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

Blog entry
By jneu, September 24, 2012

Last week marked the first time that The NeuGroup led three group meetings simultaneously. And one of these meetings, the pilot for our Assistant Treasurers Group of Thirty, represented the successful launch of the 15th group in the NeuGroup Network. That's two significant milestones to end the summer.

A quick recap of the three meetings

Our FX Managers’ Peer Group 2 met in Silicon Valley with Chatham Financial sponsoring and shed additional light on the end-user exemption from Dodd-Frank derivatives clearing requirements and the related ISDA Protocol. The Global Cash and Banking Group met outside Dallas with J.P. Morgan sponsoring and elevated members’ realization of the impact new bank regulations will have on their banking services and product pricing. This was also a theme at the Assistant Treasurers’ Group of Thirty meeting sponsored by Citi in Armonk, NY.  AT30 practitioners for the most part have not felt the impacts yet, and several reported some counterintuitive recent pricing reductions based in part on competing bank liquidity needs in the near term. Over the medium to longer-term, however, the expectation should remain that the adverse consequences of Basel III, Dodd-Frank and related financial reform efforts across the G-20 will eventually make it harder for banks to deliver the same level of service at pricing levels MNC treasuries have grown accustomed to.  

Another issue the AT30 shared with the Global Cash and Bank Group was cash forecasting, which is getting a new round of interest from firms facing pressures on free cash flow as well as companies looking to deploy new analytics applications to the perennial problem of improving accuracy without overburdening human staff across the enterprise.  Freeing up human resources was also a key reason why enhancing treasury technology was a discussion point across all three groups.

Of course, this just scratches the surface of what was discussed at these three NeuZGroup meetings last week. We thus want to thank the participants from all three groups for their open discussion and engagement along with the representatives from the meeting sponsors. Your efforts made these simultaneous meeting and network expansion milestones possible.

Blog entry
By jneu, September 19, 2012

We are happy to have the support of Deutsche Bank as meeting sponsor for our Asia Treasurers' Peer Group meeting in Singapore on October 10-11. We have been pleased to work with Deutsche Bank in conjunction with our Tech20, GCBG and T30-2 groups this year and are excited to extend this relationship to Asia -- a region of strategic importance to all involved.

Highlights from the ATPG meeting agenda:

  • Talent Acquisition and Retention. Singapore has two percent unemployment and standards of living are improving in other regional markets such as China and India. This places a strain on treasury's HR management and has companies looking at salary and other forms of compensation.
  • Fostering a new strategic vsion for regional treasury management. The growing importance of the region should be translating into more strategic decisionmaking by MNC treasury professionals heading regional centers.
  • Supporting business growth. A prominent theme at prior meetings is revisited with a member case study on supply chain finance and discussion of specific tools members have deployed successfully to support the expansion of business iniatives in the region.
  • The evolving economic landscape in the region. Members will hear an update on the latest economic outlook, but also discuss what economic data they receive, how they use it and how they coordinate actions with headquarters.
  • Cash pooling in China. Members will discuss both pilot programs for cross-border RMB pooling and how they will fit into increasingly streamlined gobal cash pooling infrastructure.
Blog entry
By jneu, September 18, 2012

We want to say a big thank you to the FX Managers’ Peer Group members for their active participation at the FXMPG meeting last week in San Francisco. We also want to acknowledge Standard Chartered for their sponsorship and valued contributions during the meeting sessions. This successful meeting marks the start of the second-half of the NeuGroup season, which continues this week with meetings of our second FX Managers’ Peer Group (sponsored by Chatham Financial), The Global Cash and Banking Group (sponsored by JP Morgan) and launch of our Assistant Treasurers’ Group of Thirty (sponsored by Citi).

Anne Friberg, who leads the FXMPG, reports that last week’s meeting covered further ground toward understanding the recently-released final language on the Dodd-Frank end-user exemption (EUE) for clearing derivatives, as well as implementation of the related ISDA Protocol. The group also discussed the impact on their hedging programs stemming from the increased cost with these new regulations. An update on the euro crisis and possible scenarios going forward were presented by Standard Chartered and complemented with a member presentation on the latest contingency planning and actions taken. Standard Chartered also provided an in-depth look at currency issues in emerging markets, focusing heavily on China and its CNY, CNH and NDF markets. The treasury systems discussion, finally, yielded some important updates, shedding new light on two vendors in particular.

It will be interesting to see how the FXMPG2 members react to similar topics later this week.

Blog entry
By jneu, September 18, 2012

The NeuGroup is conducting an exploratory meeting for MNC treasury professionals in Shanghai on October 16, 2012. This half-day meeting will provide an opportunity for practitioners in China to exchange practical knowledge on local and cross-border treasury and banking activities and explore how the NeuGroup Network can support them in this challenging and rapidly developing environment. China treasurers from member companies including Ford, Intel, Merck and Nokia will be participating with PwC hosting.

If you have colleagues who may wish to participate, please contact Bryan Richardson (brichardson at neugroup dot com).

Blog entry
BNP Paribas
By jneu, September 13, 2012

At a reception last evening, we were pleased to see Everett Schenk, CEO of BNP Paribas North America, honored for his two decades with BNP Paribas and his role in bringing the bank to the forefront of non-US banks operating in the US. Mr. Schenk will retire at the end of the month. With his support, BNP Paribas has been a regular and valued supporter of The NeuGroup and instrumental in helping with the launch and build-out of several of our groups. We express our thanks and wish him well.

Mr. Schenk hands off to Jean-Yves Fillion, who will assume the role of CEO for BNP Paribas' North American Corporate and Investment Banking activites next month. He has been away for more than a year, serving as Head of BNP Paribas Fortis CIB, but is well-known to many of our members as a frequent participant at our meetings and a strong advocate for our groups. We are happy to have him back in New York.

We know we join many of our members in saying congratulations to both gentlemen: Mr. Schenks for leaving your colleagues wanting more and Mr. Fillion for being given the opportunity to build on the bank's success under Mr. Schenk's leadership in a market that, along with Asia, remains a strategic priority.

Blog entry
By admin, August 22, 2012

The NeuGroup’s newest peer group, The Assistant Treasurers’ Group of Thirty, will have its pilot meeting in September. This group is for assistant treasurers of large cap companies and is referred to as the AT30. It is our 15th group. Pilot participants were recently polled on a list of agenda topics to determine which were of greatest interest. The following is a summary of the results.

Given that this is the pilot meeting, members will have the opportunity to present their company’s respective treasury department structure and their personal responsibilities as Assistant Treasurers. This will provide background for a highly requested discussion of treasury technology, where members will  learn about each other’s technological infrastructure, including systems, continuity plans, plans for new implementations, challenges and suggested technologies to try.

Members also expressed some interest in the ongoing Eurozone crisis, even though the topic has been discussed and written about ad nauseum for many months. Although relegated to a lunch address, the desire to have the topic on the agenda at all indicates members aren’t ready to take their eye off this ball. Our sponsor Citi will highlight their recommendations based on what their clients in Europe and the US are doing to protect themselves.

The most anticipated session is a review of the new regulations that will affect treasury either directly or indirectly through their banking relationships, including Basel III, Dodd-Frank, MMF rules from the SEC, and CFTC regulatory changes on ISDAs and CSAs. We will have Citi’s insight on how clients are preparing for new regulations, as well as overviews from two of our members on preparations being made.

Relatedly, bank counterparty risk is a widely shared concern and is a common topic on many peer group agendas. We will have a member-led discussion on monitoring financial and operational risks of financial institutions, triggers for terminating relationships and approaches to measuring and allocating the treasury wallet. We will also discuss the technological solutions available to support these activities.  

Cash flow forecasting is another popular area of interest, and several members will present their forecasting models and related technology as part of a discussion on managing input contributors, variance analysis, automation and reconciling to forecasts generated by other groups.

This will lead to a session on global liquidity planning that will address numerous issues such as deploying optimal in-house bank structures for liquidity risk management;  pooling, netting and payment factories; managing trapped cash and cash in highly regulated markets such as China; the global organizational design using treasury centers; and the necessary technology to bring everything  together.

Blog entry
By admin, August 22, 2012

What’s on the minds of our Engineering and Construction Treasurers? We have quite a range of topics for our upcoming meeting, starting with the ever popular member profile, where one of our member companies will give an overview of its company and treasury operation.

Next, given the evolving regulatory environment, we will have a review by our sponsor Bank of America on the impact of both new financial regulations and developments in Europe on bank financing. We will focus on the impact of increased capital and liquidity requirements imposed by Basel III and Dodd Frank on banks, their clients and regions operating under the new regime, and discuss the practical implications of the new capital rules and how banks are looking at capital, returns and ancillary business. We will also have an economic overview of trends and forecasts in the Americas, Western Europe and emerging markets.

Relatedly, the Eurozone debt crisis continues to pose numerous challenges, with a number of potential scenarios that could play out. Aside from managing the extensive counterparty risk, dealing with other financial and commercial/business risks is a priority, and members are looking for the optimal role treasury can play in the ongoing management of this prolonged crisis.

Members are also interested in FX exposure in light of Dodd Frank effects on hedging and accounting. We will cover approaches to FX risk management and hedging the balance sheet, cash flow, net investment, foreign earnings and M&A situations. We will also examine foreign exchange exposures and risks with cross border payments in emerging and developed markets.

The practicalities of monitoring and managing financial counterparty risk is another recurring theme. Members are watching global shifts affecting FIs, focusing on: 1) practically monitoring financial and operational risks with FIs, 2) what triggers terminating a relationship, and 3) approaches to measuring and allocating the treasury wallet in today’s world. Input from both members and sponsors on these issues should prove enlightening.

Other topics hitting the radar include bank downgrades, future capital expenditure, financing in the public bond market and strategies for achieving the over-arching goal of treasury management efficiencies.

Blog entry
By afriberg, August 21, 2012

This is posted in the NeuGroup Exchange as an FYI for all NeuGroup members:

The two NeuGroups for MNC foreign exchange managers will both meet in California in September; the first hosted by Bechtel in San Francisco on Sep. 12-13, sponsored by Standard Chartered, and the second hosted by Google in Mountain View on Sep. 19-20, sponsored by Chatham Financial.

The two groups share several topics of interest on their agendas; among them:

Regulatory update: what to do now that a “swap” is defined, including seeking board approval for claiming the end-user exemption from clearing. And, what will you really need to do with your ISDAs and CSAs, and how soon?

Optimized hedging strategies for cash-flow and balance-sheet risks, especially in light of new regulations (Dodd-Frank and Basel III) and process and cost changes resulting from these. Market uncertainty and pricing failures (e.g., Libor benchmarks) also contribute to increased monitoring of hedge programs and their efficacy.

Emerging markets, with a particular focus on China and LatAm: managing volatility at a reasonable price and dealing with cumbersome restrictions in these for MNCs increasingly important markets.

FX systems continue to be an active discussion and members seek to determine what really constitutes a “state of the art” systems architecture for treasury and FX risk management. Member case studies will anchor these sessions.

In addition, the first group will have a Eurozone-related session with a member case study on managing this risk by way of more vigilance and flexibility in where to put cash balances. The second group will talk about best-in-class trade execution and educating the business for the benefit of the business and its goals.

For information on how to join either of the two groups, please contact Anne Friberg at afriberg[at]neugroup.com.

Blog entry
By jneu, July 05, 2012

This post is being shared via the NeuGroup Exchange with all members.

The Wolfson Economics Prize, in a competition launched in November 2011, asked economists around the world to produce a workable solution to the following question:

“If member states leave the Economic and Monetary Union, what is the best way for the economic process to be managed to provide the soundest foundation for the future growth and prosperity of the current membership?”

A team from Capital Economics led by Roger Bootle was the winner of the £250,000 prize.

According to the Policy Exchange, which manages the prize for the Charles Wolfson Charitable Trust,  the winning entry “concludes that even though there would be some losers as well as winners from the exit of one or more members from the Euro, the net effect overall would be distinctly positive for the future growth and prosperity of the current membership – and for the wider world.”

Key points include:

  • A new currency is introduced at parity with the Euro on day 1 of an exit.
  • All wages, prices, loans and deposits are redenominated into it 1 for 1.
  • Euro notes and coins would remain in use for small transactions for up to six months.
  • The exiting country would immediately announce a regime of inflation targeting, adopt a set of tough fiscal rules, monitored by a body of independent experts, outlaw wage indexation, and announce the issue of inflation-linked government bonds.

But most notably:

  • Redomination of debt (and default).  It also recommends that government should redenominate its debt in the new national currency and make clear its intention to renegotiate the terms of this debt. This is likely to involve substantial default – perhaps sufficient to reduce the ratio of debt to GDP to 60%.
  • An exit would best come unannounced. The paper proposes that key officials from the exiting country meet in secret one month before publicly announcing a day of exit or ‘D Day’. Eurozone partners and other international monetary organisations would be notified of D Day three days before – preferably on a Friday – when a public announcement is made that the changeover to the new currency will take place at the start of the following week. Immediately after this announcement, domestic banks and financial markets should be closed to prevent capital flight.
  • Guidance on legal issues a must. The government of the exiting country and the institutions of the EU should seek to minimise uncertainty over the legal issues, for example by providing guidance on the validity of redenomination, the status of the exiting country with the EU, and the continuity of the Euro itself.

Visit the Policy Exchange site for more details and the full report of the winner and runners-up.

Blog entry
By jneu, June 26, 2012

This post is being shared via the NeuGroup Exchange with all members.

On a recent conference call with our Advisory Board, we asked them to identify the key issues they were confronting that would likely be of interest to our member network and readers. They covered a range of topics, most of which resonated with other advisors on the call. All are consistent with topics that came up over the course of NeuGroup meetings in the first half of the year and that are likely to emerge again in our meetings over the second half. Here are some highlights:

  • Managing human capital. There are three principal elements to this: 1) time management—working through continual crisis and the day-to-day tasks of finance practitioner mean that people don’t have time to manage all their demands; 2) talent management—it is simply getting harder and harder to find and retain good talent; and 3) shifting to a growth focus—so much attention gets paid to reducing costs and other austerity measures in response to the global economic downturn that firms are forgetting that finance is also about helping businesses grow; plus, focusing on growth is more exciting and motivating.
  • Anti-growth measures being imposed in developing markets. Growing the business is all the more challenging and needing additional resources thanks to policy changes in countries like Argentina, where parallel-to-official currency rates are surpassing those of Venezuela (and CDS spreads are higher too), and India, where the RBI is forcing in-bound investors to convert to rupees so that they stand little chance of getting their money out. Indeed, capital and FX controls are starting to creep into the picture in more and more places, from African nations like Angola to perhaps even developed countries in the eurozone.
  • Inflation as a global concern. While central banks have pumped the financial system full of liquidity to avoid deflation in the face of crisis, several advisors fear that inflation is the only foreseeable way for heavily-indebted governments to get out from under their obligations. Other advisors were less inclined to think central banks will give up their core inflation-fighting mandate, however, the unprecedented levels of money in the system may make it difficult, if not impossible for central bankers to reign in the inflationary forces set forth by their unprecedented, expansionary monetary policy.  As one of our advisors noted, data found on the St. Louis Fed’s website shows that M1 has doubled since 2000 and the increase in M1 from then to now has been as much as the entire supply history of the US dollar, from 1792.
  • Mounting compliance costs for banks. Along with Dodd-Frank, Basel III and related capital and liquidity rules, banks are also be forced to comply with the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), which is the US Treasury’s effort to ensure US taxpayers aren’t using off-shore accounts to avoid paying tax. Under FATCA, banks will have to report directly to the IRS on accounts held by US taxpayers. The systems costs required to comply by January 2014 run in the hundreds of millions of dollars. The costs of these marginal compliance issues, following KYC and other Anti-Money Laundering rules, followed by additional capital and liquidity requirements will all be passed on to customers eventually.
  • Private equity and VC funds holding back. While better than the worst of the post-crisis doldrums, private capital is still showing a reluctance to commit in many areas of the market, which makes it difficult for private firms to get deals done and for sellers to see fair value on their transactions. The Facebook IPO also has discouraged many, if not most of the IPOs in the pipeline to pull out.
  • Risk management as a treasury constant. With risk management an ever-growing portion of treasury’s brief, starting with managing the counterparty risk at the banks (a fresh issue again with the Moody’s downgrades) and ending with the risk to business profits due to capital and currency controls, treasurers should step back and see what role their departments should ideally play in the more integrated and constant risk management approach that MNCs today require.
  • CCP exemption for corporate end-users of OTC derivatives no certainty.  The political calculation currently holding sway with Democrats is that they should run on having implemented Dodd-Frank without compromises. This will make it extremely difficult for corporates lobbying for exemption legislation to win the bi-partisan support needed to pass the bills that have been proposed. Meanwhile, a study sponsored by the CME shows that in the FX space, which presumably will be exempt from clearing, there has been a tilt in recent years toward CME FX futures as opposed to OTC FX forwards. This suggests that even if given an exemption, market participants may choose to transact via a centralized clearing counterparty because of counterparty risk concerns dealing with OTC dealers directly.
  • What impact will the US election have? While there is a sense that some of the issues concerning treasurers, like inflation, are likely to happen regardless of who wins the election in November. However, a second Obama term is more likely to adversely affect international tax reform, which is all-important from the perspective of most US MNC treasurers who see cash building up offshore. Next up, rather than a repatriation tax holiday, might be further curbs to the ability to utilize foreign tax credits and the extension of the sub-part F income regime to transfers using payments on intellectual property from high-tax to low-tax jurisdictions.  The IRS has typically lost in tax court when it has sought to challenge the transfer pricing on intercompany IP, so with a sympathetic Administration the White House it will move to just change the rules.