ESG in Treasury: What Can Treasurers Do to Impact Business Sustainability?

01-12-2022 | Anastasia Kuznetsova | treasuryXL | LinkedIn |

The expression “Money makes the world go round” probably underscores the importance of the finance community for the transition to a greener economy. Financial market participants can significantly accelerate the transition to a more sustainable world by directing capital flows to the most sustainable projects, assets and companies. 

ESG and sustainability in Treasury

Similarly, Corporate Treasurers can have a substantial impact on business sustainability by allocating capital to green projects as well as incorporating ESG factors in their risk management processes. Below I will summarize some of the instruments Corporate Treasurers could use to support companies on their way to sustainability.

ESG debt: Sustainability-Linked Financing

ESG debt is perhaps one of the most common instruments that may help companies to meet their ESG goals. For instance, to achieve environmental objectives, some companies issue green bonds. The proceeds from green bonds can only be spent on funding climate-related projects, including renewable energy, construction of green buildings, installation of air pollution control systems and etc. Most green bonds issued are “use of proceeds” bonds, which determine a range of eligible green project categories for which capital raised can be used.  These bonds are also backed by the entire balance sheet of the issuer. Project bonds are another popular type of green bonds for which the proceeds are earmarked for specifically identified projects and are exclusively backed by the project’s assets. While green bonds might be more relevant for large public companies, private companies may still add ESG debt in their capital structures by arranging green loans which serve the same purpose as their public market bond equivalents. 

 

Another type of ESG debt is sustainability-linked loans (SLLs), which are even more popular than green bonds and loans. The rise in popularity of SLLs may probably be explained by higher flexibility when it comes to the use of debt proceeds. Hence, the proceeds from SLLs can be spent on general corporate purposes but not exclusively earmarked for environmental projects. Moreover, SLLs are normally structured in the form of revolving credit facilities, which enables companies to fund their daily liquidity needs if they encounter a working capital deficiency. The purpose of SLLs from an ESG perspective is to encourage companies to achieve sustainability as quickly as possible. This is done by linking loan margin to a borrower’s sustainability performance. At first, sustainability performance targets (SPTs) for the borrower are established. After that, the borrower’s progress toward SPTs is monitored on annual basis via Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). If the targets are achieved, the loan’s margin will be reduced, enabling the borrower to benefit from lower interest payments. If the targets are missed, a step-up provision applies, increasing the loan’s margin and, thus, interest payments. Such an ESG Margin Ratchet provision incentivizes the borrower of SLLs to not only achieve but also maintain a certain level of ESG performance. The public markets equivalent of sustainability-linked loans is sustainability-linked bonds (SLBs) whose coupon payments are reduced (increased) if SPTs are met (missed). 

 

On top of ESG-related loans and bonds, hybrid instruments such as green convertible bonds are becoming more and more popular. Thus, in 2020, Neoen, a French producer of renewable energy, issued €170M of the first ever green convertible bonds in Europe. This year, the company launched another €300M offering of green bonds convertible into new shares and/or exchangeable for existing shares.

 

Finalizing the topic of ESG debt, it is worth mentioning that when it comes to the EU’s finance providers, and particularly credit institutions who will soon have to disclose the percentage of green assets on their balance sheet under the EU Taxonomy, it is reasonable to expect that sustainability-linked debt will be favored by creditors. Specifically, being an underwriter of ESG debt could add prestige, and improve reputation and market positioning. In contrast, non-ESG debt may experience a pricing premium since such loans are likely to worsen the “greenness” of capital providers’ balance sheets.

 

A few words on FX Trading, Derivatives and ESG

Although currently ESG is not widely incorporated in foreign currency trades, some banks have already started to develop FX products that have a similar structure to SLLs. Such FX products will be linked to sustainability KPIs that will measure a company’s sustainability performance against pre-defined SPTs. If SPTs are successfully achieved, then a company may receive a rebate on its FX trades or a reduction in the required FX margin.

 

Sustainability-linked derivatives (SLDs) are another instrument that can be adopted by Treasurers to facilitate a transition of businesses to greener operations. SLDs are particularly relevant for companies, operating in “high-impact climate sectors” such as energy and agriculture. Cash flows of SLDs are connected to the sustainability performance of counterparties that is monitored via KPIs. Having met KPIs, a counterparty in a derivative transaction may receive a higher incoming payment, or be able to make a lower payment if the transaction results in a cash outflow. SLDs are OTC derivatives, meaning that counterparties can customise the derivatives’ terms and, thus, embed other ESG incentives, i.e. reduction in margin/spread, or payment of rebate upon achievement of pre-agreed sustainability targets.

 

Sustainable Supply Chain as an ESG trend

Sustainable supply chain is one of the current ESG trends, particularly among retailers whose total carbon footprint mainly consists of Scope 3 emissions, which are essentially emissions of suppliers. That is why, more and more companies are trying to encourage procurers to reduce their emissions and, hence, decarbonize the supply chain. Corporate Treasurers can make a substantial contribution to this objective by arranging sustainable supply chain finance programmes. Programmes are based on early-payment principles. As a first step, a company sets up sustainability KPIs to monitor the ESG performance of its suppliers. The performance of suppliers may be measured once or twice per year. After meeting at least one of the established KPIs, a supplier is paid earlier than originally agreed. Hence, highly sustainable procurers will effectively receive better payment terms, which should encourage more suppliers to improve their sustainability performance.

 

Sustainability Objectives and KPIs

Almost all the above-mentioned ESG products require the establishment of sustainability targets and KPIs. This unfortunately cannot be done by Treasurers on their own but instead should be done at the strategic level by company management. Sustainability targets must be ambitious, meaning that their achievement would require a substantial transformation of business models, e.g. switching to more sustainable suppliers; divestment or restructuring of high-carbon footprint units. Practice shows that not all management teams are capable of setting ambitious targets relevant to the business. Thus, the least Treasurers could do, besides the arrangement of ESG debt or other sustainability-linked products, is to question the adequacy of the chosen sustainability objectives within their organisations. In other words, Treasurers could make sure that the answer to the question “Why did your company set up its net-zero objective?” is not “Because everyone does it” but “Because it is relevant for our core business operations”.

 

Thank you for reading!


 

 

Anastasia Kuznetsova

 

 

 

What will be the Treasury Trend of 2023?

30-11-2022 | treasuryXL LinkedIn |

As 2023 is approaching, we explored what Treasurers are particularly looking forward to in treasury for next year. What will be the Treasury Trend of 2023? Are treasurers curious to know what is going to happen in the area of Market and FX Risk Management, or just what the developments are going to be in e-commerce related to Treasury? Or will the understanding of APIs in Treasury be the story of 2023, or the role of Treasury within companies? We sought it out!

We thank Huub Wevers and Kim Vercoulen for sharing their views with us.

Poll results

As 2023 is approaching, we explored what treasurers are particularly looking forward to in treasury for next year. Are treasurers curious to know what is going to happen in the area of Market and FX Risk Management, or just what the developments are going to be in Ecommerce related to Treasury? Or will the understanding of APIs in Treasury be the story of 2023, or the role of Treasury within companies? We sought it out! This topic was also the subject of discussion during the last webinar together with Nomentia, you can find the recording here.

Question: What are you particularly interested in that will develop in 2023 in treasury?

treasury trends 2023

First observation

We see that Market and FX Risk Management stands out a little, and that there is less focus on trends in e-commerce and Treasury. What do those within treasuryXL say about this, and what are they looking forward to for next year?

View of treasuryXL experts

Huub Wevers (Nomentia)

Huub is especially interested in the developments in APIs for Treasury for in 2023.

“My personal interest is in the focus on APIs, which is good, as APIs offer new functionalities and convenience for treasurers”

With the current political and economic turmoil, it makes sense that market risk is back on the agenda. Interest rates are rising and emerging markets are becoming riskier. My personal interest is in the focus on APIs, which is good, as APIs offer new functionalities and convenience for treasurers. However, it is a jungle because everyone promises APIs, but few deliver on them, and the few that do make them have no standards.

We also see APIs that are ‘disguised’ file connections. This makes sense, because an API means linking two applications and this can be done through authentication, security and then exchange of a file. We see this a lot with Payment Service Providers. Getting reporting files for matching purposes, for example.

The webinar the other day was interesting because Niki and I represent two different areas of treasury that are important to Patrick, a very experienced treasurer, namely market risk and technology. Together with Pieter as moderator, it was fun to hear the different perspectives and experiences!


Kim Vercoulen (Treasurer Search)

Kim is especially interested in the developments of Market and FX Risk Management for in 2023.

” Important question for the treasurer will remain what to do about this.”

I chose for Market and FX Risk Management. I think especially with inflation and higher interest rates, this is going to have an impact on the treasurer’s work within the treasury department.

This is obviously all going to play through on companies’ costs, and pressure on selling prices will also increase. Important question for the treasurer will remain what to do about this.

How this will affect the treasury market compared to the current year remains to be seen. That is what we are going to witness at Treasurer Search.


Would you like to explain your own vote for this poll? Join the discussion in the comments. And above all, don’t forget to give your opinion on our latest poll question

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Question: What are Treasurers expecting from Open Banking? Part 4

30-11-2022 | Cobase | treasuryXL | LinkedIn |

Not sure what all the talk about APIs and Treasury is about, or wondering if you need to know more? Then it is definitely a good idea to attend the live session together with Cobase on the future of APIs on December 13 at 10 CET.

Join the live discussion to hear fresh viewpoints on the topic from experts Patrick Kunz, and Jack Gielen, moderated by Pieter de Kiewit. Ahead of this webinar, Cobase asked COO Jack Gielen to shed his light on the use case of APIs. In this series, Jack answers the most frequently asked questions.

Question: What are Treasurers expecting from Open Banking?

Jack believes it is key to not try to deliver everything at once but move in clearly defined phases. Click on the image above to hear from Jack.

The 3 Fundamental Treasury Concepts: Bank Relationships

29-11-2022 | Vasu Reddy | treasuryXL | LinkedIn |

The 3 fundamental treasury concepts being discussed currently include Working Capital Management, Bank Relationships and Treasury Transfer Pricing which are pivotal pillars for effectively and efficiently optimizing cash, liquidity,  funding and managing risk for any Treasury function to support the achievement of the organizations business objectives and strategy. In the second blog of a series of 3, Vasu Reddy explains the best practices and benefits of Bank Relationships.

Strong Bank relationships (including Central Banks) are key to operating successfully in any country- locally, regionally or Globally.

When selecting and maintaining bank relationships, it is key to include partners with strong track record including:

  • Strong Bank Credit rating  – BBB+ to  AA+
  • Strong Bank Balance sheet, assets size and Cash Reserves,
  • Strong Ethics, Governance, Compliance
  • Bank Geographical Footprint
  • Huge Product knowledge, expertise and offering
  • Strong Service capability and rapid response times
  • Competitive Pricing and transparency
  • Being a trusted advisor – including investment banking, FX, etc.
  • Advanced  technology and systems and Project support
  • Managing confidentiality of information and conflicts of interest
  • Strong Relationship with Central Bank for Advocation
  • Going above and beyond for client during drastic times– providing credit sufficient lines
  • Accepting Clients standardized documentation in different countries due to regional      relationship
  • Ease of doing business – bank account opening, KYC onboarding, Projects, system implementation,  integration with  ERP, TMS, RFP’s, RFQ’s , legal issues, etc.

More key considerations are:

– Size of Corporate/business

– Credit rating/balance sheet size

– Growth Plans – M&A, etc.

– # of bank relationships

-# of bank accounts

-# of Legal Entities

-Bank interaction, performance and evaluation

 

Maintain a good central bank relationship is key”  Vasu Reddy

What are the benefits of good bank relationships?

  • Smooth Business operation with no disruption resulting in improved cash flow, profits and reduced costs
  • Management able to focus on business growth and sustainability
  • Minimal bank law compliance risks
  • Able to pivot easily during macro-economic cycles – surviving recessions, political risks, etc.

 

Thank you for reading!


 

Vasu Reddy

Corporate Treasury, Finance Executive

Recording Panel Discussion | Treasury Trends for 2023

28-11-2022 | treasuryXL | Nomentia | LinkedIn |

Recently, we had a panel discussion about a few major treasury trends for 2023 together with Nomentia and experts Pieter de Kiewit, Patrick Kunz, Niki van Zanten, and Huub Wevers. If you didn’t get the chance to attend the webinar, you can find the recording here.

During this interactive live discussion we covered some of the following topics:

  • Market and FX Risk management in current times of uncertainty.
  • Top treasury technologies to consider for 2023. Will APIs deliver their promises?
  • Building the bridge between Ecommerce and treasury.
  • The rapidly changing role of treasury to facilitate business success
  • Treasury technology visions beyond 2023.

 


 

Question: Will banks provide the required APIs for corporates? Part 3

23-11-2022 | Cobase | treasuryXL | LinkedIn |

Have you already registered for next webinar together with Cobase on the future of APIs on December 13 at 10 CET? Join the live discussion to learn new perspectives on the topic from field specialists such as Patrick Kunz and Jack Gielen, moderated by Pieter de Kiewit.

Ahead of this webinar, Cobase asked COO Jack Gielen to shed his light on the use case of APIs. In this series, Jack answers the most frequently asked questions.

Question: Will banks provide the required APIs for corporates?

Jack sees three signs that we will see improvement in the upcoming time. Click on the image above to hear from Jack. Stay tuned for the rest of the interview.

Who do you think should “give a push” and work on APIs? Vote now

Interview | 9 questions for Kurt Smith, Seasoned Treasury Expert

21-11-2022 | treasuryXL | Kurt Smith | LinkedIn |

 

Meet our newest expert for the treasuryXL community, Kurt Smith.

Kurt is a Director of Marengo Capital, a corporate advisory company specialising in treasury, financial markets, corporate finance and private equity. Marengo Capital has a track record of, and passion for, creating and managing for long term enterprise value by aligning corporate strategy, finance and risk.

Kurt is also the Vice President and Technical Director of the Australian Corporate Treasury Association, a member of the Australian Payments Network Stakeholder Advisory Council, and a member of FX Markets Asia Advisory Board.  His career includes senior positions across fund management, bank derivative trading, Fintech, private equity and corporate treasury.  He has a Ph.D in Finance and is a graduate of the University of Cambridge.

Kurt is an engaging and compelling public speaker with substantial experience in presenting, being a panellist and master of ceremonies, for intimate and large audiences in Australia, Asia, Europe, and the United States.  He is well known for providing unique insights into new and well-worn issues, balancing contrarian thinking with informed judgment, and communicating highly technical issues to non-technical audiences.

 

We asked Kurt 9 questions, let’s go!

INTERVIEW

 


 

1. How did your treasury journey start?

I started in financial markets, firstly as a portfolio manager with a macro fund, and secondly as an FX option trader and Head of Derivative Trading for a commercial bank.  While I enjoyed the excitement, spontaneity, and commercial pressure of each day, I wanted something more fulfilling.

 

I became a Director in two FinTech companies commercialising option valuation and risk management technologies, one for the interbank exotic option market and the other for retail investors.  Sourcing capital for product development was a constant challenge but also very rewarding.  By this stage I was hooked on corporate treasury.  Treasury allowed me to direct my passion for financial markets to create, operate and scale businesses by funding growth and making them financially sustainable.

 

I then moved to a $10B+ corporate to run their treasury, corporate finance and insurance businesses.  My main responsibility was developing and implementing capital management and financial risk management strategies to ensure that the company target credit rating was achieved, while obtaining funding, allocating capital to investments, and hedging market exposures to reduce earnings volatility.

 

I am now a Director of Marengo Capital which specialises in creating and managing for value in corporate treasury and corporate finance.  I am still involved in FinTech as the Group CFO of a cash flow securitization company; and I am also the Vice President and Technical Director of the Australian Corporate Treasury Association, which is engaging with and improving the treasury community in Australia.

 

2. What do you like about working in Treasury?

 

I like that the success of the company is in your hands.  The company can formulate exciting corporate strategies and business plans, but those strategies and plans will not be delivered unless capital is sourced, structured and allocated properly, and financial risks are hedged to provide corporate resilience to business cycle downturns and adverse economic conditions.

When you think about it, it is a massive responsibility.  However, I prefer to think of it as a fantastic opportunity to make an impactful contribution.

 

3. What is your Treasury Expertise and what expertise gives you a boost of energy?

 

My specialist expertise is in creating and managing for long term enterprise value.  Increasing value is critical to increasing the capital funding capacity of the company and delivering into the main goals of Executives and the Board.  Most treasurers consider treasury a cost centre and do not have ambition to add value.  To me, that makes treasury a tax on the business, an overhead to be recovered by everyone else.  I believe that there are a large number of ways that treasury can add substantial value, by increasing cash flow not just forecasting it, managing the capital structure to reduce the cost of capital, and evaluating the allocation of capital to investments to ensure value accretive and efficient returns.

 

While I get a kick out of applying commercial acumen to improve businesses, I really get a kick out of convincing others to do the same, from decision-makers to operational teams.  I get very enthusiastic – but I truly believe that value is the key to financial sustainability, which is necessary for companies to do more of what they want to do.

 

4. What has been your best experience in your treasury career until today?

 

I built a very high-functioning treasury and got team members to work on several projects simultaneously in small multi-disciplinary teams.  Team leadership was based on expertise not the hierarchy, and it not only provided all team members with rapidly growing CVs to support their careers, it also provided opportunities for, and the most satisfying discovery of, junior employees with real talent fast tracking into leadership succession planning.  This way of working was new to all of us, and we created a lot of value and had a lot of fun doing it!

 

5. What has been your biggest challenge in treasury?

 

I worked for a capital-intensive company that had rapidly growing capital expenditure to be funded predominantly by debt, during an expected aggressive interest rate tightening cycle.  The rates market had already factored five sequential monetary policy tightenings into the yield curve, such that fixed rates for term debt were very high.  Our analysis showed that in most foreseeable scenarios floating rates would outperform fixed rates, even during sharp tightening cycles.  We went with the maximum allocation to floating rates, and over the next five years interest rates decreased markedly, and we used those decreases to gradually re-weight floating rate exposure back to their neutral weight.

This was a real risk management lesson for me, that is applicable now.  One has to take emotion out decisions, especially fear, do the analysis and trust your instincts.  Worked for us!

 

6. What’s the most important lesson that you’ve learned as a treasurer?

 

Communication is crucial, especially verbal communication.

Executives, Boards and operational teams do not understand treasury and corporate finance.  Treasurers need to be able to communicate complex technical information in a persuasive and compelling way to non-technical audiences.  For example, I prepared a 35-page capital management strategy working paper that I turned into a six-page Board paper, and my presentation to the Board was a single diagram on one slide.  If they were not convinced in the first few minutes, all that work would have been wasted.  Communication is key, and I believe it is a defining characteristic between the best and the rest.

 

7. How have you seen the role of Corporate Treasury evolve over the years?

 

Corporate treasury was formerly a satellite of the business that was involved at the end of the value-chain, to be engaged only when funding of spend and hedging of exposures was required.  As a result, treasury did not influence decisions, it just implemented them.

Good corporate treasuries today are deeply integrated with, and embedded into the DNA of, their businesses; and, as a result, are involved at the beginning of the value-chain where they can influence outcomes.  This is a much more interesting space to play in.

 

8. What developments do you expect in corporate treasury in the near and further future?

 

Everyone is focusing on using technology, digitalisation and data rich environments to reduce operational risk, release resources and gain insights.  This is understandable given the change in the technology landscape and eco-system.

However, I believe that we will have to focus increasingly on our human resources as we re-examine whether the treasury operating model, governance architecture, people, processes and systems are fit-for-purpose not only now, but for the future.  Are our selection processes biased towards technocrats with limited ability to engage and communicate?  Do we hire and / or cultivate businesspeople with commercial acumen?  Do we encourage out-of-the-box innovation or do we effectively enforce the status quo through a relentless drive for efficiency?  I see treasury as a business within a business, and that it should be run as such.

 

9. Is there anything that you would like to share with our treasury followers that they must know from you?

 

As a community of treasury professionals we all have a responsibility to improve the standard of the profession, and to contribute to the recognition of the profession as a profession!  In this regard, treasuryXL is doing a fantastic job of bringing us all together and giving us opportunities to share, learn, explore and discuss treasury.  Let’s make sure that we contribute more than we take out, so that we add value overall.

 

Want to connect with Kurt? Click here

 

Thanks for reading!

 

 

Kendra Keydeniers

Director Community & Partners, treasuryXL

The 3 Fundamental Treasury Concepts: Working Capital Management

17-11-2022 | Vasu Reddy | treasuryXL | LinkedIn |

The 3 fundamental treasury concepts being discussed currently include Working Capital Management, Bank Relationships and Treasury Transfer Pricing which are pivotal pillars for effectively and efficiently optimizing cash, liquidity,  funding and managing risk for any Treasury function to support the achievement of the organizations business objectives and strategy. In the current blog of a series of 3, Vasu Reddy explains the best practices and benefits of Working Capital Management.

Trade and Working Capital Management Products offered by banks

Working Capital Management involves working with supply, purchase, procurement, production, delivery and sales.

What are the best practices to improve working capital balances?

  • Letter of Credits for imports, Bank Guarantees instead of cash prepayments, Documentary Collections
  • Trade loans, overdrafts
  • Structured Trade and commodity finance
  • Supplier/commercial Finance – including ESG – Green Bonds 
  • Bills & LC Discounting to improve cash collection
  • Receivables Discounting to monetize cash and reduce past dues with poor paying customers with no recourse
  • Securitization of receivables on customer contracts executed mainly by Mobile operators 
  • Selling Debt to off-taker/3rd parties with minimal haircut  
  • Procurement/Travel credit cards

Benefits from these practices

  • Trade finance improves working capital Efficiency, reduces borrowing costs and enhances cash flow.

What are the best practices for Cash and Liquidity Management?

  • Implementation and use of Online banking –Centralized single banking platform across region of operation
  • Robust cash planning and forecasting policies to ensure accurate cash flow forecasting by  working with Accounts Receivables, Payables and FP&A teams including businesses to submit monthly forecasts with post month-end review discussions to understand any material variations and investigation thereof. This must be CFO Endorsed to get overall Treasury, Finance, business collaboration. 
  • Overnight/Money market deposits – Invest excess surplus cash 
  • Structured Cash Sweeping/Cash Pooling arrangements for all LE’s – to minimize having excess cash in one country and simultaneously having borrowing in another country
  • Interest Optimization structures with Regional/Global banks to take advantage of wallet size 

“Cash is the life blood to sustain operations”  Vasu Reddy


Benefits from these practices

  • Reduced Borrowings/overdrafts, increased income 
  • Cash Visibility and improved  reporting and financial planning– Group Level 
  • Strong credit rating – improved Shareholder relationship/Returns
  • Strong positive cash flow and Balance sheet – Higher Dividend distribution
  • Cost savings, reduced manual interventions – errors, reduced head-count

Thank you for reading!


 

Vasu Reddy

Corporate Treasury, Finance Executive

Question: What is the current status of Open Banking for Treasurers? Part 2

16-11-2022 | Cobase | treasuryXL | LinkedIn |

Did you already sign up for the webinar on the Future of APIs on the 13th of December 10 CET with Cobase? Join the live discussion to get a fresh perspective on the subject from field experts such as Patrick Kunz and Jack Gielen, moderated by Pieter de Kiewit.

 

Ahead of this webinar, Cobase asked COO Jack Gielen to shed his light on the use case of APIs. In this series, Jack answers the most frequently asked questions.

Question: What is the current status of Open Banking for Treasurers?

Click on the image above to hear from Jack. Stay tuned for the rest of the interview.

Only one week left! Live Panel Discussion: Treasury Trends for 2023

10-11-2022 | treasuryXL | Nomentia | LinkedIn |

A friendly reminder that next week at 11 AM CET (November 17th), we’ll be collaborating with Nomentia.

Participate in our live panel discussion regarding 2023’s predicted treasury trends. We invited industry experts to join us and have an open debate about the issues that treasurers would need to think about in 2023. Additionally, there is the option to ask questions.

Date & Time: November 17, 2022, at 11 AM CET | Duration 45 minutes

Some of the topics we’ll cover:

  • Market and FX Risk management in current times of uncertainty.
  • Top treasury technologies to consider for 2023.
  • Will APIs deliver their promises?
  • Building the bridge between Ecommerce and treasury.
  • The rapidly changing role of treasury to facilitate business success
  • Treasury technology visions beyond 2023.p

 

November 17 | 11 am CET | 45 minutes

Panel discussion members:

Pieter de Kiewit, Owner of Treasurer Search (Moderator)
Patrick Kunz, Independent Treasury Expert (Panel member)
Niki van Zanten, Independent Treasury Expert (Panel member)
Huub Wevers, Head of Sales at Nomentia (Panel member)