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.

CVA is here to stay

Nine months ago we at Hedgebook engaged audit firms, banks and corporates to discuss Credit Value Adjustment (CVA) and Debit Value Adjustment (DVA) as the introduction of IFRS 13 loomed. The overwhelming response was one of ignorance and/or disinterest. Either they didn’t know about it or they didn’t want to know. On my recent business trip to Europe an audit firm in France recounted a story about a get together they had with their clients to explain the requirement for CVA. The whole room burst out laughing. Adjust the financial instrument valuations for my credit worthiness – you must be kidding.

In some ways this wasn’t surprising as IFRS 13 really only began to impact corporates for their 31 December 2013 annual results, even though their half year results should have included the adjustment. Now six months down the track and the requirement to adjust for credit worthiness can’t be ignored.

Whether we like it or not the valuation of financial instruments has become more complex as the regulators are now focusing more closely on this area. In fact when we talk about valuations for financial instruments the understanding is that it includes the credit adjustment under the new standard. CVA is part of this change in focus and is here to stay. The question for corporates therefore is how do I calculate these values accurately but in a simple and cost-effective way?

Although this isn’t new for the US it is new for the rest of the world and it appears that Australia and New Zealand are leading the charge. Europe has been pre-occupied with the new regulatory changes, especially the reporting requirements under EMIR and so it is only now that it has come on their radar.

Of course CVA and DVA are not new. The banks have been adjusting for credit for a number of years but in the corporate space it is new and many have tried to over complicate the calculation. Monte-Carlo simulations might be appropriate for companies that have cross currency swaps or more exotic option hedging strategies but the vast majority of corporates globally are using vanilla products – fx forwards, options and interest rate swaps. For these instruments a simple methodology to calculate CVA is not just acceptable but also appropriate.

It appears that common sense is already coming to the fore with the current exposure method gaining common acceptance, where the discount curve is flexed to adjust for the credit worthiness of both parties. Although a more simplified method it is still not straightforward, requiring two valuations and an adjustment of the yield curves for credit margin. Not something the banks will be providing and so therefore there is the requirement to source this from someone who specialises in financial market valuations. It doesn’t need to be expensive though and there are low cost solutions available.

Given the numbers are mostly small there is a natural reluctance to pay very much for what are in some cases reasonably immaterial numbers. However the audit firms are insisting on its inclusion and rightly so – it is a requirement under the accounting standards and the materiality or immateriality needs to be proven. Of course credit conditions are benign at the moment but as we know this can change quickly and it won’t take much to make the credit adjustment more material.

IFRS 7 – Disclosure Requirements of Financial Instruments

A key pillar of Hedgebook’s ethos is to make life easier for corporates in managing and reporting their financial derivative exposures. This approach extends to aiding Treasurers and CFOs comply with the ever increasing compliance requirements of accounting standards. The most recent standard to create further onus on corporates is the CVA requirements of IFRS 13. We have discussed IFRS 13 on numerous occasions via this blog (and will continue to do so!)

However, the focus of this blog post is the disclosures required by IFRS 7 and specifically the quantitative disclosures in assessing the risks faced by an entity in regards to its financial instruments. Quantifying the risks is demonstrated via a sensitivity analysis.

The Hedgebook application allows a user to perform sensitivity analyses on foreign exchange and interest rate positions at the press of a button and in doing so helps achieve compliance to IFRS 7 as simply and efficiently as possible. These numbers can be included directly into the Notes to the Financial Statements.

Interest Rate Swaps

There is a report within the suite of Hedgebook interest rate reports called the IR Sensitivity Report. A user is able to run the sensitivity analysis in three easy steps:

–          select the appropriate interest rate swap portfolio or individual deals

–          select the valuation date and currency

–          run the IR Sensitivity Report

The Hedgebook app produces the fair value per instrument based on the valuation date zero curve and also the fair values following pre-defined shifts in the yield curve.

Using the 31 March 2014 AUD zero curve as an example, the chart below shows the actual zero curve plus the alternative yield curves that are applied to the swap portfolio:

Sensitivity analysis

The zero curve is flexed by a parallel shift of +/-50, +/-100 and +/-200 basis points. The output of the report is the hypothetical fair value of each transaction under the aforementioned yield curves. The analysis provides information about the extent to which the entity is exposed to risk. The subsequent Hedgebook report can be printed, copied into a document or downloaded to excel for inclusion in the Notes to the Financial Statements.

Foreign exchange

Hedgebook’s sensitivity analysis for fx instruments follows a similar vein to interest rates. The fx curve (spot plus forwards) is flexed by a +/-1%, +/-5%, +/-10% and +/-20% to derive the hypothetical valuations. The subsequent Hedgebook report can be printed, copied into a document or downloaded to excel for inclusion in the Notes to the Financial Statements.

Summary

As regulatory and compliance requirements continue to increase it is important that corporates find ways to increase efficiency and find alternative ways to complete increasing workloads without increasing personnel. A low cost system such as Hedgebook allows senior members of the finance team to focus on added value tasks and not become encumbered by compliance requirements that can be automated such as sensitivity analyses for IFRS 7 disclosure requirements.

CVA is here to stay

Six months ago we at Hedgebook engaged audit firms, banks and corporates to discuss Credit Value Adjustment (CVA) and Debit Value Adjustment (DVA) as the introduction of IFRS 13 loomed. The overwhelming response was one of ignorance and/or disinterest. Either they didn’t know about it or they didn’t want to know. On my recent business trip to Europe an audit firm in France recounted a story about a get together they had with their clients to explain the requirement for CVA. The whole room burst out laughing. Adjust the financial instrument valuations for my credit worthiness – you must be kidding.

In some ways this wasn’t surprising as IFRS 13 really only began to impact corporates for their 31 December 2013 annual results, even though their half year results should have included the adjustment. Now six months down the track and the requirement to adjust for credit worthiness can’t be ignored.

Although this isn’t new for the US it is new for the rest of the world and it appears that Australia and New Zealand are leading the charge. Europe has been pre-occupied with the new regulatory changes, especially the reporting requirements under EMIR and so it is only now that it has come on their radar.

Of course CVA and DVA are not new. The banks have been adjusting for credit for a number of years but in the corporate space it is new and many have tried to over complicate the calculation. Monte-Carlo simulations might be appropriate for companies that have cross currency swaps or more exotic option hedging strategies but the vast majority of corporates globally are using vanilla products – fx forwards, options and interest rate swaps. For these instruments a simple methodology to calculate CVA is not just acceptable but also appropriate.

It appears that common sense is already coming to the fore with the current exposure method gaining common acceptance, where the discount curve is flexed to adjust for the credit worthiness of both parties. Although a more simplified method it is still not straightforward, requiring two valuations and an adjustment of the yield curves for credit margin. Not something the banks will be providing and so therefore there is the requirement to source this from someone who specialises in financial market valuations. It doesn’t need to be expensive though and there are low cost solutions available.

Given the numbers are mostly small there is a natural reluctance to pay very much for what are in some cases reasonably immaterial numbers. However the audit firms are insisting on its inclusion and rightly so – it is a requirement under the accounting standards and the materiality or immateriality needs to be proven. Of course credit conditions are benign at the moment but as we know this can change quickly and it won’t take much to make the credit adjustment more material.

Whether we like it or not the valuation of financial instruments has become more complex as the regulators are now focusing more closely on this area. CVA is part of this change in focus and is here to stay. The question for corporates therefore is how do I calculate these values accurately but in a simple and cost-effective way?

Will auditors enforce CVA compliance?

There is no doubt that CVA (credit value adjustment) and DVA (debit value adjustment) is rapidly becoming front of mind as corporations who have a 31 December balance date and outstanding financial instruments discover something else that needs to be calculated for inclusion in the annual accounts.

The world has changed from when a valuation was just something you took from the bank, plugged into the accounts and moved on. First it was sensitivity analysis on the outstanding instruments. What would the effect be if exchange rates moved up 10% or interest rates moved down 1%? Interesting, but not necessarily that important, especially as this analysis is only on the hedged position not on what isn’t hedged. If you have only hedged 20% of your expected future exposure because you are waiting for the exchange rate to move in your favour, then you will know the effect on 20% of your business, but not the other 80%. The sophisticated investor might look through this, most won’t.

Now we have something called CVA and DVA to consider when we value a financial instrument. What is the impact if my counterparty falls over, or if I fall over, on the value of my outstanding instruments? Interesting, however more relevant during and immediately after the GFC. Less so now and not straightforward to calculate, by any means. However, it is a requirement under the recently released IFRS 13, and not something your bank is going to provide.

How hard will the auditors push to have these numbers included is up for debate. Some of the numbers are immaterial. If you have short dated foreign exchange deals, the numbers are small; if you have long dated interest rate swaps the numbers are more material. Either way they are not something that can be calculated on the back of an envelope.

Hence the problem for CFOs and auditors. The standards have moved down a path whereby the fair value of a financial instrument is not straightforward anymore, nor easily obtained. The relevant purpose is debateable and already the cries of “enough already” can be heard by CFOs who have enough to worry about without debating the benefits or otherwise of the new standards. Likewise the audit dollar is getting squeezed at every turn in an environment where the audit itself is under more scrutiny and regulation.

CFOs may be quite justified to push back when it comes time to including CVA in their valuations, given the usefulness and materiality of the numbers. Whether the audit fraternity accept this or not is too early to tell – material or not you still need to calculate the numbers to decide on their materiality. Whatever the result it will be fascinating to see how this plays out and whether the standards come out on top or the tide of CFO pressure prevails.

Credit Value Adjustment

Credit Value Adjustment or CVA has been around for a long time, however, with the introduction of the accounting standard IFRS13, this year there is a requirement to understand it a bit better. The new standard requires the CVA component to be separately reported from the fair value of a financial instrument.

CVA is the difference between the risk-free portfolio value and the true portfolio value that takes into account the possibility of a counterparty’s default. In other words, CVA is the market value of counterparty credit risk.

The big question is whether it will be material enough for most organizations to worry about; given the potential complexity around its calculation, most would hope not.

There is no doubt if you have cross-currency swaps the impact of CVA is likely to be material. However most companies that use these instruments would normally have a sophisticated treasury management system that would do this calculation at the push of a button.

Most other organizations however will probably be relying on spreadsheets to capture and record their treasury transactions and will lack the ability to calculate financial instrument valuations let alone the more complex CVA.

Will you need to worry about CVA is the question? Most do not know there is a requirement, let alone how it will be calculated and this is true of the audit profession as much as the corporate world.

Whether it is material or not may be the question, however, it is likely that even if it is not material there may be a requirement to prove this. At the end of the day the audit profession will decide whether organizations will need to calculate CVA or not. In the meantime we are keeping a watching brief on both the banks’ ability to provide the CVA component and the audit firms as to whether they will force organizations to calculate it.

Watch this space.

The End of the Fed’s QE and its Impact on Markets: Part 2

This is the final of two posts on the impact of the end of the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing (QE) program on markets, and it will focus on the impact on the “carry trade,” of which the New Zealand Dollar is considered. We will examine the outcomes for a reduction in QE3 and how it might impact FX markets.

The end of the Federal Reserve’s QE3 program may be approaching fast. Market participants have become increasingly anxious as to the next direction the world’s most influential central bank will take as it measures the health of the U.S. economy.

In the previous post, we examined how speculation over the Fed’s QE3 “taper” has caused clear misalignment in two key markets: bonds and stocks. This agitation has spread across the globe and has helped provoke the early stages of a Southeast Asia/emerging markets crisis  (covered in future postings), which has done nothing short but wreak havoc on assets deemed “risky.” Similarly, the “carry trade” has suffered as a “risky asset.”

What exactly is the carry trade? Investopedia defines it as:

“A strategy in which an investor sells a certain currency with a relatively low interest rate and uses the funds to purchase a different currency yielding a higher interest rate. A trader using this strategy attempts to capture the difference between the rates, which can often be substantial, depending on the amount of leverage used.”

Returns from carry trade strategies were serial outperformers for over three decades before the global financial crisis of 2008. Data from 1971 to 2005 illustrates this point clearly enough:

Article 2 Table

Not only did the highest yielding currency basket in this case study offer the highest average annual return over this time series, but by theoretically going long basket 6 – the highest yielding basket – while shorting basket 1 – the lowest yielding basket – investors would take in an annual return of 4.35%. Risk is compensated, too: the Long 6/Short 1 basket has the highest Sharpe Ratio among the seven samples.

The carry trade hasn’t been so kind this year. A typical carry pair in the wake of the global financial crisis – the NZDUSD – hasn’t produced the kinds of returns risk-seeking investors would have hoped for. And that’s simply because of the chatter around the Fed’s tapering of QE3. The New Zealand Dollar, as the highest yielding major currency (the Reserve Bank of New Zealand maintains a key rate of 2.50%, the same as the Reserve Bank of Australia now) and member of the commodity bloc, finds itself in the crosses.

It’s clear that concerns about the Fed winding down QE3 has been bad news for the New Zealand Dollar and the carry trade. After peaking above $0.8600 in April, the NZDUSD slid to as low as $0.7727 (on a closing basis) in late-August –  greater than a -10% drop in just over one quarter.

Article 2 Graph

Why has this type of volatility returned? Higher U.S. yields have reduced the interest rate differential between the New Zealand and U.S. Dollars, and considering that once the Fed begins to exit it will be difficult for it to turn back, we can surmise that this instance of the carry trade – the NZDUSD – will struggle to find meaningful direction going forward. At this point, the only hope for any U.S. Dollar-funded carry trades is for a turn lower in U.S. Treasuries yields, and that might not happen if the U.S. economy improves and the Fed proceeds with tapering QE3.

Will Central Banks Keep Easing?

As the calendar turned to 2013, all was seemingly well: Chinese “hard landing” concerns eased substantially, with growth settling near +8% annualized; the Bank of Japan’s new ultra-dovish mandate under the eye of new Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was sending the Japanese Yen plummeting, reviving the carry trade; peripheral European sovereign yields remained low and relatively compressed to their German equivalents, allowing the Euro to outperform every major currency; and U.S. politicians struck an eleventh-hour deal to avoid the fiscal cliff, the self-induced austerity measures intended to quickly cut the budget deficit.

But those were only near-term developments, 2012, like 2011, was marked by substantial volatility across asset classes, all thanks in part to unstable and unpredictable political issues in Europe. And yet here we are, in mid-February, with equity market in the United States nearing all-time highs, and (gasp!) there’s even talk about the Federal Reserve winding down its stimulus program later this year. With uncertainty so prevalent over the past several years, it’s quite miraculous where global markets actual stand; but it’s also clear that there must be another force at play.

Post 1 image

 

This exogenous factor, that seemingly has elevated the mood of all market participants, has been the additional liquidity provided by the world’s major central banks, in programs most commonly executed as a variation of quantitative easing, or QE. This process entails central banks increasing the money supply of their currency, for two main purposes: to lend to banks at ultra-low rates to incentivize them to lend the borrowed funds back to consumers and businesses, to help foster economic growth; and to weaken the domestic currency to help improve the competitive export position – a weaker domestic currency makes domestic products cheaper for foreigners. While this second point may be true, the first point, not as much; instead, much of the cheap liquidity has been the ammunition market participants need to partake in risky financial activities, which has sent the S&P 500 on its way to all-time highs.

Certainly, there is some clout to this argument. Over the past three years (since the first week of February 2010), the S&P 500 has rallied by +42.15%, while the major global central banks’ balance sheets (the Federal Reserve, the Bank of Japan, the European Central Bank, the Bank of England, and the People’s Bank of China) have increased by +38.42%. There’s a simple inference: only +3.74% over the past three years in the S&P 500 can be attributed to ‘organic’ economic growth, as the rest has been fueled by ultra-loose monetary policies being implemented across the globe.

But as we said to begin this post, 2013 began on a high note; many of the concerns plaguing the investing environment were resolved or swept under the rug, out of sight, out of mind. As the globe’s major economies improve, central banks will begin to drain out the excess liquidity in the system. Is the global market stable enough to withstand such a series of events?

This series of eight posts will focus on the major themes affecting currency markets. The next two posts in this series will focus on the United States’ monetary and fiscal policies, and how they could upend a slow economic recovery.

The Future of Interest Rate Swaps: Will Regulation Kill this Investment Vehicle?

This is part 9 of a 10 part series on currency swaps and interest rate swaps and their role in the global economy. In part 8, we discussed the role of interest rate swaps in the demise of Greece. Given the importance of swaps in the U.S. housing crash, new regulation has arisen that could threaten the future of this important financial derivative.

In late-2008, financial markets were a mess: credit markets had dried up; equity markets plummeted, eliminating trillions of dollars of wealth from the economy; and politicians needed someone to blame. Given the fact that a series of complex transactions involving swaps ultimately accentuated the market crash, OTC derivatives, specifically swaps, were an easy target.

With public outcry high for a scapegoat, U.S. Congressmen and Congresswomen called for action to regulate OTC derivatives, what the Bank of International Settlements has characterized as a $415.2 trillion market. Led by House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank, new regulations were set forth in December 2009 to curb risk tanking by large financial institutions. Regulations focused on two main issues:

  1. Should financial institutions have ownership in swaps clearinghouses? Should ownership be limited? A conflict of interest may arise provoking riskier activities if not addressed properly.
  2. Should regulators have the power to set capital and margin requirements for non-financial participants in the swaps market? Would this regulation result in lower market participation rates, thus creating a premium for liquidity?

When the Dodd-Frank Act (named after Senator Christopher Dodd and Representative Barney Frank, the chief architects) was signed into law by President Barack Obama in July 2010, many of the large financial institutions operating within the OTC market were forced to sell off operations involving swaps deemed uncritical to their in-house hedging operations; or the arms of the financial institutions trading in swaps markets for speculative purposes were forced to close. Additionally, OTC derivatives trading would be funneled through clearinghouses and exchanges for greater accountability.

Financial Scholars Group published perhaps the best perspective on the Dodd-Frank Act in July 2012:

Dodd-Frank legislation was passed in 2010 to overhaul the financial market with the objective of removing or alleviating systemic deficiencies. With respect to OTC IR swaps, Dodd-Frank seeks to lower systemic risk through centralized clearing of trades, better risk management, and trade reporting transparency. Yet despite its size, the IR swap market is small in important respects. Any policy attempting to address a market hundreds of trillions of dollars in size must also take into account that in some ways the swap market is quite nuanced, with some IR swaps trading very thinly and thus potentially substantially disrupted by even finely tuned regulatory policies.

FSG continued to say, “In thin markets disclosing deal terms can have the opposite effect. This is because statistical data is no longer anonymous. With a small number of trades, parties can potentially make inferences about the investment strategies of others. Thus, trade data for thin markets can have an undesirable, amplified signaling effect revealing the market expectations of some participants.”

Given these observations, we can draw a few necessary conclusions: first, OTC derivatives markets, especially those related to swaps, are under a microscope, especially in the United States. Second, a fundamental lack of understanding by legislators could lead to overregulation, diminishing the effectiveness of interest rate swaps (and other variations of swaps) as hedges.

Over the next few years, it is unlikely that regulation comes down hard on the OTC derivatives market barring a major financial crash with swaps at the center once more. This is a far-fetched outcome going forward, considering that loose monetary policies across the globe have introduced trillions of dollars of liquidity over the past few years, driving down borrowing rates in both developed and developing economies. As such, and in light of the increased globalized nature of financial markets in contemporary times, swaps will remain an important financial instrument for years to come.

In part 10 of 10 of this series, we’ll talk about the role of swaps in your company’s hedge portfolio and why, despite the bad rap they get from the U.S. housing crisis, the Goldman Sachs-Greece debacle, and political posturing, swaps remain an integral and important part of global financial markets