PwC treasury survey reveals over-reliance on spreadsheets

PwC’s recently released “New Zealand treasury management survey” (http://pwc.to/1DCSdse) threw up some interesting results, especially in relation to treasury management systems.

It may come as no surprise to many, including us at Hedgebook, that there is a significant number of corporates who are still relying on good old spreadsheets to manage their treasury risks. In fact a whopping 73% of those surveyed still use spreadsheets, with only 13% using any type of treasury management system.

PwC Treasury Survey

Admittedly the 73% is mainly concentrated in small to medium sized organisations, however, the relative risks are the same for these business as they are for larger ones. The key difference is smaller businesses cannot afford, nor justify, the $50k plus price tag associated with these complex systems.

Therefore, it is not surprising that one of the main reasons for the high proportion of spreadsheet usage is price. However, as PwC pointed out in their survey, with low cost, cloud based systems entering the market, the excuse of treasury systems being too expensive is fast disappearing. We would also argue that a lower cost system does not have to mean loss of functionality.

Again as PwC’s survey showed “executives want detailed information in a timely, up-to-date, reliable and relevant manner.” This is becoming increasingly difficult to achieve with spreadsheets, as reporting requirements become more focused on information to make better decisions, as opposed to information for information sake.

Hedgebook certainly fits the bill of a low cost solution, not only providing the ability to better record, report and value treasury risks but also providing unique analysis combining cashflows, hedging and current market rates to help make better hedging decisions.

It will be interesting to see these same survey results this time next year. – we may start to see a significant change.

Using Hedgebook to make smart fx hedging decisions

Has anyone told you lately that they know where the currency is going? Lots of people think they know if it is going up or down but the reality is that no one knows where it is going in the next 5 minutes, 5 days or 5 years. We might all be able to have an educated guess but that is all it is – a guess.

As a former risk manager I know how hard it is to advise corporates on the risks around fx management. I can remember going to a potential client and explaining to the owner of the business the importance of having a treasury policy and why you should follow it. We could add value in helping with the strategic decisions and the instruments to use but by the way we can’t pick the currency because no one really knows where it is going and we don’t try to. After listening to all this sage advice the owner turned to us and asked what use were we to him if we didn’t know where the currency was going? End of meeting.

It is true no one can pick where the currency is heading. What is important is:

  • Understanding the impact on your business when foreign exchange rates move.
  • Knowing the impact on budget rates or costing rates when foreign exchange rates move.
  • Knowing whether the business can afford to not cover i.e. if exchange rates go any further against you are you losing too much margin or indeed are you out of business.

Having the ability to compare the amount of foreign exchange hedging in place with the impact of exchange rate movements on the uncovered portion is vital information in making rational decisions in an irrational market.

Whilst we can’t pick currencies at Hedgebook (we are still working on that one) we can tell you the impact on your business if rates go up or down. We can tell you in dollars and cents what the impact will be  on unhedged foreign cashflows, what the exchange rate needs to be to achieve the budget or costing rate and what the value of existing hedges are.

Today’s fx risk management isn’t about picking exchange rates but about giving businesses greater visibility over its foreign exchange position. This allows for smarter foreign exchange hedging decisions using all available information. Sometimes the information isn’t what you want to hear but at least you don’t need to hope that things go your way. You can avoid the knee jerk decision – and chuck out the crystal ball.

Why use an interest rate swap and how does it work?

It seems like only yesterday that I started my treasury career at one of NZ’s leading treasury advisory consultants, alas it was closer to 15 years ago. “We advise clients on managing their fx and interest rate exposures”, they said. “We use derivatives such as interest rate swaps to hedge risk”, they said. “Eh?”, I thought!

The financial markets have a lot of jargon but one quickly learns that many of the underlying concepts are quite simple. It is easy to assume people in the finance industry have a more in depth understanding of financial products than they actually do. There are plenty of examples of people who are exposed to interest rate swaps but whose understanding is rudimentary. Examples are young auditors who are coming across financial instruments rarely, or the back office clerk who is settling cashflows. Quite frankly there are also plenty of senior people who one might reasonably expect to have a greater level of understanding of these financial products than they actually do, such as senior auditors and CFOs.

In this article I attempt to explain in simple terms the purpose of an interest rate swap and how it works.

Why use an interest rate swap? When I was first learning about IRSs it was explained to me that they were simply an exchange of cashflows, either fixed for floating or floating for fixed, to hedge interest rate risk. Might as well have been in French for all it meant to me at the time. So I will try and take a step back. To my mind the best way to understand an IRS is by way of an example and the easiest example is that of a borrower who wishes to fix his interest rate exposure. Many of us borrow money from the bank in the form of a mortgage for our home and we choose to lock in the certainty of the interest rate payments by way of fixing the interest rate for a few years. A pretty simple concept. The corporate borrower has a few more options available to them to achieve certainty over interest costs on borrowings. They could borrow on a fixed rate basis very much akin to our residential mortgages. Alternatively, the corporate borrower could borrow from the bank on a floating rate basis and then enter a pay fixed interest rate swap to lock in the interest rate. The outcome is the same, however, the advantage of the IRS is the flexibility it allows the borrower in regards to the term he or she can fix and the flexibility to restructure. In terms of tenor, it is common for a borrower to fix through the IRS market out to ten years or longer. It is much harder, and expensive, to get the bank to fix interest rates long term as the bank needs to be compensated for tying up capital for such an extended period of time. It is also much harder, and expensive, to break debt that has been borrowed on a fixed rate basis, however, restructuring an IRS is a straightforward process and allows the corporate borrower to take advantage of prevailing interest rate market opportunities or “play the yield curve” to use financial market parlance.

How does an IRS work? Explaining how an IRS works requires us to understand the concept of exchanging cashflows. The diagram below represents the cashflows associated with a borrower using an IRS to fix interest costs:

IRS cashflow

 

1) The company borrows money from the bank, say $1 million for our example, on a floating rate basis. There are floating rate benchmarks for different currencies i.e. BKBM in NZ, BBSW in Australia, EURIBOR in Europe, etc. and this floating rate changes/sets every day. The bank will charge a margin on the money it lends, say 2.00%. The effect for the company is it borrows money at floating rate + 2.00%.

2) The company wishes to fix his interest cost and to achieve this enters a pay fixed / receive floating IRS with a bank (maybe the same bank as it has borrowed from, but not necessarily). We will assume the company wishes to fix the entire $1 million i.e. the swap is entered for $1 million. It could just as easily decide to fix only half i.e. $500,000. Herein lies some of the flexibility an IRS allows the company when considering its interest rate risk management profile. Under the terms of the pay fixed swap the borrower will pay the bank a fixed interest rate and receive floating interest from the bank i.e. exchange of cashflows. Note, there is no exchange of principal, only interest.

The floating rate received through the swap offsets the floating rate paid to the bank for the debt. The net impact to the borrower is paying a fixed rate (through the swap) plus the margin the bank charges for borrowing the money (2.00%).

There are some important factors to consider when entering an IRS to ensure the hedge is at its most optimal. The roll-dates of the IRS should match that of the debt i.e. if the floating rate on the debt sets every three months then so should the floating rate on the IRS, and on the same day. The underlying reference rate on the debt and the swap should also match i.e. BKBM, BBSW, EURIBOR, etc. Both of these things ensure there is no “basis risk” within the hedge as well as ensuring it passes muster from a hedge accounting perspective if it is designated into a hedge relationship.

The example above is designed to provide a basic understanding of the concept of an interest rate swap. We have used the floating rate borrower as an example. However, IRSs are used by an array of market participants for a multitude of uses including investors wishing to structure their income profiles or borrowers who have borrowed on a fixed term but wish to have exposure to floating interest rates. However, the underlying concepts are fairly straightforward.

 

Feature client: Palmerston North City Council

Palmerston North City Council (PNCC) is fairly typical of a NZ local authority in that Council is a sophisticated borrower with autonomy around the management of its interest rate risk exposure. Councils can access funding through a number of sources such as traditional bank funding, private placements and, in more recent years, the Local Government Funding Agency (LGFA). As at 30 June 2014 PNCC had debt of $117 million and $104 million of pay fixed swaps to provide certainty of interest costs. PNCC has a Treasury Policy which prescribes that no more than 45% of the total borrowings should have a floating rate profile. Pay fixed interest rate swaps are entered into to hedge the fair value interest rate risk. PNCC has been a Hedgebook client for a number of years graduating from one-off valuations for 30 June Financial Reporting requirements, to an on-going subscription client using Hedgebook’s Treasury Management System, HedgebookPro. Says PNCC’s Strategy Manager – Finance Steve Paterson, “It is important that Council manages ratepayers’ money in a transparent and prudential manner. Using HedgebookPro provides an appropriate level of comfort that the risks arising from financial instruments are adequately captured and monitored. Additionally, the reporting functionality helps the Finance team to operate efficiently.”

The majority of NZ’s local authorities are borrowers and many are using derivatives to manage the interest rate risk. Several NZ councils are using Hedgebook’s Treasury Management System including Kapiti Coast District Council, Nelson City Council, Selwyn District Council, South Taranaki District Council, Western Bay of Plenty District Council, Greater Wellington Regional Council, Masterton District Council and Thames-Coromandel District Council.

Hedge accounting fx options: time versus intrinsic value

FX options make up an element of many companies fx risk management strategies. FX options lock in the certainty of worst case exchange rate outcomes while allowing participation in favourable rate movements. In my experience, companies are often reluctant to write out a cheque for the premium so for many the preferred strategy is collar options. A collar option involves writing, or selling, an fx option simultaneously as buying the fx option in order to reduce premium, often to zero.

After transacting the fx option, the challenge comes for those that are hedge accounting and the requirement to split the valuation of the fx option into time value and intrinsic value. IAS 39 allows the intrinsic value of an fx option to be designated in a hedge relationship and can therefore remain on the balance sheet. The time value of the fx option is recognised through profit or loss.

The intrinsic value of an fx option is the difference between the prevailing market forward rate for the expiry of the fx option versus the strike price. We can use an Australian based exporter to the US as an example. In our example the exporter forward hedged US$1 million of export receipts six months ago (the USD income is due to be received in three months’ time). At the time of hedging the AUD/USD rate was 0.8750 and the nine month forward rate was 0.8580. The company chose to hedge with a nine month zero cost collar[1] (ZCC). Six months’ ago the ZCC might have been as follows:

  • Option 1: Bought USD Put / AUD Call at a strike of 0.9000
  • Option 2: Sold AUD Put / USD Call expiring at a strike of 0.8000

AUD USD

The intrinsic value of each leg of the collar will be determined by the difference in the forward rate at valuation date versus the strike rates. For option 1, the bought option, if the forward rate is above the strike of 0.9000 then the fx option will have positive intrinsic value i.e. it is “in-the-money”. It is important to note that the intrinsic value of a bought fx option cannot be negative. The purchaser, or holder, of the fx option has all of the rights and would not choose to exercise the fx option if the market rate was below the strike price. They would simply choose to walk away from the fx option, let it expire worthless, and transact at the lower market rate.

For the sold fx option the opposite is true. If the forward rate is below the strike price (less than 0.8000 in our example) then the exporter, as the writer of the option, will be exercised upon and the difference between the market rate and the strike rate will be negative intrinsic value. Intrinsic value of a sold fx option cannot be positive.

The time value of an fx option is the difference between the overall fx option valuation and the intrinsic value. By definition, time value is a function of the time left to the expiry of the fx option. The longer the time to expiry, the higher the time value as there is a greater probability of the fx option being exercised. A purchased fx option begins life with positive time value that decays over time to zero. A sold fx option begins life with negative time value and tends to zero by expiry date.

When hedge accounting for fx options the splitting of intrinsic value (balance sheet) and time value (P&L) does not have to be a time consuming exercise. At Hedgebook we like to make life easy so as part of the FX Options Held Report the valuations are automatically split by intrinsic value and time value. The screen shot below shows the HedgebookPro output using our Aussie exporter example. With the significant weakening of the AUD in the last six months we see the zero intrinsic value of the bought option at a strike of 0.9000 and very little time value as there is little chance of the AUD strengthening to above 0.9000 by the time the option expires by 30 June. The sold fx option has a large, negative intrinsic value. The exporter will be exercised upon and have to convert the US$1 million of receipts at AUD/USD 0.8000 versus a market rate of closer to 0.7600. There is a small amount of negative time value.

HedgebookPro FX Options Held Report  

FX Options Held Intrinsic_Time

HedgebookPro’s easy to use Treasury Management System calculates fx option valuations split into intrinsic and time value. This simplifies life for those that already use fx options and hedge account, whilst removing obstacles to hedge accounting for those that perceive the accounting requirements as too hard.

The IASB is looking to remove the requirement to split fx option valuations into intrinsic and time components which will simplify the hedge accounting process further, however, currently this appears to be a 2018 story, unless companies choose to adopt early. In the meantime, HedgebookPro provides an easy to use system to ease the pain of hedge accounting fx options.

[1] Premium received from the sold option offsets the premium paid on the bought option.