What's Neu - News from the The NeuGroup Network of Peer Groups

Blog entry
Job opening
By jneu, March 16, 2015

The NeuGroup is looking for a research associate/analyst to assist with peer benchmarking and research across our unrivaled network of membership groups for treasury and finance professionals. You will work with group leaders, members and sponsors in preparing high-quality research in support of member projects, group agendas and meeting discussions.

Indicative research topics include changes in the organizational structure of the finance function; the evolving role and responsibilities of treasury leadership; headcount and compensation by area of responsibility; talent management and training programs; performance metrics; major treasury and finance systems deployed; technology implementation and support best practices; key banking partners and relationship metrics; best practice for bond issuance; share buyback execution; functional currency of liquidity, payments and collections infrastructure.

We seek continual improvement in our research and benchmarking processes, so this is a great role for someone who can problem solve, develop new approaches on their own and adapt quickly with the team. This role requires someone who can: 

  • create and execute web and phone surveys;
  • develop and maintain question libraries;
  • manage data in databases and analyze in Excel;
  • prepare reports in Word and presentation decks in PowerPoint;
  • summarize results in written form, charts, graphs and data tables;
  • contribute web posts, graphics and articles containing research highlights and trends; plus,
  • manage project timelines with internal team and clients.

Familiarity with online survey tools (SurveyGizmo), Salesforce, Asana and a Web Community/CMS (Drupal) platform is a major plus.  The role also needs someone who possess professional communication skills, personality and creativity to promote engagement, along with excellent writing skills and attention to detail.

The job can be part- to full-time with flexible scheduling and there is the opportunity to work remotely. Travel to meetings to interact with clients is a possibility, but not required. You will report to one of our senior directors in charge of peer research and support them with the above and related research surrounding clients’ key projects and priority topics for benchmarking.

To be a fit for this job, you should have at least 2 years’ experience in a relevant research role. Salary will be commensurate with experience.  

The NeuGroup provides leading peer knowledge exchange services to treasury and finance professionals at large multinational corporations, US regional banks and their service providers.  We have an unrivaled network of groups catering to the treasurer and their direct reports, plus colleagues in risk, audit and regional finance. The NeuGroup facilitates over 18 groups, with 350 members from 200+ companies. With more than 30 face-to-face meetings in the Americas, Europe and Asia, numerous webinars, conference calls and on-line forums, we have privileged access to current intelligence and insight from global practice leaders.  To maintain this access requires that everyone who works with us earn and maintain their trust, give in order to get and go about their business with objectivity and integrity.  

To apply, click here

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Blog entry
By Anonymous, March 09, 2015

The Path to Bolder RMB Implementation Roundtable Series wrapped up its US tour with a final stop in Menlo Park on March 5, 2015. As was the case with our two previous stops in Chicago and New York, many meeting attendees were from companies who have been in China for 20-plus years. But this time we also had one company brand new to the Chinese market with plans to launch its business there next week.

Overall, treasurers and senior finance professionals at the roundtables have appreciated the timeliness of the renminbi (RMB) discussions and have walked away with a better understanding of what’s possible in China as they continue to refine their global liquidity management strategies and roll RMB into their global planning.  

The theme of "Be Bold, but Cautious" played out again in Menlo Park as we heard from Tina Kobetsky, Vice President and Treasurer at VMware who described her company’s successful project to redenominate all trade activity into RMB, which began first with intercompany invoices in 2010 and continued on to vendor and sales contracts thereafter. VMware has now completed its first full year of invoicing and receiving payments in CNH/CNY and they have experienced smooth invoicing, efficient revenue recognition and payment remittance with no major collection issues.  

We hear many MNCs comment that “we settle in USD, so there’s no exposure for us in China.” This may not really be the case, since most Chinese companies that are accepting USD as a form of payment have already built in a currency component into the contract. By changing the USD invoice to an RMB invoice, MNCs have the immediate ability to more closely monitor and manage the currency exposure. Based on Tina’s presentation, by changing its in-country price list to RMB VMware was able to compete more effectively in China.

“This is the future,” Tina said. “Set yourself up to win by redenominating your trade now. Test it first with intercompany trade and then with one or two trusted Chinese counterparties.  You can take it slow, but you are strongly encouraged to begin as soon as possible.”

Becky Liu, Standard Chartered Bank’s Director and Senior Rates Strategies-Hong Kong walked the group through a summary of the macro economic outlook for China and noted that the landscape was “totally different than just one year ago.” Although growth has slowed from the double digits experienced a few years ago, she still predicts stable growth at or around 7 percent. Based on her projections, “there is no fundamental need to weaken RMB, and although we may see some near-term weakness based on USD strength, it is still a strong currency.”

The rapid uptick in the CNH offshore activity has led many treasurers to reevaluate their currency exposures and consider the impacts of RMB redenomination. The RMB is now the fifth most common SWIFT payment currency globally, just behind the Japanese yen. RMB was number 13 just two years ago and is expected to surpass the JPY in the next year or so. It is not too early to implement your RMB strategy.  

Based on Standard Chartered Regional Head of RMB Solutions Caroline Owen’s presentation, the very obvious absence of the US from the global map of clearing banks is seen as a political move and does not have an impact on the globalization of the RMB.  The world has already endorsed the RMB with or without US support or acceptance. “US MNCs are encouraged to get on board with these changes even if the US decides not to act as a clearing bank.  Europe and Asia have plenty of options for clearing banks for US MNCs to effectively manage their global trades,” Caroline said. There are currently 15 global clearing banks with 10 more expected during 2015.  

Cross-border lending was another strategy that US roundtable attendees discussed at great length. Many see this as a basic foundation for future liquidity enhancements in China and something that they are moving up on the treasury priority list. There are a few strategies to pick from depending on the needs of the business. The one-way program is a great way to use trapped cash by lending it offshore to an entity that needs cash. The two-way program allows Chinese entities to borrow funds from offshore for working capital purposes without affecting the foreign debt quote.

A major component of any cross-border pooling or lending program is the transfer pricing policy that defines interest rates and other payment details to ensure the structure is treated as ‘arms-length’. The creation of a transfer pricing program was a very in-depth discussion at the roundtable as members reflected on the appropriate arms-length transaction rate that should be used for intercompany activity in light of the limited market rate options available. This is a critical component to the creation of a cross-border lending program, which everyone agreed is an exciting new opportunity in the global liquidity arsenal which allows idle or excess cash to be moved offshore to parties that have a cash need.  

In wrapping up our day, attendees agreed that although there are complexities in setting up any new cross-border program, it is important to keep the RMB at the top of their priority list so that they take advantage of the changing regulations and set the stage for more efficient liquidity management for the RMB activity.  

On behalf of Standard Chartered Bank and The NeuGroup, we would like to thank those companies who joined us on our US tour. We look forward to wrapping up the series later this year with stops in London and Singapore. Please contact Geri Westphal gwestphal@neugroup.com if you are interested in attending the London or Singapore meetings.

The NeuGroup is the leader in peer knowledge exchange and intelligence for treasurers through its iTreasurer publication and The NeuGroup Network of 18 member groups serving more than 350 treasury and finance professionals across functions, industries and global regions.

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Blog entry
By Anonymous, February 26, 2015

The Treasurers’ Group of Thirty will discuss ways to prep for an activist battle.

Industry professionals envision an increase in shareholder activism in light of falling stock prices and growing activist successes. Activist battles could get even uglier in 2015 as hedge funds continue their trend toward piling into the same stocks. Having a strategic playbook on hand is seen as a prudent response to the increase in shareholder activism activity.

The Treasurers’ Group of Thirty (T30) will discuss the activist outlook for 2015 and ways that they can be prepared in the event of an activist attack at their upcoming March meeting.  The meeting is sponsored and hosted by Chatham Financial in Kennett Square, PA.  

The T30 will also focus a fresh set of challenges for 2015 that could greatly impact global treasury structures, As the OECD further refines their Base Erosion and Profit Sharing Action Plan with updates to transfer pricing and permanent establishment guidelines expected later this year, members are expecting at least a moderate impact on their current tax and/or legal structures. The members are also focused on the increase in market volatility for both FX and interest rates, as treasurers continue to look for ways to smooth the spikes and manage a strong USD.

The Treasurers’ Group of Thirty (T30), the first NeuGroup for treasurers’ of large MNCs, is the premier members-only group for strategically-minded treasurers at large-cap, global companies. Members meet to discuss topics on their agendas, share experiences and discuss solutions to common challenges. For executive summaries from the meetings of T30 and other NeuGroup peer groups, subscribe to iTreasurer.com.

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Blog entry
By jneu, February 25, 2015

US MNC treasuries would like to be bold when it comes to RMB implementation, but want their peers with them. 

Yesterday marked the second in our five-part, “Path to Bolder RMB Implementation” roundtable series with Standard Chartered.  The New York meeting, followed by a Chinese New Year after party, suggests no US MNC wants to be a camel standing amidst a flock of sheep, which seems appropriate as we start this year of the sheep (open to interpretation). The most applicable take on this proverb is that treasury professionals at US MNCs active in China see the benefits of bold preparations for RMB, but they want their peers with them to help establish standards, promote best practices and help local Chinese authorities, in particular, better understand how US MNC treasuries want to operate in support of their China businesses.  

This fits well with our shared objective with Standard Chartered: to help MNCs better understand how they can utilize China’s policy of RMB internationalization to their advantage in trade payments, liquidity management, FX management and capital market funding and investment opportunities. The more MNCs that have an understanding of this, the less the bold among them risk standing out for criticism, since their peers will be with them.

Countering conservative instincts

Asking MNC treasurers to be bold on the RMB means countering their conservative instincts with fact-based examples.

“We are conservative when it comes to taking risk in treasury,” noted one participant, as a preface to describing her company’s RMB liquidity management structure implementation. “We want to be bold, but not any bolder than our peers.”

She nonetheless helped to embolden other participants that had implemented PBOC two-way RMB cross-border lending structures to share as well. This, in turn, helped others who want to embark on a similar path to link up China liquidity with off-shore liquidity management infrastructure. Their key takeaways, included:

  • Talk to the authorities that audit your books.  Get them comfortable with what you are trying to do and why (get them to understand the MNC treasury language and appreciate why you just don’t want to pay a dividend).  
  • Invest the time to get the transfer pricing right. The biggest challenge with setting up cross-border lending for China is getting the transfer pricing, or an arm’s length interest rate in the intercompany loan right. China shares this problem with many developing markets in that there is not a well-established benchmark rate that everyone identifies with. Given the significance of the China market, it pays to do the work internally with tax and legal and external experts to conduct a thorough transfer pricing study to justify the rate choice in the context of the loan structure. Walking through this study (again, with local) Chinese tax authorities will help increase the comfort level that the choice is acceptable.  

Other participants did the same by emphasizing how glad they were to have followed Standard Chartered’s advice and proceed with a changeover to RMB invoicing. Why? “To execute the FX deals ourselves offshore, get payments faster, and help manage exposure in one location,” summed up one whose firm had started RMB invoicing.

It is one thing to understand the benefits of RMB internationalization, but it is better to hear from those who have taken bold implementation steps and are still happy they did. Caroline Owen, Regional Head of RMB Solutions, Americas at Standard Chartered asked them, “Would you do this again?” Yes, was the answer—without qualification.  She also warned about the risks of waiting. While you may not see Chinese companies clamoring now to switch to being invoiced in RMB, this could change quickly if the government acts (most likely via state-owned enterprises) to push up RMB usage statistics, in your sector or just in general.

“You want to do a switch to RMB invoicing proactively when you have the time to undertake what will be a significant project, and not reactively when an important supplier calls and says suddenly that they want to be billed in RMB.”

Standard Chartered’s Brian Jennings, Executive Director, Corporate Financial markets was on hand to offer examples of how to hedge RMB and the benefits of doing this offshore in CNH vs. CNY and considerations with deliverability and NDFs. Becky Liu, Standard Chartered’s Senior Rates Strategist from Hong Kong also tied together the currency, interest rate and economic outlook, making a strong case that China will not be following others along a devaluation path with monetary easing to keep GDP growth at targeted levels. USD-CNH swap rate volatility, however, will create interesting risk and opportunity for US MNCs transacting in RMB. They and other Standard Chartered colleagues also pointed out the pace of change in RMB capital markets, which will allow you to match book RMB assets with like funding and give you more investment opportunities for your excess RMBs.   

The daylong discussion ended with some concluding advice: Be more like a ram than a sheep (which will help keep your peers from standing out like a camel)—and you certainly don’t want to be a goat.

The third roundtable in the series meets on March 5 in Menlo Park, CA. 

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Blog entry
By Anonymous, February 25, 2015

The Treasurers’ Group of Thirty 2 will discuss this at their next meeting.

At the request of the G20, the OECD has produced its 15-point Action Plan on Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) with key announcements expected later this year. The Treasurers’ Group of Thirty 2 (T30-2) will discuss the challenges of an ever changing global landscape and how best to maintain control at their upcoming March meeting.  The meeting is sponsored by HSBC and hosted by Coca-Cola in Atlanta, GA. Most member companies expect these announcements to have at least a moderate impact on their current tax and/or legal structures, with many expecting several changes as a result.   

In addition, the T30-2 will focus on treasury efficiency and innovation as they concentrate on topics including the advancement of digital payments, enhancing global in-house bank functionality and FX risk management.  

Based on statistics, more than one third of the world’s population is excluded from the formal financial sector, in part because of their inability to pay for goods and services electronically.  The members will discuss the advancement of digital payments and what they are doing to encourage electronic payments within their organization. They will also look at ways to enhance IHB functionality with next-generation tools and improved infrastructures to allow for further development of cost saving initiatives. The group will also discuss strategies for managing a strong USD as impact to USD earnings is significant and the outlook for strength continues.

The Treasurers’ Group of Thirty 2 (T30-2), the second NeuGroup for treasurers’ of large MNCs is the premier group for strategically-minded treasurers at large-cap, global companies. Members meet to discuss topics on their agendas, share experiences and discuss solutions to common challenges. For executive summaries from the meetings of T30-2 and other groups, subscribe to iTreasurer.com.
 

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Blog entry
By jneu, February 24, 2015

In preparation for a presentation I made recently at a Citi Liquidity Advisory Roundtable, I took the top priorities revealed by our T30 and T30-2 polling (see below) and drilled into liquidity-related areas (members can view the full deck here).

 

The three that stand out most include:

  1. The tie-in to capital planning.  This brings together the two of the top five priorities, namely, cash planning and management with capital planning. Capital planning is needed to back-stop known liquidity requirements with funding and debt issuance to meet expenses and shareholder expectations of cash distribution, plus M&A and organic growth opportunities to ensure higher equity valuations--all without exposing the firm to too much liquidity risk. The second order considerations include the extent to which activists' agitations create value destroying expectations and how best to defend long-term shareholders and stakeholders against them. They also include allocating capital to where in the world growth is happening with the tax planning considerations that ensue. Increasing interest rate differentials between positive interest rate economic zones and negative interest rate zones, finally, create yet another tension for capital raising and liquidity planning (see offshore cash vulnerabilities below).   
  2. IHB implementations or enhancements. The first order priority is to compare the value of additional IHB features, or initial ones, to the liquidity transfer mechanisms in place currently. This comparison should include consideration of further centralization of payments and collections, which themselves can greatly simplify liquidity management infrastructure needs. This points to the second order comparison of an in-house bank to existing or potential other netting, pooling, or intercompany lending mechanisms. Centralization of payments and collections, in turn, invite consideration of Pay On Behalf Of (POBO)/Receive On Behalf Of (ROBO) or Pay In Name Of (PINO)/Receive In Name Of (RINO) and the differences between the two that best suit your legal entity and systems structure. 
  3. Offshore cash vulnerabilities. For starters, MNCs (in particular, US MNCs) should see their offshore cash as increasingly vulnerable to tax and transfer pricing changes. US MNCs should plan for a race between outcomes on tax reform/a repatriation tax break and OECD-led international efforts to curb base erosion and profit shifting (and for local authorities to claim more of MNCs offshore cash). Negative interest rates, meanwhile, underscore the need to bucket liquidity more authoritatively to move out the curve with extended duration, but also avoid collecting cash in buckets where it will be subjected to confiscatory interest rates if not tax. The old metrics of centralizing cash to earn greater returns on net excess and lower funding costs for net deficits fall away when rates are zero or negative and funds transfer pricing makes it more costly to pool cash across borders.  Moreover, the IHB implementations, enhancements or alternatives considered above, must be evaluated in the context of the changing international tax and transfer pricing rules that have most current structures targeted for change.  

Countless others will spill out from these three. 

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Blog entry
By afriberg, February 20, 2015

Like its sister group, the March 16-17 winter meeting of the FX Managers’ Peer Group 2, the second NeuGroup for MNC foreign exchange managers, will speak to the top priority of NeuGroup treasurers in 2015: FX management.

FX managers from member companies such as Google, HP, Merck, Estée Lauder and Qualcomm will discuss the challenge of communicating externally about the impact of FX on earnings, along with their internal metrics and messaging strategy. The meeting will be hosted by Levi Strauss in San Francisco, CA, and sponsored by Thomson Reuters.
 
Also on the agenda:
Putting options into the toolkit. In response to the reversal of the almost decade-long dollar-weakening trend, and the rising volatility this trend is creating, members without permission to use FX options will work with their peers to hone proposals to gain permission with an FX policy change.

Exposure consolidation analytics. Additionally, in a session on systems and staff resources for the various processes in the FX hedge program, one member will highlight a recently selected exposure consolidation software, Whitewater Analytics.

The NeuGroup is the leader in peer knowledge exchange and intelligence for treasurers through its iTreasurer publication and The NeuGroup Network of 18 member groups serving more than 350 treasury and finance professionals across functions, industries and global regions.
 

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Blog entry
By afriberg, February 20, 2015

The continuation of a strong US dollar cycle has moved FX and related interest rate risk management to the top of NeuGroup treasurers’ priority lists for 2015.

With this in mind, The FX Managers' Peer Group, the first NeuGroup for MNC foreign exchange managers from companies like Accenture, Caterpillar, eBay, Ford, Intel, McDonald’s, Microsoft, Pepsi and P&G will convene for their winter 2015 meeting on March 12-13. The event will be sponsored by Chatham Financial.

Topping the agenda is a session reviewing two member examples of efforts to further reduce earnings volatility, in light of the strengthening USD cycle and volatility generated via the knock-on effects, by making adjustments to their cash-flow and profit hedging programs, respectively.  This session will be complemented with a discussion of hedging nominal exposure vs. VaR, CFaR, or EaR and the pros and cons of these alternative methodologies (and methods of calculating) them to quantify exposure.

Also on the agenda:

  • Performance measures and backtesting. The group will discuss the cost-benefit analysis of hedging, based on two member cases: one will share how the FX group assesses how well the hedge program delivers on its goals, and the other will do the same, using a recent project to backtest the program as a backdrop for the conversation.
  • Compliance update. The group will update one another on the state of regulations rolling out in FX and derivatives markets (Dodd-Frank, EMIR, etc.) and what must be done now to ensure members' compliance status.
  • Efficiency in the FX program. Despite the FX impact on earnings, FX managers are still tasked with doing more with less, so members will review systems and staff resources dedicated to the various processes to wring further efficiencies from their hedge programs.

The NeuGroup is the leader in peer knowledge exchange and intelligence for treasurers through its iTreasurer publication and The NeuGroup Network of 18 member groups serving more than 350 treasury and finance professionals across functions, industries and global regions.
 

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Blog entry
By mkmoore, February 19, 2015

The financial community has certainly been keeping an eye on China these days and The NeuGroup is no exception.

The NeuGroup has partnered with Standard Chartered to host a series of roundtables for those senior finance professionals who want to get a jump on how Renminbi (RMB) internationalization can offer competitive advantages to corporate treasury management. You can read some key takeaways from the first meeting in Chicago here.

There are a few spots open for the roundtables in New York on February 24 and San Francisco/Palo Alto on March 5. Contact Geri Westphal at gwestphal@neugroup.com for more information.

We are also devoting the March issue of iTreasurer to RMB. This issue will include a round-up of information gleaned from all three RMB Roundtables, plus more on this hot currency. Subscribe here to make sure you are on the list to receive this special issue.

In the Year of the Sheep/Goat, The NeuGroup will continue to build their Asia Treasurers’ Peer Group and their new group, The Asia CFOs’ Peer Group. Sheep and Goats are comfortable in small private groups, so The NeuGroup approach to invitation-only, member-driven groups ticks all the boxes. You can find out more about The NeuGroup Network of Peer Groups here.

Best of fortune and luck in this next year!
 

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Blog entry
NeuGroup
By jneu, February 17, 2015

A long overdue welcome to a new member of our team. 

With Ursula Conterno (Brenner) now working on initiatives across The NeuGroup Network, I wanted to let everyone know that we are pleased to welcome her as a full-time member of our team. This is from the beginning of the year, so it is long overdue.

Ursula had been assisting with our Latin American Treasury Managers’ Peer Group (LATMPG) and Global Cash and Banking Group (GCBG) in the second half of last year. By joining us full-time, she will assume leadership of those groups and free up Anne Friberg and Geri Westphal to pursue new intiatives. We are extremely pleased to see another experienced professional transition successfully from group member to group leader: a testament to the value by our model, where members want to work with us to facilitate bringing it to their peers.

As director, peer knowledge exchange, Ursula also will be coordinating our world-class TMS/TMS implementation project (a cross-group member effort), drawing on her member experience with the World-Class Cash Management Principles project (done in partnership with the GCBG and Citi) and TMS implementation at Dell.

Bringing you experienced leadership

Ursula adds to the experienced leadership of the NeuGroup team. She worked for six years in Dell’s treasury, starting as a foreign exchange senior consultant, becoming international treasurer for the Americas (Canada and Latam) and most recently serving as global cash manager, where she was a member of the GCBG.

Our experience with Dell treasury, which has long been one of our best member companies, participating in the broadest spectrum of NeuGroups, has shown that they have a tremendous track record of identifying and developing treasury talent. Ursula is no exception.   

With this experience, Ursula will also bring fresh perspective and continued innovation to The NeuGroup.

We were all very happy to start 2015 with Ursula on board. We hope all our members, sponsor partners and friends feel the same way and will do all they can to make her feel welcome. 

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