Year-end Financial Instrument Check List

30 June marks the financial year-end for many Australian and New Zealand public and private companies, as well as Councils. With an ever increasing compliance burden, we have put together a practical check list for those entities that have exposure to financial instruments such as FX forwards, FX options and interest rate swaps. Those familiar with the international accounting standards understand the minefield that they are, with pages upon pages of text. We have boiled them down to five simple, practical and fundamental items.

 

Fair value (IFRS 13 / AASB 13)

IFRS 13 clearly states that valuations need to be an independent “exit price” for the transaction. It is hard to argue that a valuation from one of the counterparties to the transaction (i.e. the bank), constitutes an independent valuation, however, there are still many companies that rely on their bank for this information. Such reliance on the bank is understandable when the auditor accepts this approach, although we are seeing a much bigger push by the audit community to challenge companies on the lack of independence of a bank valuation given the bank is counterparty and valuer of the financial instrument. Historically there have been few economic alternatives to bank valuations, that is no longer a valid argument.

 

CVA/DVA (IFRS 13 / AASB 13)

The most recent compliance requirement for companies using financial instruments is the adjustment to fair value for credit. IFRS 13 requires a Credit Value Adjustment (CVA) or Debit Value Adjustment (DVA) to all financial instruments. Financial institutions have been credit adjusting their own positions for years, however, the requirement has filtered down so that all parties to financial instrument transactions must calculate and apply a credit adjustment. There is a strong argument that it is overkill for companies using financial instruments to hedge their foreign exchange cashflows (payments/receipts) or debt using plain vanilla instruments to have to make CVA/DVA adjustments. There is little added-value to the company, there is a cost to calculate the adjustment and the number is often immaterial (still have to calculate the number to determine its immateriality, however). It is different if you are trading financial instruments or are using credit hungry instruments such as cross-currency interest rate swaps but auditors, as prescribed by the accounting standards, are (or should be) forcing all financial instruments to be adjusted by CVA/DVA. There is a multitude of approaches to calculating CVA/DVA from the complex (potential future exposure method) to the simple (current exposure method). For those using plain vanilla instruments such as FX forwards or interest rate swaps then a simple methodology is appropriate. It is worth noting that the movement in both FX rates and interest rates over the last 12 months means valuations have moved significantly over the last 12 months which results in higher, more material CVA/DVA adjustments.

 

Sensitivity analysis (IFRS 7)

As part of the notes to the accounts under IFRS 7 there is a requirement to include a sensitivity analysis for financial instruments. This is a “what if” scenario that requires the re-calculation of fair value if the underlying market data is flexed. Often a +/-10% movement in the spot rate is used for FX instruments and a +/-100bp parallel shift in the yield curve for interest rate instruments. In theory there should be some sense check applied to the probability of the movement occurring i.e. if interest rates are close to zero then there is a low probability of a -100 basis point adjustment in the curve. We see little evidence of this in practice.

 

Hedge effectiveness testing (IAS 39 / IFRS 9 / AASB 9)

One of the biggest headaches at year-end is for those hedge accounting. Hedge accounting was introduced for practical reasons – remove noisy P&L volatility from unrealised gains/losses on financial instruments and put these adjustments on the balance sheet instead. In the early days of hedge accounting the approach was complicated and expensive. As auditors and accountants understanding of hedge accounting has developed over time, the process of hedge accounting has become much less complex. The most important aspect is the documentation. The effectiveness testing aspect of hedge accounting is fairly straightforward, particularly when utilising a treasury management system. The replacement of IAS 39 by IFRS 9 (effective 1 Jan 2018) will make hedge accounting a little easier with the removal of the 80-125% bright line and removal of the requirement to split option valuations between time and intrinsic value.

 

Time versus intrinsic (IAS 39)

Until IFRS 9 is effective (Jan 2018), companies hedge accounting for FX options (whether outright purchased options or in a collar relationship) must split the value of an option into its time and intrinsic components. 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. 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. The intrinsic value goes to the balance sheet whilst the time value goes to P&L. Splitting time and intrinsic value is not too easy to do on the back of an envelope/spreadsheet, rather it is something that lends itself to be derived from a system.

 

Summary

Many companies try to complete the necessary compliance through using spreadsheets and bank valuations which is not only poor practice (valuations should be independent) but also error prone and time consuming. There are low cost systems available that can streamline, simplify and improve the ever increasing burden of year-end reporting requirements.

This article should not be taken as accounting advice but rather a practical guide and check list.

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.

Hedge accounting has never been easier

It seems like a lifetime ago since hedge accounting was first introduced, nearly ten years ago now. My how auditors loved it. How complicated could they make it? Very, ,was the answer. How about insisting on regression testing for simple foreign exchange forward contracts or forcing options to be split between time and intrinsic value? No doubt the fees were good for a while but after a decade of hedge accounting the bleeding obvious is that it isn’t, and shouldn’t be, that hard.

Because auditors did over complicate the process the perception was that to hedge account was a time consuming and difficult process to follow and so unless there were very good reasons for doing so many shied away from it. The reality is obviously somewhat different.

Hedge accounting can be simple if you are using plain vanilla instruments and follow some simple, good treasury practices.

We will look at the FX Forwards, FX Options and Interest Rate Swaps to show that anyone can hedge account if they want and it doesn’t need to be difficult or time consuming.

FX Forwards

Let’s take the most simple and commonly used financial instrument, FX Forwards. To achieve hedge accounting you need to match off your expected cashflow or exposure with the FX Forward you have used to hedge this. Given that one of the underlying reasons for hedge accounting is to recognise the difference between hedging and speculating it makes sense that you can identify a cashflow that matches your hedge. More simply than that, assuming you haven’t hedged more than you expect to buy or sell in the foreign currency, the cashflow can be matched exactly against the FX Forward.

Under the standard currently, you need to do a quantitative test to prove the effectiveness of the hedge, ie ensure that the hedge falls between 80% and 125% effectiveness. In practical terms all you need to do is value the FX Forward, which can be easily done through Hedgebook, and then value the cashflow that is allocated against the hedge. To value the cashflow, you create a hypothetical FX Forward which matches the same attributes as the original FX Forward, ie is an exact match. So by valuing the original FX Forward you also have the value of the hypothetical and lo and behold by comparing one to the other the hedge relationship is 100% effective.

If you need to pre-deliver or extend the FX Forward then, as long as this is within a reasonable period (45 days either way is generally accepted) this won’t affect the effectiveness of the hedge.

This method can be used for both the retrospective and prospective methodology.

FX Options

The process is the same for FX Options as it is for FX Forwards in terms of matching the hedge (ie the option) with the cashflow. Again there is only the requirement to value the underlying FX Option and replicate this with the cashflow by creating a hypothetical deal which exactly reflects the details of the original option. As with the FX Forward you then just compare the value of the underlying hedge with the value of the hypothetical option and again it will be 100% effective.

Those sneaky auditors have managed to complicate things by interpreting the current standard as requiring to split out the intrinsic value of the option from the time value. Again Hedgebook can do this calculation automatically which takes the pain away from trying to calculate this rather complex computation. The value of the time value will need to be posted to the Profit and Loss account.

Interest Rate Swaps

Interest rate swaps can be treated largely the same as FX Forwards and options in as much as you need to match the hedge against the exposure. In this case this means matching the swap against the underlying borrowing or investment. Again good treasury management should dictate that the reason you have taken out a swap is to match against the same details of the debt or the investment, in terms of amount and rate set dates.

Assuming that this match is occurring it is again a matter of valuing the swap and creating a hypothetical, in this case of the debt or investment but mirroring the details of the swap. Again this would mean that the relationship is 100%, assuming the hedge matches the exposure.

If there is a difference between the rate set dates and the rollover of the debt or investment then the hypothetical swap can reflect these changes and this means that the two valuations are slightly different but hopefully still well within the 80% to 125% relationship.

Documentation

It is important that the relationship is properly documented. There are plenty of places where you can source the appropriate documentation, with Google being a good place to start. In most cases it is a matter of copying and pasting the specific details of the underlying hedge but the vast majority of the documentation won’t change from deal to deal. A bit of admin but not too hard or onerous.

Summary

Our experience, somewhat surprisingly, has been that more organisations are moving towards hedge accounting. Probably because many are realising that it doesn’t have to be that hard as hopefully we have demonstrated above. This has also been recognised as the introduction of IFRS9 in a few years’ time is simplifying some of the rules which should push more down this path as most would probably prefer not to have the volatility of financial instruments flowing through their Profit and Loss account if they can help it.

It should be noted that hedge accounting can be complex if you are using more exotic instruments or if you are leaning more towards speculation than hedging, however, if you are keeping it simple then it doesn’t need to be onerous. Sure you need to value the financial instruments but if you can do that pretty much you can hedge account. Hedgebook has a number of clients, including publicly listed companies, using this approach. So why don’t you give it a try it might not be the beast you once thought it was.

Swaps: A basic Q and A

This is part 5 of a 10 part series on currency swaps and interest rate swaps and their role in the global economy. In parts 1 through 4, we discussed the differences between interest rate swaps and currency swaps, as well as the pricing mechanisms for fixed-for-floating, floating-for-floating, and fixed-for-fixed swaps. In part 5, we’ll review the basics before looking at some real world examples in parts 6 and 7.

We’ve fielded some basic questions on interest rate swaps and will provide some clear, succinct answers to make this complex financial instrument a little more understandable.

What is a swap?

A swap is a financial derivative in which two parties (called counterparties) exchange future cash flows of the first party’s financial instrument for the future cash flows of the second party’s financial instruments.

What is the most common type of swap?

The most common type of swap is a plain vanilla swap, or an interest rate swap, and is when one party exchanges its fixed rate obligation with a second party’s floating rate obligation. Currency swaps, sometimes referred to as cross-currency swaps, are also very common, especially in the realm of international financing.

I only recently heard of swaps, how long have they been around for?

The first swap, a currency swap, was a $290 million agreement between the World Bank and IBM, in 1981.

How big is the swap market now?

As the world’s deepest financial derivatives market, the over-the-counter (OTC) swaps market has a notional value of $415.2 trillion as of 2006, according to the Bank of International Settlements (sometimes referred to as the central bank for central banks). At that figure, in 2006 dollars, that would make the swaps market approximately 8.5 times the size of global GDP – combined!

Over-the-counter, what does that mean?

Over-the-counter, or OTC, is off-exchange trading of financial instruments, not just swaps, but stocks, bonds, and commodities as well, directly between parties. While most of the swaps market is OTC, meaning it is without a centralized exchange, interest rate swaps can be standardized contracts regulated by exchanges, like futures.

Who uses swaps?

Swaps are utilized by two groups of people: hedgers and speculators. Bona fide hedgers are using swaps to insulate themselves from future risk, whereas speculators are without hedging need and are in the market for the sake of making money. Under CFTC Regulation 1.3(z), no transactions or position will be classified as bona fide hedging unless their purpose is to offset price risks incidental to commercial cash or spot operations and such positions are established and liquidated in an orderly manner in accordance with sound commercial practices.

So bona fide hedgers come from futures trading?

No! Actually, the first hedge exemption was granted by the CFTC to a swaps dealer for OTC index-based exposure where the swaps dealer writing the swap establishes a futures position to hedge its price exposure on the swap. Sounds complicated, but really, the swaps dealer proved he was protecting his capital rather than using it to speculate on swaps.

I have a fixed rate but I really want a floating rate – what do I do?

If your financing is within your borders and you are using your domestic currency, a domestic fixed-for-floating swap is the type of swap you would initiate with another party. This is known as a plain vanilla swap (see above), and is the most common type of swap.

But I’m not using these funds in my country – I’m funding a project aboard

In this case, this would be a fixed-for-floating currency swap, or a cross-currency swap, and it would require a counterparty in the country in which you’re seeking to finance a project.

I remember where I’ve heard swaps before – didn’t Greece get in trouble with swaps?

This is a complicated subject but we will cover it extensively in part 8 of this series.

In part 6 of 10 of this series, we will lay out simple real world examples of how companies would use swaps to hedge against risk in domestic projects as well as projects abroad.

“Hedge Accounting and Beyond: Currency Volatility and Movements Aren’t Just Treasury’s Problem”

I came across this nice little article today from Jason Busch of Enterprise Irregulars on the need, during such volatile economic times, for a wider understanding of Hedge Accounting and its role in managing an organization’s currency exposure.

As Busch says, management right across businesses with currency exposure (whether through global sourcing or international sales) need to have a much better understanding of the tools at their disposal, and need to stop relying on their treasury team (if they are lucky enough to have one) to manage these “stormy waters”. It takes a collaborative effort between Treasury and “the business” to make sure that a business is qualifying for hedge accounting, and therefore minimising the impact of currency shifts on their profitability.

As Richard Eaddy commented in his latest article, for most businesses hedge accounting need not be the onerous process that it is perceived as and is a vital tool in helping to ensure that the market volatility doesn’t have to flow through to your company’s income statement. But to Jason Busch’s point, it needs to be a team effort.

Hedge Accounting – where to from here?

When hedge accounting under IAS39 was first introduced in 2005, many nay-sayers (including myself) thought that organisations would move away from worrying about it once the standard was well understood. This was especially so as it seemed overly complicated at the time and administratively a nightmare to comply with. I know of senior partners in accounting firms who decided that they were “too long in the tooth” to invest the time to learn such new concepts and promptly retired.

The reality has been somewhat different. Like many new things, hedge accounting was met with fear and distrust but what was new and scary more than seven years ago is now familiar and normal (albeit with some changes on the way). In fact not only is it now “normal” but where many thought that organisations would move away from worrying about it and would “mark-to-market” all their financial instruments through the Profit and Loss account, we have seen more and more moving towards adopting hedge accounting.

Why is that? For a couple of reasons probably, firstly because hedge accounting is not that difficult if you are reasonably conservative with your risk management. If you stick to plain vanilla type products such as foreign exchange forwards or interest rate swaps and you don’t try and restructure them or push them out too far, then you will easily comply with the standard. Yes you need to do the documentation but that is mostly a simple matter of copying a WordTM document and making a small number of changes. If you have access to independent mark-to-markets of the financial instruments then you can do the hedge effectiveness testing relatively simply, and if you don’t want to do it yourself you can always outsource to an 3rd party who will do it for you.

The other reason why hedge accounting has been more widely adopted (even by those who would prefer not to) is because of the volatility in the financial markets over the last few years that has caused significant movements in the valuations of financial instruments. Volatility in the financial statements is a CFO’s worst nightmare and even though we all know they are unrealised movements, the market still focuses on the bottom line that includes these movements. I am not a financial markets forecaster but I would suggest that volatility is here to stay for the foreseeable future and this alone will continue to drive more and more to hedge account.

The good news is that hedge accounting is going to become easier. IAS 39 is due to be replaced by IFRS 9 and this will mean that complying with the new standard will be simpler than it was under the old one. Gone will be the illogical requirement to split time value out from options which led many to abandon using this useful instrument. Gone also will be the hardline 80 to 125% rule for achieving hedge effectiveness. Now you will be effective for the portion which is effective, not effective if you were 80.1% and ineffective of you were 79.9%.

The final standard is still to be released with likely adoption in 2015 but with the unrelenting volatility in financial markets and a more practical approach to hedge accounting, there is little doubt that the trend we have seen since its original introduction of an increasing uptake is going to continue over the coming years.

 

Richard Eaddy is the CEO and founder of Hedgebook and the Managing Director of ETOS Ltd, specialists in treasury outsourcing services. Richard has worked in the corporate treasury risk management industry for more than 20 years. He has held senior roles in large corporate treasury departments in both New Zealand and Europe, provided treasury risk management advice to major corporations and for the last ten years has headed up the largest treasury outsourcing company in Australasia. Richard can be contacted at richard.eaddy@myhedgebook.com.