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 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.

Where do Swaps Fit into Your Company’s Portfolio?

This is part 10 of a 10 part series on currency swaps and interest rate swaps and their role in the global economy. In part 9, we discussed regulation affecting swaps. In part 10, we’ll review the effectiveness of swaps and whether or not they should be used part of a hedging strategy.

Over the course of the series on interest rate swaps, we’ve reviewed the beginning s of swaps, different types of swaps, some examples of how swaps are used, special types of swaps used by central banks, and how swaps have impacted trends in regulation. In sum, it is an obvious conclusion that swaps are an integral part of financial markets, with estimates suggesting the depth of the market could be as little as $300 trillion to as great as $700 trillion  (the Bank of International Settlements pegs the dept at $415.2 trillion, as of 2006).

Although recent regulation (as discussed in part 9) could hurt the swaps market by removing some of the anonymous pricing mechanisms the OTC market provides, as well as thin out already thin exotic markets, it is unlikely that regulation clamps down on derivatives further unless there is a major financial crash involving swaps again, much like the U.S. housing crash in 2007/2008. Considering the vast amount of liquidity added to financial markets since the 2007/2008 crash (totaling several trillions of dollars), it is unlikely that such an event happens over the coming years.

We’ve also discussed the comparative advantage that comes with hedging via swaps: risks to profits can be reduced through the two main types of swaps, currency swaps and interest rate swaps. In part 6, we showed how Coca-Cola could access cheaper borrowing costs when looking abroad, and how through currency swaps, it was able to hedge away its foreign exchange rate volatility risk. Similarly, through interest rate swaps and forwards, JPMorgan was able to reduce risk transferred to it from Coca-Cola. Just like these theoretical companies, any company can use swaps to limit risk taking.

It should be noted that there are potential caveats to swaps. If a fixed rate is swapped for a floating rate, a rise in interest rates over the contract life could result in higher debt servicing costs. If interest rates are volatile from year to year (they tend not to be anymore among developed economies like Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States), this could result in high profits one year or low profits in another.

If a floating rate is swapped for a fixed rate, the reverse can be said: while the party with the fixed rate is protected from interest rate volatility, it misses out on the opportunity to profit from the shifting rate environment. Through proper risk management using a tool like myHedgebook, these problems can easily be avoided:

Instant fair value (mark-to-market) calculations for your transactions and sensitivity reporting remove the manual elements of complying with accounting standards such as IFRS7 and IAS39, and remove the reliance on your bank for fair values.

Sensitivity reporting also plays a valuable role in management of a portfolio by clearly demonstrating the effect that shifts in interest rates would have on the P&L.

Capturing a swap in Hedgebook is a simple process, with the entry of all of the key parameters of in a single deal input screen. Here the face value, maturity date, reset frequency accrual basis and coupon rate and coupon margins are entered and the swap is saved.

Hedgebook supports multiple variations of accrual basis, reference rate, business day conventions and swap curves to match the exact parameters of your particular swap.

Once saved, the interest rate swap can be valued at any time based on Hedgbook’s daily rate feeds.

Try Hedgebook free for 30 days. Click here to start your trial today!

“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.