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assessing risk|realizing opportunities

Managing Macroeconomic Risk

Yesterday Ben Bernanke’s statements about changing sentiment of the Federal Reserves’ Quantitative Easing program touched off a mini stock market crash. Though you took a solid hit in the value of your investment portfolio and retirement account the changing stance of the Fed will also impact the financial health and business conditions of small and mid-size businesses (SME). The days of near zero interest rates and the massive liquidity infusions by the Fed through Treasury purchase programs are coming to a close. That will effect the availability and the cost of capital for SMEs.

Macroeconomic risks are quickly becoming one of the greatest class of risk factors for SMEs. Credit availability, customer buying power, inflation, supply chain disruption, cyclical and market sector risks are growing in significance and threaten the profitability and financial health of all SMEs and their customers. Unfortunately, some businesses will not be able to surmount the acute challenges posed by these emerging economic risk factors and will find it difficult to continue as a going concern.

A difficult economy presents challenges for all businesses. SME’s require risk assessment tools to help better manage business threats and seize opportunities that fluctuating market conditions produce. Many believe that mitigating macroeconomic risk factors are difficult if not impossible for SMEs to mitigate. After all what can a small business do to immune itself to inflation or spiking interest rates? though it may seem to be an impossible task to shield a business from macroeconomic risks; executives that effectively engage to manage these type of threats Can profit from the opportunities severe market conditions produce.

Sum2’s risk assessment products help SMEs deal with the problem of rising macroeconomic risk factors. Small business managers use our SPOT application to aggregate and score all enterprise risk factors. This helps managers to focus on the most pressing risk factors that ironically have the potential to generate optimal returns on capital employed.

Credit|Redi is a series of assessment applications that help SMEs improve the company’s financial health. As a company’s credit rating improves, access to bank loans and other sources of capital become readily available at more favorable terms to the SME. This is a particularly pressing problem as SME’s have born the brunt of financial distress ignited by the Great Recession. As interest rates rise SMEs borrowing costs will increase placing further stress on profitability and financial health.

It brings us great satisfaction to place world class risk management tools in the hands of small businesses to better manage business threats . The macroeconomic risk module is one of twenty risk assessment modules offered in SPOT.

The effects of rising macroeconomic risk factors will begin to appear in an SME’s operations and target markets potentially stressing the company’s financial health. SPOT potential problems and opportunities before they emerge. SPOT and assess the current business conditions to make adjustments and initiate actions to overcome difficulties and seize opportunities the new business cycle is sure to present.

Sum2 Risk Assessment Applications

Risk: credit, inflation, market, buying power, customer risk, supply chain

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June 21, 2013 Posted by | Bernanke, credit, Credit Redi, inflation, recession, risk management, small business, SME | , , , , , , , , , , | 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

Measuring SME Credit Risk

The underlying financial health of Small Mid-Size Enterprises (SME) has always been difficult to determine, hard to identify and its never been more important.

To manage risk in the credit and capital markets it is critical for lenders and credit suppliers to understand the relative financial health of counter-parties, customers and suppliers. Effective credit extension decisions cannot be made without superior analysis generated by forward-looking, unbiased tools.

The credit crisis and recession has devastated small and mid-sized businesses. Getting a bank loan or securing capital from investors is a big challenge for small businesses. Banks have become extremely cautious in lending to small businesses. To be successful in securing credit you’ll have to demonstrate that you are a good credit risk, that your company’s prospects for growth are strong and that your business model is sound.

Why Credit Score is important?The quality of your credit rating and financial health form the basis for decisions other businesses make about you. Managing your business to improve your Credit Score will improve your company’s financial health. A strong Credit Score indicates good financial health and is used by lenders, capital providers, customers and suppliers to determine:

  •     How much business credit a supplier will extend to you
  •     What interest rates you will pay
  •     How much money lending institutions will loan you
  •     How your customers view you
  •     What your insurance premiums will be
  •     The level of potential investor interest

Sum2 utilizes Altman’s Z Score method to determine fundamental financial health ratings.  The Z Score credit rating is valid measure of financial health for any public or privately held corporation. The Z Score rating methodology is a proven credit risk indicator that is widely used by banks, investment managers, Fortune 1000 companies and small to medium sized enterprises to determine and manage risk. Sum2’s clients use the Z Score rating products to determine financial health, remain in compliance with loan covenants, and assess credit worthiness of clients and mission critical suppliers.

Altman’s Z score method examines fundamental financial data derived from a company’s balance sheet and income statements.  A credit rating is generated by the use of ratio analysis that yields valid comparative results regardless of the currency utilized. Working capital, earnings, reinvested earnings and leverage are integrated into a composite credit rating score. The components and standards are similar to those used by traditional lenders. It is an easily understood approach that provides comprehensive financial details not available with the standard agency reports.

Click here to access Sum2’s Z Score Input Template.

Click here to access zip file of sample reports. Palm Corp Z Score Report.

We recommend supplementing the analysis with trade reports from firms like the Credit Management Association (CMA) or Experian and others for their pertinent data and services.Businesses that extend credit can determine cutoff scores needed to qualify for credit as their risk tolerance and economic conditions change. Lower scores and classifications indicate higher probabilities of default.

Credit ratings must include a careful analysis of the income statement, balance sheet, changes in financial position and key metrics along with consideration of trends, economic conditions and other available data.

Credit|Redi is a set of business assessment tools that helps businesses determine credit worthiness.  It is a critical business tool SME’s need to incorporate to better manage and assess credit risk.

More information on how to manage credit risk can be found here: Credit|Redi

June 11, 2013 Posted by | banking, credit, Credit Redi, recession, small business, SME | , , , , | Leave a comment

ADP Employment Report: Solid Job Growth Gathers Steam

Private-sector employment increased by 217,000 from January to February on a seasonally adjusted basis, according to the latest ADP National Employment Report released today. The estimated change of employment from December 2010 to January 2011 was revised up to 189,000 from the previously reported increase of 187,000. This month’s ADP National Employment Report suggests continued solid growth of nonfarm private employment early in 2011. The recent pattern of rising employment gains since the middle of last year was reinforced by today’s report, as the average gain from December through February (217,000) is well above the average gain over the prior six months (63,000).

The fears of a jobless recovery may be receding but the US economy has a long way to go before pre-recession employment levels are achieved. As we stated previously the economy needs to create over 200,000 jobs per month for 48 consecutive months to achieve pre-recession employment levels. The six month average of 63,000 is still well below the required rate of job creation for a robust recovery to occur.  The Unemployment Rate still exceeds 9%.

The February report is encouraging because it points to an accelerating pace of job creation. The post Christmas season employment surge represents a 30,000 job gain over January’s strong report that triples the six month moving average. The service sector accounted for over 200,000 of the job gains. The manufacturing and goods producing sector combined to create 35,000 jobs. Construction continues to mirror the moribund housing market shedding an additional 9,000 jobs during the month. The construction industry has lost over 2.1 million jobs since its peak in 2008.

The robust recovery in the service sector is welcomed but sustainable economic growth can only be achieved by a robust turn around in the goods producing and manufacturing sectors. Service sector jobs offer lower wages, tend to be highly correlated to retail consumer spending and positions are often transient in nature. Small and Mid-Sized Enterprises (SME) is where the highest concentration of service jobs are created and the employment figures bear that out with SMEs accounting for over 204,000 jobs created during the month of February.

Large businesses added 13,000 jobs during the month of February. The balance sheets of large corporations are strong. The great recession provided large corporates an opportunity to rationalize their business franchise with layoffs, consolidations and prudent cost management. Benign inflation, global presence, outsourcing, low cost of capital and strong equity markets created ideal conditions for profitability and an improved capital structure. The balance sheets of large corporations are flush with $1 trillion in cash and it appears that the large corporates are deploying this capital resource into non-job creating initiatives.

The restructuring of the economy continues. The Federal stimulus program directed massive funds to support fiscally troubled state and local government budgets. The Federal Stimulus Program was a critical factor that help to stabilize local government workforce levels. The expiration of the Federal stimulus program is forcing state and local governments into draconian measures to balance budgets. Government employment levels are being dramatically pared back to maintain fiscal stability. Public service workers unions are under severe pressure to defend employment, compensation and benefits of workers in an increasingly conservative political climate that insists on fiscal conservatism and is highly adverse to any tax increase.

The elimination of government jobs, the expiration of unemployment funds coupled with rising interest rates, energy and commodity prices will drain significant buying power from the economy and create additional headwinds for the recovery.

Macroeconomic Factors

The principal macroeconomic factors confronting the economy are the continued high unemployment rate, weakness in the housing market, tax policy and deepening fiscal crisis of state, local and federal governments. The Tea Party tax rebellion has returned congress to Republican control and will encourage the federal government to pursue fiscally conservative policies that will dramatically cut federal spending and taxes for the small businesses and the middle class. In the short term, spending cuts in federal programs will result in layoffs, and cuts in entitlement programs will remove purchasing power from the demand side of the market. It is believed that the tax cuts to businesses will provide the necessary incentive for SME’s to invest capital surpluses back into the company to stimulate job creation.

The growing uncertainty in the Middle East and North Africa is a significant political risk factor. The expansion of political instability in the Gulf Region particularly Iran, Egypt and Saudi Arabia; a protracted civil war in Libya or a reignited regional conflict involving Israel would have a dramatic impact on oil markets; sparking a rise in commodity prices and interest rates placing additional stress on economic recovery.

Political uncertainty tends to heighten risk aversion in credit markets. The financial rescue of banks with generous capital infusions and accommodating monetary policies from sovereign governments has buttressed the profitability and capital position of banks. Regulatory uncertainty of Basel III, Dodd-Frank, and the continued rationalization of the commercial banking system and continued concern about the quality of credit portfolios continue to curtail availability of credit for SME lending. Governments are encouraging banks to lend more aggressively but banks continue to exercise extreme caution in making loans to financially stressed and capital starved SMEs.

Highlights of the ADP Report for February include:

Private sector employment increased by 217,000

Employment in the service-providing sector rose 202,000

Employment in the goods-producing sector declined 15,000

Employment in the manufacturing sector declined 20,000

Construction employment declined 9,000

Large businesses with 500 or more workers declined 2,000

Medium-size businesses, defined as those with between 50 and 499 workers increased 24,000

Employment among small-size businesses with fewer than 50 workers, increased 21,000

Overview of Numbers

The 202,000 jobs created by the SME sectors represents over 90% of new job creation. Large businesses comprise approximately 20% of the private sector employment and continues to underperform SMEs in post recession job creation. The strong growth of service sector though welcomed continues to mask the under performance of the manufacturing sector. The 11 million manufacturing jobs comprise approximately 10% of the private sector US workforce. The 20 thousand jobs created during February accounted for 10% of new jobs. Considering the severely distressed condition and capacity utilization of the sector and the favorable conditions for export markets and cost of capital the job growth of the sector appears extremely weak. The US economy is still in search of a driver. The automotive manufacturers have returned to profitability due to global sales in Latin America and China with a large portion of the manufacturing done in local oversea markets.

The stock market continues to perform well. The Fed is optimistic that the QE2 initiative will allay bankers credit risk concerns and ease lending restrictions to SMEs. A projected GDP growth rate of 3% appears to be an achievable goal. The danger of a double dip recession is receding but severe geopolitical risk factors continue to keep the possibility alive.

Interest rates have been at historic lows for two years and will begin to notch upward as central bankers continue to manage growth with a mix of inflation and higher costs of capital. The stability of the euro and the EU’s sovereign debt crisis will remain a concern and put upward pressure on interest rates and the dollar.

As the price of commodities and food spikes higher the potential of civil unrest and political instability in emerging markets of Southeast Asia, Africa and Latin America grows. Some even suggest this instability may touch China.

The balance sheets of large corporate entities remain flush with cash. The availability of distressed assets and volatile markets will encourage corporate treasurers to put that capital to work to capitalize on emerging opportunities. The day of the lazy corporate balance sheet is over.

Solutions from Sum2

Credit Redi offers SMEs tools to manage financial health and improve corporate credit rating to attract and minimize the cost of capital. Credit Redi helps SMEs improve credit standing and demonstrate to bankers that you are a good credit risk.

For information on the construction and use of the ADP Report, please visit the methodology section of the ADP National Employment Report website.

You Tube Video: John Handy, Hard Work

Risk: unemployment, recession, recovery, SME, political

March 3, 2011 Posted by | ADP, banking, Basel II, commercial, commodities, credit, Credit Redi, economics, government, labor relations, manufacturing, political risk, politics, recession, regulatory, risk management, small business, SME, social unrest, Sum2, Treasury, unemployment, unions, US dollar | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

SMEs Still Starved for Credit

Greenwich Associates highly regarded Market Pulse Study on SME credit availability reports that two-thirds of small businesses and 55% of middle market companies indicate that banks are failing to meet the needs of creditworthy companies.  Half of the 221 small businesses participating in the latest Greenwich Market Pulse Study say it is harder to secure credit today than it was at this time last year including roughly 33% of businesses that say it is much harder to obtain loans today.

The Small Business Lending Fund (SBLF) a $30 billion program established by the Treasury Department to encourage Community Banks to step up lending to SMEs is still trying to get some traction in the marketplace.  The SBLF injects capital into community banks that demonstrate an active SME lending  program will take another quarter to determine its effectiveness.

Community Banks are still transitioning its small business lending focus from an over dependency on real estate development.  SMEs seeking loans for capital improvements, fund operations or business expansion must provide lenders some added assurances about the financial health of the business.

SMEs can take steps to improve their credit standing and get approvals from lenders for loans and expansion for credit.  SMEs must demonstrate they have an excellent understanding of the condition of their firm’s financial health, what they must do to improve profitability and how they will use the credit extended by lenders to produce an acceptable return.

Credit Redi helps SME’s demonstrate the condition of the firms financial health, the risks and opportunities that SMEs must address to improve the firms financial health and identify the initiatives that need to be  funded to achieve desired profitability and growth.  These are the keys bankers look for on applications for loans.  Being able to demonstrate credit worthiness with an industry standard rating methodology determines weather a lender will grant you a loan, what rates you will pay and how much lending institutions will lend.

Since 2002, Sum2 has been helping SME’s manage risk and seize opportunities to grow and prosper under the most competitive market conditions.  Credit Redit is the latest addition to Sum2’s series of SME risk management products.

To determine the condition of your company’s financial health click here: 

Risk: credit, SME, capital allocation, credit rating

January 13, 2011 Posted by | banking, credit, Credit Redi, government, risk management, Small Business Lending Fund, Sum2, Treasury | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Credit Redi, Helps Spot Small Business Credit Risk

The recession and credit crunch have shifted financial risk from banks to small and midsized businesses (SME) that often must extend credit to customers to make a sale. When companies extend credit, in effect making unsecured loans, they’re acting like banks but without the credit management tools and experience of a banker.

Credit Redi is designed for small businesses to quickly spot customer credit risk.  Small businesses typically don’t have access to information that provides transparency about customer credit worthiness.  Credit Redi is a credit risk management tool for small and mid-sized businesses.   It only takes one or two bad receivables to damage an SME’s  financial health.  Market conditions quickly change and its critical to have some type of business insight into the businesses SME’s work with.

Credit Redi is also an excellent tool to determine the financial health of critical suppliers.  A key supplier going out of business could have disastrous consequences for SMEs.  Credit Redi  monitors the financial health of existing suppliers and help managers make wiser choices in supply chain and business partner decisions.

Get Credit Redi here: 

Risk: SME, credit risk, supply chain, partnerships, customers, receivables

January 10, 2011 Posted by | business, credit, Credit Redi, product, small business, SME, Sum2 | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment