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2018 – the black swan could be China

| 21-12-2017 | Rob Beemster |

 

Chinese gross domestic product (GDP) is forecasted to end 2017 at around $12 trillion, while the total debt to GDP is about 400%. The economic growth has been impressive as well is its nominal (but also relative) rise of the total debt.

The Chinese economy has grown from the start of its GATT membership in 1995 from around $750 bio to $12trl now. However, total credit grew much more, from around 100% of GDP in 2000 to more than 400% of GDP now.

 

Credit growth is still surging. This is one reason why the Chinese want their economy to expand at a speed of more than 10%. They need to hold this pattern for some years to come. When the Chinese government is able to put a brake on the growth of credit, GDP is allowed to decrease speed. We see comments from those in power about their wish to slow credit growth. But doing this is like changing the course of a tanker in a canal. In other words.

If Chinese GDP growth would decrease, and credit growth continues to surge, then a big disaster is to happen. The huge mountains of debt have to be financed, when this gets tougher, one can imagine that it will result in a Chinese economic slowdown.

If the credit bubble bursts, it will result in a devaluation of the yuan. This will have effect on the whole world economy. During the Asian crisis in 1997, China was a tiny economy, now it is huge. So not only mature economies like the ones of America and Europe will feel the pain but the surrounding countries and Africa will suffer heavily.

The outcome for the dollar overall, is fairly vague to me. Some economists see a Chinese devaluation as highly deflationary for the global economy and therefor a dollar bullish event. I have got doubts to the last part of that view. China has got an enormous stock of dollar bonds. It would not surprise me if they start selling these during an economic crisis.

If you are a corporation trading with China, 2018 might become an exciting year.  As said, my story is about a black swan so most probably this doom story will not happen. And I hope it will not. But:  hedging your currency flow is highly recommended. Even when you pay your producer in dollars or your Chinese client pays you in dollars, your risk is the CHINESE YUAN.  It is NOT a dollar risk. The same must be said if you transmit your goods with Euro.

Creating a decent yuan hedge will be very important. Again, it is not a dollar or euro risk. When the yuan devaluates, the costs have to be paid somewhere. Don’t let it be you!

Barcelona valuta experts can attend you in creating a decent risk process, so your cash flow will be protected.

 

Rob Beemster

Owner of Barcelona valuta experts BV

 

The treasurer plays with fire, when hedging foreign currencies to his sole gut feelings

| 24-11-2017 | Rob Beemster |

Hedging

 

The foreign exchange market is a highly volatile market and therefore full of surprises. For more than 20 years, I was a spot currency trader in the dealing room of a large international bank. One of the things I liked the most in being a trader was the unpredictability of the markets. Never a dull moment. The management of the bank gave us a lot of freedom, once you had proven the ability to handle this. But always we had to take care of some very important requirements, like the VAR (Value At Risk), and we had to protect our positions with stop-loss orders.

 

Executing a stop-loss was the worst part of my job. It proved that you had been wrong in judging a certain move of a currency. It sometimes felt like being a loser. However, executing at a stop-loss level gives you the freedom  to restart a new currency position.  We were never blamed by colleagues or the management for having executed a stop-loss. It was part of the risks, and by using a stop everyone knew that overall business would never be hurt.  If losses taken by stops were in line with the profits taken (relatively speaking) everything would be fine, considering that a good trader makes more positive decisions then negative ones.

Now let’s consider the controller who decides on his hedges, based on his gut feelings. Most probably this is based on old nonsensical ideas like, “what goes up must go down”, and, “It will come back to old levels”. Because of my business today, I speak with finance managers about their hedging strategies. Sometimes they make me feel embarrassed because of their self-created strategies; “I like to play foreign currency strategy myself”, or; “we have had good years and less good years”. From a business economic point of view this can be very painful. Volatility in foreign currencies is a very important component of international business. But one has to realize that this component can be managed. Companies should install a risk management procedure on their foreign currency exposure/obligations, to preserve their profit margins. A proper strategy not only protects the margins and cash flow but will also create prudency within the entire company.

A currency strategy is an implemented structure, necessary for the finance department. However, others that are responsible for the flows, like sales departments, procurement or production, should be involved and be aware of the importance of the strategy as well. Our models do describe the tasks of all the departments. A communication plan is part of the currency strategy. When the implemented processes are understood by everyone within the company, then and only then the strategy will work.

Our foreign currency risk models are very useful within international operating corporations.  We can help you to implement the processes that will secure cash flows. A controller, who makes decisions on FX out of the blue, is unacceptable and too dangerous for the continuity of the business, moreover, it is intolerable in modern finance departments.

Barcelona valuta experts can be of assistance to you. After precise research of the current status of your company we can implement the right models. And this will protect you against negative or unwelcome currency moves.

 

Rob Beemster

Owner of Barcelona valuta experts BV

FX-Risks Versus Technology

| 27-10-2017 | Treasurer Development | Minor Treasury @ Hogeschool Utrecht | Frans Boumans |

Today’s blog has been written by Daphne Piereij and Martijn Mullié, who are 2 students studying for the minor Treasury Management at the University of Applied Sciences in Utrecht. We welcome their contribution – it is good to see the youth engaging in Treasury matters! Here is their opinion on FX – risks versus technology.

“The one unchangeable certainty is that nothing is certain or unchangeable.” Those words were uttered by former US president John F Kennedy in a State of the Union address before Congress in 1962.

This still applies to the current state of the world. Especially within the financial markets and with FX Risks. Managing these risks have been completely revolutionized the past decades because of the new innovations in technology.

Traditionally traders manually update their volatility surfaces and bid-offer spreads, and that default pricing would have gone directly out to clients. More efficient is to use the electronic market data and automate much of that process, particularly in the most liquid currency pairs, creating a more transparent, data-driven practice.

According to McKinsey these are the trends in FX risk management with evolving technology and advanced analytics:

Big Data

Faster, cheaper computing power enables risk functions to use reams of structured and unstructured customer information to help them make better credit risk decisions.

In the future while this technology evolves and the quality of analytics of big data becomes better it will be easier to manage FX risks.

Machine Learning

This method improves the accuracy of risk models by identifying complex, nonlinear patterns in large data sets. Every bit of new information is used to increase the predictive power of the model.

Keeping in mind the words of former president John F. Kennedy the world will never be predictable and neither will the financial market. Because it’s not ran by machines but by humans, and humans are in general unpredictable. Which means this process has no end until the financial markets are managed by machines which are predictable.

Crowd Sourcing

The Internet enables the crowdsourcing of ideas, which many incumbent companies use to improve their effectiveness.

The internet can motivate people with challenges to work together to make algorithms for analytic functions so market data can be used more efficiently. It’s not always the most effective method to use the in-house developers to create algorithms. To make the most effective FX risk management algorithms is very hard and time consuming. Crowd Sourcing enables a whole different aspect to create algorithms, using more brains to create these immensely complicated methods to decrease FX risks.

Resources
https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/risk/our-insights/the-future-of-bank-risk-management
https://www.risk.net/risk-management/5276541/managing-fx-risk-how-to-prepare-for-the-unpredictable

Minor Treasury Management

More information about the minor Treasury Management at the University of Applied Sciences?
Please contact Frans Boumans.

 

Frans Boumans

Manager Minor Treasury Management @ University of Applied Sciences in Utrecht

 

 

FX volatility creates opportunities

currencies| 18-10-2016 | Victor Macrae |

The British pound has strongly decreased in value against other major currencies such as the US dollar and the euro. Such FX movements can negatively impact firms’ financial statements and destroy firm value. On the other hand, they can also create opportunities. I would like to demonstrate this on the basis of a real case of a European based industrial firm which has the euro as functional currency. We’ll discuss two scenarios.

First, some time ago the firm was negotiating a takeover of a British firm. In anticipation of the M&A transaction it purchased British pounds against euros. However, the deal was unexpectedly cancelled. As a result the firm had to sell the pounds again. Luckily, the pound had strengthened against the euro in the meantime and the firm ‘gained’ millions due to the failed acquisition. This could however easily have been a ‘loss’ in case of a weakening of the pound. The ‘no FX strategy’ was in the firm’s favour this time, but I wouldn’t bet on it.
If you are thinking about a takeover in the UK (or any other country where the local currency is under pressure) it is wise to consider multiple FX hedging strategies. For instance, using options for these type of transactions not only provides you with a way out if the acquisition is not closed as an option gives you the right but not the obligation to purchase the FX. Furthermore, when the payment is due it also gives you the opportunity to buy the currency at the option’s strike price or at the lower prevailing market rate if the case.

Second, a characteristic of this industrial firm is that it is very dominant in its core markets. Due to this position, the firm predominantly sells its products in euro, also to customers with a different home currency. While it may seem that there is no FX risk, this strategy has led to currency issues, for instance in the Russian market. Due to the weakening of the Russian rouble against the euro, the firm’s products have become more expensive up to a point where sales in Russia have nearly ceased to exist. Russian customers cannot afford to pay the euro prices and demand pricing in roubles or a discount on the euro price.
This is an example where a firm’s exchange rate policy influences its core business activities. A solution could be to move production to Russia, and possibly to produce for other regions as well, although this has consequences far beyond the FX issue which have to be taken into account.

Both examples show that FX volatility can create opportunities. FX risk management should support the core activities of a firm and not the other way around. But if creative FX management helps create firm value, why not benefit?

 

Victor Macrae

 

Victor Macrae

Owner of Macrae Finance

 

 

Walk the walk into FX exposure: my first baby steps

| 20-06-2016 | Pieter de Kiewit |

Being a treasury recruiter I know how to talk about many aspects in corporate treasury, never having to prove I understand and can execute. Apparently this is not necessary to do a proper recruitment job. As a small business owner I do have my miniature corporate treasury tasks. Below I want to describe the most complex FX issue I encountered so far. Not so much for the readers who are seasoned treasury professionals, but for my fellow entrepreneurs and others not dealing with FX on a daily basis.

A large, listed firm with a presence in various countries asked for my support in finding an interim treasury manager for a transition project. Doing what we do, this task was executed swiftly. The next steps were a bit more complex, given the fact that the assignment will be executed in Switzerland and The Netherlands and the interim manager is from the UK. Our previous cross border, non Euro payments were related to permanent placements, resulting in a single invoice. Most of these can easily be done via electronic banking. I know the bank in that case charges me a fee for the actual transfer and without sending me a quote will earn from making Euro’s out of other currencies. Perhaps I should have asked how much. I suspect I paid over 40 base points.

In this case, there will be many invoices related to one project, resulting in many transfer fees. The interim manager wants to be paid in GBP, if my client would pay in Euro’s this will lead to many Euro-GBP transfers. I am not too keen on that, I expect costs will be substantial. On top of this, the Brexit is in the news constantly creating a blurry situation for me. How to move forward? What is the advise of my bank? What do companies like NBWM or Monex tell me? Spots, forwards, swaps? Without going into detail this is where I stand.

My client is willing to pay me in GBP. With my bank I could open a GBP account quite swiftly. Instead of researching and managing this part of the FX risk I will invoice in GBP, making this a complete GBP project. This way I do not have to think about FX risk during the project. At the end of the whole project I will decide if my bank will convert my GBP in Euro’s or I will ask others. I do have to decide if I will accept the risk of the GBP collapsing or if I will hedge this risk. My costs are in Euro’s, who can predict the future for me?

Pieter de Kiewit

 

 

Pieter de Kiewit
Owner Treasurer Search