

Visit XE partner page

How are largest European companies managing their financial risks?

17-10-2019 | Stanley Myint | BNP Paribas

The second edition of the “Handbook of Corporate Financial Risk Management” has just been published by Risk books. The handbook is written with all risk management professionals, practitioners, instructors and students in mind, but its core readership are Treasurers at non-financial corporations. It contains 43 real life case studies covering various risk management areas. The book aims to cover both financial risk management and optimal capital structure and its contents.

Motivation for the book

This Handbook is based on real-life client discussions we had in the Risk Management Advisory team at BNP Paribas between 2005 and 2019. We noticed that corporate treasurers and chief financial officers (CFOs) often have similar questions on risk management and capital structure and that these questions are rarely addressed in the existing literature.

This situation can and should lead to a fruitful collaboration between companies and their banks. Companies often come with the best ideas, but do not have the resources to test them. Leading banks, on the other hand, have strong computational resources, a broader sector perspective, an extensive experience in internal risk management, and the ability to develop and deliver the solution. So, if they make an effort to understand a client’s problem in depth, they may be able to add considerable value.

The Handbook is the result of such an effort lasting 14 years and covering more than 700 largest European corporations from all industrial sectors. Its subject is corporate financial risk management, ie, the management of financial risks for non-financial corporations.

While there are many papers on this topic, they are generally written by academics and rarely by practitioners. If we contrast this to the subject of risk management for banks, on which many books have been written from the practitioners’ perspective, we notice a significant gap. Perhaps this is because financial risk is clearly a more central part of business among banks and asset managers than in non-financial corporations. However, that does not mean that financial risk is only important for banks and asset managers. Let us look at one example.

Consider a large European automotive company, with an operating margin of 10%. More than half of its sales are outside Europe, while its production is in EUR. This exposes the company to currency risk. Annual currency volatility is of the order of 15%, therefore, if the foreign revenues fall by 15% due to FX, this can almost wipe out the net profits. Clearly an important question for this company is, “How to manage the currency risk?”

The book blends real corporate situations across capital structure, optimal level of cash, optimal fixed-floating mix and pensions, which are particularly topical now that negative EUR yields create unpresented funding opportunities for corporates, but also tricky challenges on cost of cash and pensions management

One reason why corporate risk management has so far attracted relatively little attention in literature is that, even though the questions asked are often simple (eg, “Should I hedge the translation risk?” or “Does hedging transaction risk reduce the translation risk?”) the answers are rarely simple, and in many cases there is no generally accepted methodology on how to deal with these issues.

So where does the company treasurer go to find answers to these kinds of questions? General corporate finance books are usually very shy when it comes to discussing risk management. Two famous examples of such books devote only 20 – 30 pages to managing financial risk, out of almost 1,000 pages in total. Business schools generally do not devote much time to risk management. We hope that our book goes a long way towards filling this gap.

Website

We invite the reader to utilise the free companion website which accompanies this book, www.corporateriskmanagement.org There, you will find periodic updates on new topics not covered in The Handbook. Much like the book this website should prove a useful resource to corporate treasurers, CFOs and other practitioners as well the academic readers interested in corporate risk management.

About the authors

Stanley Myint is the Head of Risk Management Advisory at BNP Paribas and an Associate Fellow at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford. At BNP Paribas, he advises large multinational corporations on issues related to risk management and capital structure. His expertise is in quantitative and corporate finance, focusing on fixed income derivatives and optimal capital structure. Stanley has 25 years of experience in this field, including 14 years at BNP Paribas and previously at McKinsey & Company, Royal Bank of Scotland and Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. He has a PhD in physics from Boston University, a BSc in physics from Belgrade University and speaks French, Spanish, Serbo-Croatian and Italian. At the Saïd Business School, Stanley teaches two courses with Dimitrios Tsomocos and Manos Venardos: “Financial Crises and Risk Management” and “Fixed Income and Derivatives”.

Fabrice Famery is Head of Global Markets corporate sales at BNP Paribas. His group provides corporate clients with hedging solutions across interest rate, foreign exchange, commodity and equity asset classes. Corporate risk management has been the focus of Fabrice’s professional path for the past 30 years. He spent the first seven years of his career in the treasury department of the energy company, ELF, before joining Paribas (now BNP Paribas) in 1996, where he occupied various positions including FX derivative marketer, Head of FX Advisory Group and Head of the Fixed Income Corporate Solutions Group. Fabrice has published articles in Finance Director Europe and Risk Magazine, and has a master’s degree in international affairs from Paris Dauphine University (France).

Content:

Introduction

1 Theory and Practice of Corporate Risk Management *

2 Theory and Practice of Optimal Capital Structure *

PART I: FUNDING AND CAPITAL STRUCTURE

3 Introduction to Funding and Capital Structure

4 How to Obtain a Credit Rating

5 Refinancing Risk and Optimal Debt Maturity*

6 Optimal Cash Position *

7 Optimal Leverage *

PART II: INTEREST RATE AND INFLATION RISKS

8 Introduction to Interest Rate and Inflation Risks

9 How to Develop an Interest Rate Risk Management Policy

10 How to Improve Your Fixed-Floating Mix and Duration

11 Interest Rates: The Most Efficient Hedging Product*

12 Do You Need Inflation-linked Debt

13 Prehedging Interest Rate Risk

14 Pension Fund Asset and Liability Management

PART III: CURRENCY RISK

15 Introduction to Currency Risk

16 How to Develop an FX Risk Management Policy

17 Translation or Transaction: Netting FX Risks *

18 Early Warning Signals

19 How to Hedge High Carry Currencies*

20 Currency Risk on Covenants

21 Optimal Currency Composition of Debt 1:

Protect Book Value

22 Optimal Currency Composition of Debt 2:

Protect Leverage*

23 Cyclicality of Currencies and Use of Options to Manage Credit Utilisation *

24 Managing the Depegging Risk *

25 Currency Risk in Luxury Goods *

PART IV: CREDIT RISK

26 Introduction to Credit Risk

27 Counterparty Risk Methodology

28 Counterparty Risk Protection

29 Optimal Deposit Composition

30 Prehedging Credit Risk

31 xVA Optimisation *

PART V: M&A-RELATED RISKS

32 Introduction to M&A-related Risks

33 Risk Management for M&A

34 Deal-contingent Hedging *

PART VI: COMMODITY RISK

35 Introduction to Commodity Risk

36 Managing Commodity-linked Revenues and Currency Risk

37 Managing Commodity-linked Costs and Currency Risk

38 Commodity Input and Resulting Currency Risk *

39 Offsetting Carbon Emissions*

PART VII: EQUITY RISK

40 Introduction to Equity Risk*

41 Hedging Dilution Risk *

42 Hedging Deferred Compensation*

43 Stake-building*

Bibliography

Index

Note: Chapters marked with * are new to the second edition

Special offer for treasuryXL readers. Use the code HCFRM20 at checkout for 20% discount on your book purchase at riskbooks.com/corprisk2

Risk Management – what does it mean

| 24-5-2017 | Patrick Kunz |

You might visit this site, being a treasury professional with years of experience in the field. However you could also be a student or a businessman wanting to know more details on the subject, or a reader in general, eager to learn something new. The ‘Treasury for non-treasurers’ series is for readers who want to understand what treasury is all about.
Our expert Patrick Kunz tells us more about an important task of a treasurer: Risk Management

Background

One of the main task of a treasury is risk management, more specifically financial risk management. This is still broad as financial risk can result from many origins. Treasury is often involved in the risk management of Foreign currency (FX), interest rates, commodity prices and sometimes also balance sheet/profit loss. Furthermore insurances are often also the task of the treasurer.

Exposure

To be able to know how to reduce a certain risk the treasurer first needs to know about the risk. Often risk positions are taken outside of the treasury department. The treasurer needs to be informed about these risk positions. FX and commodity price exposure is often created in sales or procurement while the interest rate risk is created in the treasury department itself (although this is not always the case). In an ideal world the treasurer would like to know an exposure right after it is created. Often IT solutions or ERP connections with treasury help with that.

Policy

Once the exposure is know the treasurer needs to decide whether it is a risk position or not and whether he wants to mitigate this risk by hedging it. Let me explain this with an FX example: A EUR company who buys goods in USD is at risk for movements in the EUR/USD rate. However, if the company is able to sell these goods at the same time they are bought (a sales organization), for  USD then the net exposure could be lower. Risk Exposure is therefore lower as only the profit needs to be hedged.

Risk appetite of the company determines if the treasurer needs to take action on certain risk exposure. Some companies hedge all their FX exposure. The reason for this is often because FX risk is not their core business and therefore not a business risk. Non-core risk needs to be eliminated. Commodity risk is sometimes not hedged as this is the company’s core business or a natural hedge as the companies is also producer/miner and seller of the commodity. Other companies have more risk appetite and hedge only amounts above a certain threshold. Due to internal information restrictions, delays or accounting issues and the fact that some currencies are not hedgable most multinationals always have some FX exposure. In the profit and loss statements you often see profit or losses from FX effect, either realized or non-realized (paper losses).

Hedging

Once you know the risk position the treasurer needs to determine how to reduce the risk of that position. He does that by hedging a position. A hedge is basically taking an opposite position from the risk. Preferably the correlation of these positions is -1 which means that both positions exactly move in opposite directions, thereby reducing the risk (ideally to 0). For FX the treasurer can sell the foreign currency against the home currency on the date the foreign currency is expected, either in spot (immediate settlement) or forward (in the future), removing the FX exposure into a know home currency exposure.

Certain vs uncertain flows

Important about hedging is the way you hedge. A hedge can commit you to something in the future or a hedge can be an optional settlement. This should be matched with the exposure. If the exposure is fully certain then you should use a hedge which is fully certain. If an exposure is only likely to happen (due to uncertainty) then you should use a hedge that is also optional.

Example1: a company has a 1 year contract with a steel company to buy 1000MT of steel every month at the current steel price every month. The goods need to be bought under the contract and cannot be cancelled. This company is at risk for the steel price every month because the steel price changes every day. The treasurer can hedge this with 12 future contracts (1 for every month) locking in the price of the steel for 1000MT. The future contract also needs to be settled every month matching the risk position. 0 risk is the result.

Example2: company X is a EUR company and looking to take over company Y, a USD company. The company needs to be bought for USD 100 mio. Company X has the countervalue of this amount in cash in EUR. The companies are still negotiating on the deal. Currently the EUR/USD is at 1,10. The deal is expected to settle in 6 months. Company X is at risk for a change in the EUR/USD rate. If the deal goes through and the rate in 6 months changes negatively then X needs more EUR to buy USD 100 mio. making the deal more expensive/less attractive. There is a need to hedge this. If this would be hedged with a 6M EURUSD forward deal the FX risk would be eliminated but there is still the risk that the deal is cancelled. Then X has the obligation out of the hedge to buy USD 100 mio. which they have no use for. This is not a good hedge. A better hedge would be to buy an option to buy USD 100 mln against EUR in 6 months. This instrument also locks in the EURUSD exchange but with this instrument the company has the option to NOT use the hedge (if the deal is cancelled) matching it ideally with the underlying deal.

Conclusion

For a treasurer to do effective risk management he needs information from the business to determine the risk exposure. Furthermore he needs to assess the certainty of this exposure; how likely is the exposure to happen. With this information, together with the pre-determined risk appetite (whether or not written down in a policy confirmed by senior management), the treasurer can decide if and how to hedge the position. The certainty of the exposure determines the hedging product that is used.

Hedging products can be complex. Banks can structure all kinds of complex derivatives as hedging products. It is the task of the treasurer to determine the effectiveness of a hedge; a treasurer if often expert in these product and their workings. Hedging could have impact on accounting and sometimes profit/loss consequences but that is beyond the scope of this article.

 

 

Patrick Kunz

Treasury, Finance & Risk Consultant/ Owner Pecunia Treasury & Finance BV

 

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

 

 

Managing treasury risk: Liquidity Risk (VI)

|13-3-2017 | Lionel Pavey |

There are lots of discussions concerning risk, but let us start by trying to define what we mean by risk. In today’s article I will focus on liquidity risk. Many companies have very significant credit needs and this needs to be formally addressed with a credit analysis procedure in place. In my former articles I dealt with risk management, interest rate risk, foreign exchange riskcommodity risk and credit risk. See the complete list at the end of today’s article.

Liquidity risk comes in 2 distinct forms – market liquidity risk and funding liquidity risk.

Market Liquidity Risk

This relates to assets and potential illiquidity in the market and, as such, can be considered a market risk. In a normal functioning market it is always possible for market participants (buyers, sellers, market makers and speculators) to find each other and negotiate a price for their transactions. Assuming that the transaction is of a normal market size, there should be no dramatic change to the price of the asset after the transaction.

At the time of a crisis, participants could be absent from the market, making it difficult – if not impossible – to trade an asset. Sellers are left frustrated as there are no opportunities to sell the asset they are holding and vice versa for buyers. This can occur due to a financial crisis, changes in legislature, scarcity of an asset or someone attempting to corner the market. An asset generally will have a value, but if there are no buyers in the market that value can not be realised.

Liquidity risk is not the same as falling prices – after all prices are free to rise or fall. If an asset was priced at zero then it means that the market considers its value to be nothing. This is different from trying to sell an asset but not being able to find a buyer.

Markets for Foreign Exchange, Stocks, Shares, Bonds and many Futures and other derivatives are generally highly liquid. Off balance sheet products related to physical settlement can be less liquid as there is a need to actually provide physical settlement. Bespoke products like CDO’s can be considered illiquid as their size is normally small (relatively speaking) and not freely tradeable. Also the complexity needed to value the product affects its liquidity.

Housing is an asset class with very low liquidity – sometimes a property could be sold as soon as it hits the market. At other times the same property could be available for sale for many years and the price reduced regularly, without attracting a firm buyer.
The easiest and quickest way to see if there is a heightened market liquidity risk is via the bid – offer spread. If this is suddenly seen widening, this would imply that there appears to be more risk. In a normal, liquid market, the spreads are fairly constant and small, allowing participants to easily step in and transact. A widening of spreads occurs in a normal market when government data is published – nonfarm payrolls, balance of payment, etc. Within a short time the market will return to a normal spread as the information is properly digested and the market makers return. However, if the spreads widen without a publication event taking place, it is reasonable to assume that the risk has increased.
Additionally, risk could grow if reserve requirements were increased. In markets such as Futures, it is necessary to pay margin to the exchange. If these margin payments were increased, this would lead to transactions being more expensive and so lead to less liquidity in the market.

Market makers can also observe the market depth. This is shown by the quantity available for transacting at a particular price in their order books. When a market is perceived as being deep, it means there are many orders and, therefore, a large number of orders would be needed to move the market price significantly. The deeper the market, the more liquid the market.

Funding Liquidity Risk

This relates to the risk of not being able to settle debts when they are due. Treasury specialists in a corporate environment are acutely concerned with funding risk. Every month wages must be paid, together with tax and social premiums (pensions, insurance etc.) Additionally, it would be advantageous to pay trade creditors on time. Future liabilities also have to be funded after they have been recognized. This could mean arranging external financing.

If there is a liquidity crisis in the market, it becomes difficult and expensive to arrange to borrow the necessary funds. The price may be so high that the intended profit provided by selling the goods, is negated by the increased cost of funding. A reduction in the credit rating of a company can also lead to increased costs and a reluctance to lend.
If a company is known to have problems making payments, then the liquidity risk is specific to the company – the rest of the market will function normally.

Funding risk can also occur if creditors fail to pay you, or if an unforeseen event has occurred that leads to an outflow of cash from the company.
A company can initially perform a quick spot check to ascertain its current ratio. This shows if a company can meet its current liabilities with its current assets. A ratio of less than 1 would imply that the company can not meet all its obligations at the same time. However, this could also be because there is no short term finance arranged at that moment.
It is possible to arrange a line of credit with a financial provider. He defines a maximum loan (line of credit) that can be extended which the company may utilize. While it is normal to pay a standing charge for the balance of the line that is not being used, this can be offset by the knowledge that it is possible to drawdown against the line when needed (in normal circumstances). There is greater flexibility with a line of credit than with a traditional bank loan.

Other methods include –

i)                    Sell assets like stock that are slow moving and tying down cash

ii)                   Analyse all overheads – office equipment, expense claims

iii)                 Increase efficiency in the debtors’ administration. Be proactive

iv)                 Renegotiate with suppliers – better that you talk to them before it is too late

v)                  Design contingency plans

vi)                 Subject your business to stress testing

vii)               Apply the techniques of ALM (asset and liability management)

 

Some very well known companies have fallen to liquidity problems – Bear Sterns, Lehman Brothers, Northern Rock, ABN Amro, AIG, etc. While the risks were prevalent before the crises, the main liquidity problems occurred when it was determined that there was no more time allowed for the situation to remain.
Time is the soul of business.

Lionel PaveyLionel Pavey – Cash Management and Treasury Specialist 

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More articles of this series:

Managing treasury risk: Credit Risk (Part V)

| 23-2-2017 | Lionel Pavey |

 

There are lots of discussions concerning risk, but let us start by trying to define what we mean by risk. In my fifth article I will focus on credit risk. Many companies have very significant credit needs and this needs to be formally addressed with a credit analysis procedure in place. In my former articles I dealt with risk management, interest rate risk, foreign exchange risk and commodity risk. See the complete list at the end of today’s article.

Credit Risk

Credit Risk occurs when there is a risk of default from money that has been lent to a borrower, or funds that have been invested.
The risk can be caused by:

  • Trade credit extend to a client, who does not pay
  • Inability to make a payment on a loan
  • A company going bankrupt
  • An insurance company not paying under a policy
  • A bank becoming insolvent
  • A company not paying wages to employees
  • A government defaulting

Main categories

The main categories of credit risk are:

Default risk
Counterparty risk
Sovereign risk
Legal risk
Concentration risk

Default risk:
occurs due to the default on monies owed either from lending or investment. The counterparty could be unable to repay. Sometimes they could also be unwilling to repay. The default risk is therefore on 100% of the outstanding balance, unless some form of recovery (be it full or partial) was possible.

Counterparty risk:
occurs when counterparties have to perform an action on a contractual commitment.
This can happen at both the time of settlement and also before settlement, but after entering a contract. Since the start of the financial crisis settlement risk is a major factor for banks. If at settlement a counterparty fails to meet its obligation, this can potentially lead to large losses and, eventually, to a systemic risk as you are therefore unable to meet your own obligations. A default before settlement can be alleviated by substituting a new contract though this could occur at prices far less favourable.

Sovereign risk:
entails the political, legal and regulatory exposures arising from international trade and cross border transactions. It can relate to a government failing in its obligation to repay or to new laws that prohibit free movement of funds – exchange control. Any contracts entered into with nondomestic counterparties should be analysed for the embedded sovereign risks and potential political instability.

Legal risk:
can occur if the counterparty is not legally allowed to enter into certain trades – especially derivative trades. We see in the media stories of companies that have experienced difficulties with derivatives leading to losses and court cases are started to either enforce or negate the contract. Also special purpose vehicles are formed purely to enter into certain transactions like securitisation issues. These are companies with no staff, fixed abode, or assets other than the underlying collateral of the issue.

Concentration risk:
arises from lack of diversification. Too many loans from 1 or 2 banks, too many products purchased from 1 or 2 suppliers, too much revenue generated by 1 or 2 customers. This risk is a bit of a paradox as many companies become successful through concentrating their resources in key niche areas, whilst having to diversify their underlying risk at the same time.

Measures

There are, of course, measures that can be undertaken to identify and minimize these potential losses.

The first approach is counterparty ratings. Certain criteria can be examined – credit rating agencies, examination of financial statements, good knowledge of the counterparty, political, geographical (are they situated next to a volcano?) and legal status.

Notional exposure reveals the full amount outstanding with a counterparty – all the money that could potentially be lost.

Aggregate exposure netts the exposure with a counterparty between monies to be received and monies to be paid.

Clear picture of the replacement costs – the costs involved to replace the existing transaction with a new counterparty.

Techniques of measurement

Measurement of credit risk requires quantitative techniques to measure and model the risks.  An example would be Basel III that places a regulatory framework on banks to ensure adequate capital ratios. Eventually the techniques being used will trickle down to commercial companies. This should result in the creation of risk tools that are more sophisticated and improvements of the techniques used to report and measure risk.

However, as the financial crisis has clearly shown, over-reliance on sophisticated computer models appeared to lead to false comfort with the results generated by the modelling systems. This was caused by underestimating the risks in new financial products and the great assumption that is always prevalent in economic theory – people behave rationally at all times! Any model is a snapshot of the world and can only contain a few variables that are perceived as critical. All others are discarded to ensure that the model can work quickly and efficiently.

Lionel Pavey

 

 

Lionel Pavey

Cash Management and Treasury Specialist

 

 

 

More articles of this series:

Managing treasury risk: Risk management

Managing treasury risk: Interest rate risk 

Managing treasury risk: Foreign exchange risk

Managing treasury risk: Commodity Risk

 

Managing treasury risk: Commodity Risk (Part IV)

| 14-2-2017 | Lionel Pavey |

There are lots of discussions concerning risk, but let us start by trying to define what we mean by risk. In my fourth article I will write about commodity risk, what the strategies around commodities are and how to build a commodity risk framework. More information about my first three articles can be found at the end of today’s article.

Commodity Risk

Commodity risk occurs due to changes in price, quantity, quality and politics with regard to the underlying commodities. This can refer to both the commodity as a whole and an input component of a finished good. Commodity risk usually refers to the risk in a physical product, but also occurs in products like electricity. It can affect producers, suppliers and buyers.

Traditionally, commodity price risk was managed by the purchasing department. Here the emphasis was placed on the price – the lower the price, the better. But price is only one component of commodity risk. Price changes can either be observed directly in the commodity or indirectly when the commodity is an input in the finished product.
Availability, especially of energy, is crucial for any company to be able to undertake operations. Combining commodity risk over both Treasury and Purchasing allows these 2 departments to work closer and build a better understanding of the risks involved. It also allows for a comprehensive view of the whole supply chain within a company. A product like electricity is dependent on the input source of production – gas, petroleum, coal, wind, climate – as well as the price and supply of electricity itself.

There are many factors that can determine commodities prices – supply and demand, production capacity, storage, transport. As such it is not as easy to design the risk management model as it is for financial products.

 General strategies that can be implemented

  1. Acceptance
  2. Avoidance
  3. Contract hedging
  4. Correlated hedging

Acceptance
Acceptance would mean that the risk exposure would be unchanged. The company would then absorb all price increases and attempt to pass the increase on when selling the finished product.

Avoidance
Avoidance and/or minimizing means substituting or decreasing the use of certain input components.

Contract hedging
Contract hedging means using financial products related to the commodity, such as options and futures as well as swapping price agreements.

Correlated hedging
Correlated hedging means examining the exposure of a commodity – the price of crude oil is always quoted in USD – and taking a hedge in the USD as opposed to the crude oil itself. The 2 products are correlated to a certain extent, though not fully.

Commodity risk framework

Commodity price speculation – most contracts are settled by physical delivery – affects the market more than price speculation in currency markets.
To build a commodity risk framework, attention needs to given to the following:

  1. Identify the risks
  2. Measure the exposure
  3. Identify hedging products
  4. Examine the market
  5. Delegate the responsibility factors within the organization
  6. Involve management and the Board of Directors
  7. Perform analytics on identified positions
  8. Consider the accounting issues
  9. Create a team
  10. Are there system requirements needed

Problems can arise because of the following:

  1. Relevant information is dispersed throughout the company
  2. Management may not be aligned to the programme
  3. Quantifying exposure can be difficult
  4. There is no natural hedge for the exposure
  5. Design of reports and KPI’s can be complex

It requires an integrated commitment from diverse departments and management to understand and implement a robust, concise policy – but this should not be a hindrance to running the policy.

Lionel Pavey

 

 

Lionel Pavey

Cash Management and Treasury Specialist 

 

 

More articles of this series:

Managing treasury risk: Risk management

Managing treasury risk: Interest rate risk 

Managing treasury risk: Foreign exchange risk