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assessing risk|realizing opportunities

Sustainable Economics

We have put our good mother through a lot over the past few million years. Ever since we walked out of the great rift the biospheres dominant species has really left a mark. I know that mark is but a tiny spec on the archaeological record of the earth which spans a few billion years but our impact is unmistakable.
 
I guess it started with the invention of hand tools, fire, wheels, shelter construction, water cultivation and agriculture. You can’t forget hunting in packs, weaponry, domestication of animals, speech, art and writing. A consciousness of a portfolio of skills, specialization, division of labor and the ability to discern exchange value within the community birthed a notion of governance. Our social nature was crowned with our ability to transmit craft and knowledge to successive generations, assuring continuity and cohesion with a common history and a well articulated cosmology. Put it all together and I think you got your basic modern Homo sapien.
Oh yeah, we also developed a psychology, an ego, that incorporates the primacy of ourselves and our selfish needs. It rationalizes and guides our interactions with nature, transforming the intention of our labor into a transaction that alters the conditions of the environment. It also serves as indisputable empirical evidence of the master species, elevated above all others as time marks the progress and dominion of the human race.
 
Our dominion has been codified into our sacred literature. Our creation stories and cosmic mission statements expressly state to exercise our dominion over nature, to propagate the species and to be fruitful and multiply. The screaming unencumbered id, left to its own devises, unchecked in the grand supermarket. We human’s have succeeded beyond our wildest expectations and the species continues to be fruitful and multiplying. 
 
We sojourn on, notching the ladder of history with marks of our progression through the ages. Along the way we Cro-Magnons expropriated the Neanderthals and moved into their Mediterranean digs complete with fire pits, burial chambers and the best take on modern art until Picasso came along.
 
I guess that’s the point. Our survival comes at the expense of other creatures and things. I’m no Malthusian, but Tom Friedman’s flat world is getting crowded.    And as we celebrate the 44th Earth Day a midst the greatest die off of species since mankind coronated himself as master and commander of all things earth; it may be time to consider how our dominion is hampering the well being of the lesser flora and fauna kingdoms and what we can do to begin the practice of a more sustainable economics.
 
When I look at Las Vegas, I behold a garish mecca of capitalism on steroids.  I’m overwhelmed by the banality of the the things we so highly esteem. A community venerated and propped up on the foundation of vice, hedonism and the radical pursuit of money. Unbridled development of a crystal neon city constructed in the middle of a desert, recklessly consumes water and energy resources and misdirects human capital to maintain the facade of an unsustainable economy. 
 
Phoenix poses the same paradox. Darling child of the credit boom, Phoenix is a city consuming itself. The rising threat of climate change, blistering heat, dwindling water supplies and raging haboobs would give any urban planner reason to pause. A bustling city of many millions of striving citizens consuming energy, water and human capital built on the unsustainable foundation of excessive consumption and an unrealistic valuation of the capital required to maintain it. 
 
The explosion of fracking natural gas deposits in the Marcellus Shale formation is another example of sacrificing long term sustainability for the immediacy of shareholder returns. The Marcellus Deposit has proven reserves that only last a decade. As evidenced by the hyper development occurring in North Dakota,  economies tied to resource extraction are prone to experience classic boom bust cycles. During boom times all is well. But the good times don’t last all that long and communities are left in the wake of the bust cycle to deal with the aftermath. 
 
The Keystone XL Pipeline and the rapid expansion of the LNG extraction industries are being touted as the foundation of American energy independence. But this energy resource extracts a high cost on the land and its natural bounty. It poses significant risk to water aquifers, air quality, wildlife and the storage of waste-water byproducts will present long term remediation challenges to communities for many decades after the last well is capped.
 
Our new found fortune of LNG comes with a significant opportunity cost to develop alternative energy sources as it continues to tether our economic dependence on a dwindling supply of fossil fuels. Perpetuating this dependence also requires us to expend huge sums of money on the military. The political arrhythmia in the Ukraine and the keen interest of the United States has much to do with the changing political economy of fossil fuels and the protection and accession of markets.
 
Sustainability requires a new approach to the emerging realities of the global political economy. Recognition that competing interests bring important capital to the table, and that all must be recognized and fully valued in the new algorithms of sustainability is the keystone and pipeline of sustainability. The practice of unfettered development is unsustainable. Regulation, arbitration and revitalization cannot be sacrificed at the altar of laissez-faire politics that only serves to widen the wealth gap at tremendous social cost. The politicization of economic policy cannot continue to be beholden to rampant monetization. Sustainability is the creation of long term value for a diverse community of stakeholders. It needs to become our guiding mantra as the global population approaches 8 billion souls. 

Happy Earth Day.

Music Selection:

Risk: fracking, political, water, air, war, opportunity cost, renewal clean energy, climate change

April 23, 2014 Posted by | business continuity, commodities, compliance, economics, environment, military, political risk, politics, psychology, regulatory, risk management, social unrest | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Corporate Governance and Financial Health

16414033-abstract-word-cloud-for-corporate-governance-with-related-tags-and-termsThree years ago I did some work for an independent credit rating agency utilizing a quantitative methodology to determine financial health of corporations.  Dr. Patrick Caragata founder of the firm conducted a study of 200 TSX listed firms with high CGI ratings (Governance Metrics International).   Dr. Caragata was seeking to determine the correlation of Corporate Governance (CG) and financial health.  His findings revealed that “CG ratings failed to indicate when a company was in poor health 75% of the time.  In fact, they wrongly identified 32% of weak companies as being highly rated on GMI.”

Dr. Caragata also extended his model to use financial health score as an early warning signal for a listed company’s share price.  KMV, established ratings agencies, Altman’s Z Score were also determined as lagging predictors of share price.  Dr. Caragata’s research on bond pricing and CDS where better predictors of financial health momentum and ultimate predictors of share price but still failed to correlate financial health score as an early warning signal for share prices.  The problem that the model continually encountered was that valuation always exhibited a bias towards share price (market momentum)  not financial health score.  The determination of a “fair value” based on historical spreads of financial health score and share price was overly and overtly price sensitive. Perhaps a signal of an inefficient market?  This was particularly true for bubble stock anomalies and commodity sensitive equities.

Purveyors of Business Process Management (BPM) suggest that listed practitioner’s of BPM trade at a 15% premium to non-practitioners.  I wonder if its marketing boast.  Though BPM is not CG;  it does speak to having CG excellence in the corporate DNA.   A cultural commitment   to sound practices create valuation premiums and sustainable business models.  That’s the message well managed companies consistently deliver as a central theme of their value proposition.  Integrating sound practices and CG excellence into the corporate culture does create valuation premiums because it suggests an intentionality of business process deeply wedded to the enterprise mission.

I believe the radical reconfiguration of Wall Street offers a telling example of incongruity of good CG practitioners and financial health.  It was always a self evident truth that Wall Street firms that folded or transformed into commercial banks were probably some of the best rated CG enterprises.  CG excellence can do nothing to save an enterprise with a structurally flawed business model.  Though CG excellence does presuppose a board of directors in tune with the vicissitudes of the market; who would have thought that we would be looking at the extinction of the global investment banking business?  Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns and the mighty Goldman Sachs were walking dinosaurs with flawed unsustainable business models?  All either folded, were acquired or became FDIC insured commercial banks.  I still can’t believe it but it’s true.  The world is being turned upside down.

Sum2 is a firm believer in coupling quantitative and qualitative risk measures to maintain operational excellence to build a healthy sustainable enterprise.  Effective CG alone cannot assure financial health.  It  must be a critical pillar of the governance, risk and compliance (GRC) triad.

When we speak about the principles of good governance, how about the original dissertation on the ideal of governance excellence.  Seemingly an insistence on an honest evaluation of reality to determine what is good is all it takes.  Its really that simple.

Visit the blog Risk Rap and the Allegory of the Cave post on FAS 157:

Sum2 welcomes the opportunity to speak with partners who share our passion for GRC excellence.

originally published 6/12/13

June 12, 2013 Posted by | Bear Stearns, business continuity, credit crisis, Credit Redi, culture, FASB, operations, risk management, sound practices, sustainability | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Deloitte’s Nine Principles of Risk Intelligence

risk_triangleIs your business risk intelligent?  A review of  the following principles offers company executives a concise outline of objectives central to a risk intelligent enterprise.   Deloitte recently published White Paper, Effective Integration, Enhanced Decision Making, The Risk Intelligent Tax Executive outlined the following nine fundamental principles.

Nine fundamental principles of a Risk Intelligence Program

1. In a Risk Intelligent Enterprise, a common definition of risk, which addresses both value preservation and value creation, is used consistently throughout the organization.

2. In a Risk Intelligent Enterprise, a common risk framework supported by appropriate standards is used throughout the organization to manage risks.

3. In a Risk Intelligent Enterprise, key roles, responsibilities, and authority relating to risk management are clearly defined and delineated within the organization.

4. In a Risk Intelligent Enterprise, a common risk management infrastructure is used to support the business units and functions in the performance of their risk responsibilities.

5. In a Risk Intelligent Enterprise, governing bodies (e.g., boards, audit committees, etc.) have appropriate transparency and visibility into the organization’s risk management practices to discharge their responsibilities.

6. In a Risk Intelligent Enterprise, executive management is charged with primary responsibility for designing, implementing, and maintaining an effective risk program.

7. In a Risk Intelligent Enterprise, business units (departments, agencies, etc.) are responsible for the performance of their business and the management of risks they take within the risk framework established by executive management.

8. In a Risk Intelligent Enterprise, certain functions (e.g., Finance, Legal, Tax, IT, HR, etc.) have a pervasive impact on the business and provide support to the business units as it relates to the organization’s risk program.

9. In a Risk Intelligent Enterprise, certain functions (e.g., internal audit, risk management, compliance, etc.) provide objective assurance as well as monitor and report on the effectiveness of an organization’s risk program to governing bodies and executive management.

Sum2’s business mission is to help small and mid-sized enterprises (SME) become risk intelligent enterprises.  Sum2’s product suites enables managers to implement sound risk management practices guided by these principles of risk intelligence.  We firmly believe that consistent practice of sound risk management  holds the key to profitability and long term sustainable growth.

Sum2’s Profit|Optimizer product series provides mangers a consistent framework and scoring methodology to assess, aggregate and price risk, identify actions, assign responsibility and align business functions to mitigate risks and achieve business goals.

Sum2’s IARP, helps managers to assess and manage the rising threat of tax risk exposures that present significant compliance risk to the enterprise.

We welcome an opportunity to help you erect a risk intelligence enterprise.

Risk: risk management, business intelligence, compliance, sustainability, profitability

November 11, 2009 Posted by | branding, business continuity, compliance, IARP, operations, regulatory, reputational risk, risk management, SME, sound practices, Sum2 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Managing Infuenza Pandemic Risk

pandemicThe Swine Flu outbreak carries with it the potential to severely damage the financial health of small and mid-size enterprises (SMEs). Left unmanaged pandemics can impair profits, generate losses, undermine the contribution of key employees, disrupt supply chains, halt operations, undermine an enterprises financial health that can ultimately lead to bankruptcy.

Though many consider pandemics as a force majeure risk event that cannot be controlled, businesses can take steps to mitigate and manage the drastic challenges a pandemic can pose to a business. This is particularly important for businesses that find themselves in a weakened position due to the recession. Businesses that have become highly stressed due to the current business cycle are at acute risk of becoming insolvent due to the shock of this potentially catastrophic risk event. Business managers, bankers, shareholders and businesses with extended supply chains need to take steps to manage and mitigate the sever effects of pandemic risk.

The first step is to create or update a business continuity plan. Business continuity plans need to address a range of issues that includes planning for disasters and planning for the unique risk factors of an influenza pandemic need to be integrated into business processes.

All businesses are unique. Addressing a pandemic risk event in your business plan will require you to conduct a risk-management assessment on all aspects of your operations, business processes and market impact to ensure continued operation and financial health.

Some things management must consider in its review are:

  • Assess how you work with employees, customers, contractors to minimize contagion threats
  • Determine mission critical business functions your business requires to maintain operations
  • Stress test your business operations to determine how to function with up a 40% absentee rate
  • Review inventories in case foreign or domestic suppliers and transport services are interrupted
  • Review your supply chains, determine at risk suppliers and identify backups
  • Reorganize work spaces to minimize the spread of the disease
  • Equip employees to support telecommuting
  • Develop communication strategies to inform employees, customers and the media
  • Use this opportunity to expand your e-commerce capability
  • Promote awareness of the problems associated with pandemic flu
  • Alert employees about what steps you’re taking and what they can do to limit the pandemic’s impact
  • Review sick-leave and pay policies to ensure they don’t discourage workers from staying home when they’re ill
  • Make backup plans if you need to pull people out of countries where the epidemic strikes
  • Develop a travel policy that restricts travel to areas where the virus is active
  • Stock up on masks and sanitizers, and consider staggering work hours to limit the size of gatherings

Sum2 publishes the Profit|Optimizer product series.  The Profit|Optimizer is the leading SME risk management platform that helps business managers and business stakeholders quickly assess enterprise risk factors and take considered action to mitigate and manage those risk factors. Sum2 will be releasing a pandemic risk assessment module by the close of this week.  The product will retail for $95.00 and will assist SME’s to assess, mitigate and manage the threats posed to their business by pandemics and other social disasters.

More information can be found on our website www.sum2.com.

Sum2 help our clients assess risk and realize opportunities.

April 30, 2009 Posted by | business continuity, disaster planning, recession, risk management, Sum2, supply chain | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lousiville Business Community Iced Over

The massive ice storm that raged across the US this week has left a path of devastation in its wake. Particularly hard hit was the jewel of the Ohio River, Louisville Kentucky.

Damaging ice covers the entire region and the three largest electric utilities estimate that over 700,000 people are without power. This type of disaster has an immediate impact on small and mid-size businesses. Many small businesses are shuttered due to an inability to access power. Service oriented and home based businesses are also particularly hard hit by the power outages due to their dependency on digital technologies.

Business closure means that cash registers are not ringing. During these lean times of a deepening recession weaker businesses are particularly susceptible to the negative impact of these events. A single day of lost revenue can be the difference in a small businesses ability to maintain itself as a going concern.

The importance of having a set of contingency plans to accommodate these types of business interruptions is critical even more so due to the difficult business cycle we are now confronting.

The implementation of a sound practice program as advocated by Sum2 helps businesses to address these types of risks. The Profit|Optimizer helps managers craft an effective sound practice program. Sound practices incorporates plans to mitigate the negative effects of business interruption events and initiate actions that maintains profitability during the most adverse market conditions.

You Tube Video: James Taylor and Natalie Cole, Baby It’s Cold Outside

Risk; business continuity, sustainability, disaster planning

January 30, 2009 Posted by | business continuity, disaster planning, risk management, sustainability | , , , , | Leave a comment