Digital disruption in the Treasury Management System space

There is a digital revolution going on in the treasury management system space, not that you would necessarily know.  For many there is still a stark choice – over-priced, over-complex and over-engineered treasury systems or good old Excel spreadsheets. But the world is changing and as with all things technology, it is happening at a rapid pace.

Globally, larger organisations are well catered for as far as treasury management systems are concerned, and in fact it is a crowded and mature market. The PwC Global Treasury Survey of 2014 showed that 80% of those companies surveyed were using some type of treasury management system. However, as with big ERP systems, the issue for the providers of large, expensive treasury systems is how to offer a cost-effective alternative to the massive SME market without detrimentally affecting their existing market. The challenge is to offer a slimmed down treasury management system without compromising the huge premium that they currently charge.

So where is the competition for these large, expensive systems coming from? The answer is the cloud app revolution which is sweeping the world. Platforms are being developed that aggregate a whole bunch of cloud apps, both financial and non-financial. The really clever bit is the integration of these different apps and bringing it all together through a variety of widgets and dashboards to give a complete, and often unique, view of a company’s position. It’s like a Fitbit for business.

Not only are these cloud app aggregators bringing leading edge technology to the SME market but they are doing so for small monthly fees. The apps cross the spectrum of business tools such as accounting systems, CRMs, social media tools and now treasury management systems. All of this for a few hundred dollars a month.

In the on-line accounting world, Xero is leading the charge in the digital disruption revolution with its New Zealand developed, $50 per month product. Treasury systems will need to follow suit with a much cheaper solution.

By leveraging cloud technology, treasury systems can be implemented for costs palatable to the underserviced SME market. There is an enormous amount of importers and exporters hedging their foreign cashflows with forward exchange contracts and possibly FX options. These companies probably aren’t hedge accounting, even if they are reporting under IFRS, but the impact of exchange rate movements is vitally important to their bottom line.

SMEs require the ability to record, report and value their transactions but just as importantly they want access to tools to help them make better hedging decisions. This is not too different from larger companies except SMEs are mostly using plain vanilla instruments. For a small monthly fee SMEs can benefit from a treasury management system with basic functionality, which integrates perfectly with other cloud based apps. So as we have seen with cloud based accounting systems, the power that was once reserved for large organisations can be put in the hands of a much larger group for a fraction of the cost.

Whether the current treasury management system providers have a solution for the SME market remains to be seen. It maybe that they do not care for this part of the market, however there are parallels with the large and expensive ERP systems which have successfully moved into the mid-market space and are now looking at the next tier down. The conundrum for treasury management system providers will be that SMEs will desire the core functionality of a larger system but without the price tag. The digital revolution for treasury management systems may only be in its infancy but it is set to have major ramifications regardless of the size of organisation.

First published on Treasury Insider (www.treasuryinsider.com)

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.

Website enhanced and app updates released

An important aspect of most companies marketing strategy these days is via their website. At Hedgebook we spend lots of time developing our derivative hedging software and have to date been somewhat remiss in the development of our web presence. We have taken some initial steps to address this by adding some extra information about the company and the individuals behind the company. We have also included some more technical aspects regarding the operations of the company, hosting of the application and disaster recovery. Additionally, we now display a selection of fx rates, interest rate swap rates and metals prices on our home page. The rates are live and update every five seconds. The aim is to provide a quick view of the key rates Hedgebook users care about.

We have also released an update to the Hedgebook application. We are constantly working on changes and improvements to the valuation and reporting software to give users either access to new instruments and features, or making existing ones more intuitive and easier to use. The most material changes from this software update include exposing the cashflow map for amortising interest rate swaps and we have also streamlined the reporting functionality.

Feedback always welcome.

Demo HedgebookPro for Free

Hedgebook is pleased to announce the launch of the free demo version of its flagship product HedgebookPro.

Potential users now have the ability to try before they buy. Simply go to the HedgebookPro website (www.hedgebookpro.com) and click on the big red button (it’s hard to miss). Fill in your details and we will send an email link of your login details so you can have a decent gander at the full functionality of HedgebookPro.

If you like what you see we can set you up with your own account by emailing us at enquire@hedgebook.co.nz. It’s as simple as that.

Give it a try and join the legion of users accessing the most cost-effective little treasury system known to man.

Navigating these stormy economic waters

Many exporters confuse foreign exchange management with trying to predict where the currency is going. The reality is that no one knows where the currency is heading today, tomorrow, next week or next year. In the current volatile times it has got a whole lot harder, especially for exporters who are not just grappling with the volatility but also with a currency which against most of our trading partners is close to historical highs.

So if you can’t predict where the currency is going what can you do to better manage your exposure to the daily fluctuations in the currency, which are no doubt seriously impacting on most exporters’’ profitability.

There are certain disciplines that any exporting company needs to know about that is dealing in foreign exchange. For many of these companies it has the biggest impact on the profitability of the organisation. How many times have we heard that if the currency goes above 70 cents or 80 cents or 90 cents I am out of business but how many comapnies also know what their true position is.

The first thing you need to know is what are my exposures, what are my expected foreign denominated cashflows that i can forecast with some certainty over the next month, next year or longer if you can accurately forecast out that far. You then need to think seriously about what exchange rate am I profitable and at what level am I not making any money.

Next you need to think about how am I going to cover these future foreign exchange flows. What are the products that i can use and who is going to provide these products to me?

Most are aware of forward foreign exchange contracts which can be used to lock in an exchange rate for a future date. If you aren’t at least using forward foreign exchange contracts then you should be. Converting the funds when they arrive in your bank account is unlikely to be a long term successful strategy (especially in the current environment) and it is also likely you aren’t getting the best exchange rate on conversion from your bank.

If you are still dealing with the local branch of your bank you should talk to your Relationship Manager about dealing directly with the banks fx dealers to ensure you are getting the best pricing possible. Remember you can negotiate both the margin the bank is charging you and the ultimate price the fx dealer is quoting. This is especially important when transacting fx contracts out into the future. If you are dealing with more than one provider then even better as this puts some competitive tension into the pricing.

You might want to also consider fx options. Options are like an insurance premium on your future fx receivables. An option gives you the right, but not the obligation, to transact at an agreed rate. Whilst often deemed to be expensive they should be a consideration as part of your overall fx management. In the current environment with the kiwi having been in an uptrend for some time forward exchange contracts has been the best strategy, however at some stage in the future the kiwi will be in a downtrend and when this is well established options would be a worthwhile consideration.

Banks are the obvious ones to sell you fx and options but there are also numerous reputable fx brokers around who provide good rates and good service. In days gone by the banks have not serviced small to medium sized businesses as well as they could but in recent times this has changed and they are generally very focused on servicing this sector much better.

Consideration should also be given to having some sensible parameters around how much cover is appropriate to have in place given the accuracy of your cashflows, competitive situation and other relevant factors. You may need some outside expertise to provide this and there are a number of independent advisors who will put together an appropriate treasury risk policy.

The last piece in the puzzle is being able to record, report and value your fx transactions. Most still use spreadsheets to do this but we all know the downside of using them. It is a well documented fact that most financial spreadsheets have at least one error in them and the risk of not recording a deal correctly is too big to take for most organisations. More and more Directors of companies are looking to move away from the reliance on spreadsheets where possible as the risks associated with fx are too high to take the risk of missing a deal and the potential cost.

But it isn’t just the risk of using spreadsheets it is also having access to the best possible information to make the best possible decisions. Spreadsheets will tell you where you are now but they won’t tell you where you are heading. It is always important to know what your current position is based on the cover you have in place but what about your total position based on the cover you are still to take. Are you still profitable at this level? Or what happens if the currency goes up another 10%, what does that mean for the profitability of the company? Should you lock in everything now because you can’t live with the currency moving higher?

These systems exist and they are inexpensive, especially if compared to the risk of missing a deal or not knowing what your true position is. Like any business decision, the better the information the better the outcome.

For most exporters fluctuations in the currency is a daily topic of conversation and many are grappling with the historical highs we are currently facing. There is no crystal ball to tell you where the rates are going from here but there are some common sense measures that in the medium to longer term can be put in place to ensure the ongoing viability of your business.

Richard Eaddy – CEO, Hedgebook.

– A related article by NTZE can be found on the NZTE website (http://j.mp/s68o7k)


Making business easier…

Well Hedgebook is officially underway. That feels good.

Isn’t it great when a good idea comes to fruition. Heaven knows most of them don’t…And as they say, its often the simple ideas that turn out to the the best ones. Hedgebook certainly fits that mold.

We’re about making it easier for organisations to manage their treasury function.

For those of you who, like me, aren’t an accountant, treasury is a catch-all term for the tasks that combine to “maximise a firm’s liquidity and mitigating its operational, financial and reputational risk”.

More specifically, we help organisations manage their foreign exchange contracts and interest rate swaps to ensure you are able to make sound, timely financial decisions. That sounds a like worthy goal.

For years we’ve all been relying on ‘that spreadsheet’ locked away on someone’s hard drive, never really sure whether it is up to date or whether we are looking at the right version. As Kiwi’s we tend to be a bit “she’ll be right” about things like this. Perhaps we’ve not really thought about it, or perhaps there just hasn’t been a decent alternative.

But as a country of exporters and importers, for whom navigating the stormy waters of currency fluctuations can mean life or death for some businesses it really is time we took this a bit more seriously.

Enter Hedgebook. Finally, an easier and more secure alternative to spreadsheets.

The truth is, we’ve actually been around for a while. At least the stuff under Hedgebook’s bonnet has been. The engine that powers Hedgebook has was developed by some very clever people a few years back and in various incarnations it has been put through its paces by numerous customers around the world.

So why has it taken so long to get Hedgebook to market? That’s where the “cloud” comes in. The cloud is having a profoundly positive impact on businesses in so many ways. In our case it is allowing us to bring “enterprise-level” software to the market at a price that makes it a viable option for all sizes of business. Now the rest of us can afford the powerful tools that large corporates have been using for years.

So here we are. Hedgebook. Treasury management in the cloud. In the small but important world of treasury management it’s a big deal. We’d like to think it’s a game changer.

That’s not to say we are finished. Far from it. Hedgebook is a constant work in progress and we already have big plans for improvement and the first people we will be taking guidance from is our users.

It is going to be an exciting ride.

Richard Penny is the Market Development Director for Hedgebook.