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Big Data for a Small World: SMEIoT

smeiotIoT

The world is a great big database and algorithmic wizards and mad data scientists are burning the midnight oil to mine the perplexing infinities of ubiquitous data points.  Their goal is to put data to use to facilitate better governance, initiate pinpoint marketing campaigns, pursue revelatory academic research and improve the quality of service public agencies deliver to protect and serve communities. The convergence of Big Data, Cloud Computing and the Internet of Things (IoT) make this possible.

The earth is the mother of all relational databases.  It’s six billion inhabitants track many billions of real time digital footprints across the face of the globe each and every day.  Some footprints are readily apparent and easy to see.  Facebook likes, credit card transactions, name and address lists, urgent Tweets and public records sparkle like alluvial diamonds; all easily plucked by data aggregators and sold to product marketers at astonishing profit margins.  Other data points are less apparent, hidden or derived in the incessant hum of the ever listening, ever recording global cybersphere.   These are the digital touch points we knowingly and unknowingly create with our interactions with the world wide web and the machines that live there.

It is estimated that there is over 20 billion smart machines that are fully integrated into our lives.  These machines stay busy creating digital footprints; adding quantitative context to the quality of the human condition.  EZ Passes, RFID tags, cell phone records, location tracking, energy meters, odometers, auto dashboard idiot lights, self diagnostic fault tolerant machines, industrial process controls, seismographic, air and water quality apparatuses and the streaming CBOT digital blips flash the milliseconds of a day in the life of John Q. Public.  Most sentient beings pay little notice, failing to consider that someone somewhere is planting the imprints of our daily lives in mammoth disk farms.  The webmasters, data engineers and information scientists are collecting, collating, aggregating, scoring and analyzing these rich gardens of data to harvest an accurate psychographic portrait of modernity.

The IoT is the term coined to describe the new digital landscape we inhabit.  The ubiquitous nature of the internet, the continued rationalization of the digital economy into the fabric of society and the absolute dependency of daily life upon it, require deep consideration how it impacts civil liberties, governance, cultural vibrancy and economic well being.

The IoT is the next step in the development of the digital economy. By 2025 it is estimated that IoT will drive $6 Trillion in global economic activity.  This anoints data and information as the loam of the modern global economy; no less significant than the arrival of discrete manufacturing at the dawn of industrial capitalism.

The time may come when a case may be made that user generated data is a commodity and should be considered a public domain natural resource; but today it is the province of digirati  shamans entrusted to interpret the Rosetta Stones, gleaning deep understanding of the current reality while deriving high probability predictive futures.  IoT is one of the prevailing drivers of global social development.


SME

There is another critical economic and socio-political driver of the global economy.  Small Mid-Sized Enterprises (SME) are the cornerstone of job creation in developed economies.  They form the bedrock of subsistence and economic activity in lesser developed countries (LDC).  They are the dynamic element of capitalism.  SME led by courageous risk takers are the spearhead of capital formation initiatives.  Politicians, bureaucrats and business pundits extol their entrepreneurial zeal and hope to channel their youthful energy in service to local and national political aspirations.  The establishment of SME is a critical macroeconomic indicator of a country’s economic health and the wellspring of social wealth creation.

The World Bank/ IFC estimates that over 130 million registered SME inhabit the global economy. The definition of an SME varies by country. Generally an SME and MSME (Micro Small Mid Sized Enterprises)  are defined by two measures, number of employees or annual sales.  Micro enterprises are defined as employing less than 9 employees, small up to 100 employees and medium sized enterprises anywhere from 200 to 500 employees.  Defining SMEs by sales scale in a similar fashion.

Every year millions of startup businesses replace the millions that have closed.  The world’s largest economy United States boasts over 30 million SME and every year over one million  small businesses close.  The EU and OECD countries report similar statistics of the preponderance of SME and numbers of business closures.

The SME is a dynamic non homogeneous business segment.  It is highly diverse in character, culture and business model heavily colored by local influence and custom. SME is overly sensitive to macroeconomic risk factors and market cyclicality.  Risk is magnified in the SME franchise due to high concentration of risk factors.  Over reliance on a limited set of key clients or suppliers, product obsolescence, competitive pressures, force majeure events, key employee risk, change management and credit channel dependencies are glaring risk factors magnified by business scale and market geographics.

In the United States, during the banking crisis the Federal Reserve was criticized for pursuing policies that favored large banking and capital market participants while largely ignoring SME. To mitigate contagion risk, The Federal Reserve  quickly acted to pump liquidity into the banking sector to buttress the capital structure of SIFI (Systemically Important Financial Institutions). It was thought that a collateral benefit would be the stimulation of SME lending.  This never occurred as SBA backed loans nosedived. Former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner implemented the TARP and TALF programs to further strengthen the capital base of distressed banks as former Fed Chairman  Ben Bernanke pursued Quantitative Easing to transfer troubled mortgage backed securities onto Uncle Sams balance sheet to relieve financial institutions  of these troubled assets. Some may argue that President Obama’s The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA)  helped the SME sector.  The $800 billion stimulus was one third tax cuts, one third cash infusion to local governments and one third capital expenditures aimed at shovel ready infrastructure improvement projects.  The scale of the ARRA was miniscule as compared to support rendered to banks and did little to halt the deteriorating macroeconomic conditions of the collapsing housing market, ballooning unemployment and rising energy prices severely stressing SME.

The EU offered no better.  As the PIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Greece, Spain) economies collapsed the European Central Bank forced draconian austerity measures on national government expenditures undermining key SME market sensitivities.  On both sides of the Atlantic, the perception of a bifurcated central banking policy that favored TBTF Wall Street over the needs of  an atomized SME segment flourished.  The wedge between the speculative economy of Wall Street and the real economy on Main Street remains a festering wound.

In contrast to the approach of western central bankers, Asian Tigers, particularly Singapore have created a highly  supportive environment for the incubation and development of SME. Banks offer comprehensive portfolios of financial products and SME advisory services. Government legislative programs highlight incubation initiatives linked to specific industry sectors. Developed economies have much to learn from these SME friendly market leaders.

The pressing issues concerning net neutrality, ecommerce tax policies, climate change and the recognition of Bitcoin as a valid commercial specie are critical developments that goes to the heart of a healthy global SME community.  These emerging market events are benevolent business drivers for SME and concern grows that legislative initiatives are being drafted to codify advantages for politically connected larger enterprises.

Many view this as a manifestation of a broken political system, rife with protections of large well financed politically connected institutions. Undermining these entrenched corporate interests is the ascending digital paradigm promising to dramatically alter business as usual politics. Witness the role of social media in the Arab Spring, Barack Obama’s 2008 election or the decapitalization of the print media industry as clear signals of the the passing away of the old order of things.  Social networking technologies and the democratization of information breaks down the ossified monopolies of knowledge access. These archaic ramparts are being gleefully overthrown by open collaborative initiatives levelling the playing field for all market participants.

SMEIoT

This is where SMEIoT neatly converges.  To effectively serve an efficient market, transparency and a contextual understanding of its innate dynamics are critical preconditions to market participation.  The incubation of SME and the underwriting of capital formation initiatives from a myriad of providers will occur as information standards provide a level of transparency that optimally aligns risk and investment capital. SMEIoT will provide the insights to the sector for SME to grow and prosper while industry service providers engage SME within the context of a cooperative economic non-exploitative relationship.

This series will examine SME and how IoT will serve to transform and incubate the sector.  We’ll examine the typology of the SME ecosystem, its risk characteristics and features.  We’ll propose a metadata framework to model SME descriptors, attributes, risk factors and a scoring methodology.  We’ll propose an SME portal, review the mission of Big Data and its indispensable role to create cooperative economic frameworks within the SME ecosystem. Lastly we’ll review groundbreaking work social scientists, legal scholars and digital frontier activists are proposing to address best governance practices and ethical considerations of Big Data collection, the protection of privacy rights,  informed consent, proprietary content and standards of accountability.

SMEIoT coalesces at the intersection of social science, commerce and technology.  History has aligned SMEIot building blocks to create the conditions for this exciting convergence.  Wide participation of government agencies, academicians, business leaders, scientists and ethicists will be required to make pursuit of  this science serve the greatest good.

 

This is the first in a series of articles on Big Data and SMEIoT . It originally appeared in Daftblogger eJournal. Next piece in series is scheduled to appear on Daftblogger eJournal within the next two weeks.

#smeiot #metasme #sum2llc #sme #office365 #mobileoffice #TARP #capitalformation #IoT #internetofthings #OECD #TBTF #Bitcoin #psychographics #smeportals #bigdata #informedconsent

July 9, 2014 Posted by | banking, Bernanke, capitalism, commerce, credit, credit crisis, culture, economics, information technology, internet of things, legal, legislative, metasme, OECD, politics, private equity, psychology, regulatory, risk management, small business, SME, smeiot, TALF, TARP, Treasury, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

SMEs Dance to the Basel III Shuffle

cap structure sme eu.PNG
I often wonder, what if Basel II capital accords had been in place prior to the Great Recession? 
 
Could the devastating crisis fueled by the serial pops of credit bubbles rumbling through the dismal landscape of G20 principalities been avoided with better capital adequacy safeguards? 
 
Could the precious Post Cold War dividend been preserved; had the fiduciaries of global solvency not toppled the dominoes of economic prosperity and political stability through extreme selfishness and irrational behavior?
 
Some economists assert that had the guidelines of Basel II been in place it would not have mattered. That may certainly be true, but one is still left to wonder if Systemically Important Financial Institutions (SIFI) had followed better governance frameworks the fissures emanating from the epicenter of the global economic meltdown would not have been as deep or as widespread.
 
The lessons learned from the crisis are being codified in the new governance frameworks of Basel III. Whereas previous Basel Accords focused on capital adequacy and loss reserves aligned to risk weighted assets and counterparty exposures, Basel III looks to strengthen capital adequacy by addressing liquidity and leverage risk in the banks capital structure. Basel III recognizes the primacy of mitigating the systemic risk concentrated in the capital structure of a SIFI and lesser designees, and the contagion threat it poses on its counterparties and the greater economy. 
 
To ally solvency concerns, Basel III installs a leverage ratio and bolsters its Liquidity Coverage Ratio (LCR) which will require all banking institutions to increase its regulatory capital reserves of High Quality Liquid Assets (HQLA). An increase in HQLA reserves will raise the cost of capital for all financial institutions requiring it to raise its spreads on credit products. 
 
SMEs will be particularly affected by Basel III initiatives. SME’s are highly dependant on bank capital and credit products and remain highly sensitive to the cyclicality of macroeconomic factors. D&B’s Small Business Health Index reports that SME business failures in the US were in excess of 140,000 per month in 2013. The OECD reported that during 2012 over 800,000 EC SME’s closed shop in 2012. 
 
Eurofact reported that 60% of all non-financial value add to the EC economy is attributable to SMEs. Though SMEs are generally recognized as principal economic drivers in both the developed and lesser developed economies; during the economic crisis SME’s were rationed out of the credit markets. Large capital infusions and accommodative monetary policy by the central bank authorities principally sought to bolster bank capital and inject liquidity into the faltering global banking system. 
 
As such much of the low cost capital provided to banks did not trickle down to SMEs. Better returns were realized by deploying capital to investment partnerships, energy resource development, the acquisition of strategic commercial enterprises and underwriting speculative trading in the global security markets. 
 
Little of the low cost capital found its way onto Main Street; driving the bifurcating wedge between the real and speculative economy. As a more conservative political landscape emerges from the wreckage of the economic calamity created by “elitist” financial institutions and “remote” Brussels based government bureaucrats, the cause of the SME is resonating in the rising voice of a middle class spoken with a distinct nationalist accent. 
 
Politicians, legislators and advocacy groups are fully invested in the cause of the SME. Stakeholders are advocating more government involvement to underwrite and guarantee sponsored loans. In an era where government involvement in markets is under severe attack, political expediency and prudent economics coalesce to fund the incubation of SMEs. Even if greater government intervention is counterintuitive to laissez faire proclivities of the politically engaged, higher taxes would be required to fund the risk of capital formation initiatives. The securitization of SME loans is also a consideration; but aversion to leverage and the risk to encourage poor lending practices raise fears of creating yet another credit bubble.
 
The Government of Singapore recently rose its guarantee on SME loans to cover 70% of principal in response to the increase in cost of capital banks will charge as a result of Basel III. Spreads on SME loans are estimated to increase between 50 to 80 basis points. This rise in the cost of capital will allow banks to recoup Basel III compliance expenses associated with the segregation of regulatory capital requirements to service SME loan portfolios.
 
The risk premia on SME loans is justified by regulators because it guarantees the availability of credit through the business cycle. The financial health of SME’s are highly correlated to the vicissitudes of the business cycle. During times of cyclical downturns risk factors for SMEs are magnified due to the prevalence of concentration risk in products, regions, markets, client and critical macroeconomic factors germane to the SME’s business. Mitigation initiatives are inhibited due to liquidity constraints, resource depletion and balance sheet limitations. The closure of credit channels exacerbates this problem and Basel III risk premia pledges to fund SMEs through a trying business cycle.
 
To maintain profitability of SME lending, banks will enhance quality standards and haircut collateral margins; a potentially onerous demand since asset valuations remain severely distressed from the effects of the Great Recession. Banks will avoid SMEs with enhanced risk profiles, make greater use of loan covenants, expand fee based services and hike origination fees to protect margins and instill enhanced credit risk controls to minimize default risk.
 
As the strictures of Basel III take root within commercial banks alternative credit channels are opening to better match an SME’s credit requirements and market situation with a financial product that best addresses their business condition. D&B has initiated a timely capital formation initiative for SMEs. Access to Capital – Money to Main Street is an event tour that is bringing together regional providers of funding for SMEs and startups. 
 
The economic recovery is combining with technology to energize innovations in SME funding options. Crowd-funding, micro-lending, asset financing, leasing, community bank loans, credit unions and venture capital channels are a few of the many options available for small business funding. Each channel offers distinct terms and advantages that match a funding option to the specific situation of an SME. 
 
SME associations and advocacy groups are surfacing in the EU that seek to harness the residual capital created by SME failures. Second Chance and Fail2Suceed are initiatives that seek to harness the intellectual capital garnered by entrepreneurs in unsuccessful enterprises. It is a clear recognition that a great failure can be the mother of greater wisdom. This may augur well for the success of Basel III as it seeks to build on the shortfalls of its forebears to better protect the global banking system as it promotes the wealth of nations by equitably funding the growth of the global SME segment.
 
Sum2 offers a portfolio of risk assessment applications and consultative services to businesses, governments and non-profit organizations. Our leading product Credit Redi offers SMEs tools to manage financial health and improve corporate credit rating to manage enterprise risk and attract capital to fund initiatives to achieve business goals. Credit Redi helps SMEs improve credit standing to demonstrate creditworthiness to bankers and investors. On Google Play: Get Credit|Redi
 
Risk: SME, Basel III, commercial lending, political stability, economic growth, USA, EU, alternative credit channels, credit risk, global banking, business failure, OECD, SIFI

April 14, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Intellectual Capital Deflation

balloonBearingPoints Chapter 11 filing represents a watershed type event.

The filing by the global consulting firm BearingPoint puts it on life support or at the very least in an intensive care unit. BearingPoint the bulge bracket consulting firm that was spun off from KPMG due to regulatory mandates concerning the separation of accounting and advisory businesses is in serious trouble. It has been struggling under a mountain of debt and the bankruptcy filing will give the firm protection from creditors while it seeks to reorganize its business.

BearingPoint’s filing is an interesting metaphor about the deflation of intellectual capital.  Ideas, creativity, knowledge, productivity and innovation are some of the words that that we closely associate with intellectual capital.  Once we may have even thought this form of capital to be immune from the vicissitudes of the banality of markets.  I surmise that the recent business cycle exposes that idea as based more in our narcissistic prejudices then the cold objective realities of efficient markets.  As we witnessed radical capitalism’s continued drive of extreme rationalization through monetization we discovered the price of anything but seriously lost sight of the value of everything.

During the 1990’s I remember always being impressed and astonished by the reports of the rising productivity of the American workforce.  Year in year out the rising productivity was the proud boast and confirmation of American managerial brilliance.  But today that claim looks spurious at best.  Rethinking this proclamation may reveal this was accomplished not by brilliant management innovation but by outsourcing operational functions to subsistence based economies; and some artful balance sheet wizardry that aligned business performance ratios to maximize shareholder returns; particularly senior managers whose stock options were critical design considerations as to how those ratios were engineered.  Indeed if productivity is a proxy for innovation, the productivity of  American capitalism was outpacing the most aggressive predictions of Moore’s Law.  True technology contributed to massive gains in productivity but in many ways was an economic rent seeking agent that enabled a flawed economy to sustain itself through over leveraged economic and misdirected intellectual capital.

Today we are confronted with the evaporation of massive social wealth that the IMF estimates to be almost $4.1 trillion in the financial service sector.  I suspect a good portion of this value was carried on the balance sheet as good will.  And anyone that has been living close the plant earth the past couple of years can attest to how the good will of corporations has been severely discounted.  Perhaps this wealth never really existed and as the saying goes “you can’t lose what you never had”.  We can take comfort in that and perhaps we can look on the bemused folly of central governments eagerly trying to stimulate economic growth to levels of our recent unsustainable past.  I must admit that my sympathies and conviction stand with the Keynesian but I am beginning to wonder if they are chasing the long tails of ghostly economic shadows cast by AIG’s worthless CDS franchise.  Once considered a revolutionary innovation cooked up by the finest minds of the capital markets financial engineers are now perplexing conundrums wrapped in a riddle and remain valuation Level Three FAS 157 mysteries.

To be sure intellectual capital deflation is a huge subject.  I must also admit that this blogger lacks the time, skill and brain power to elucidate and articulate the numerous nuances and depth this assertion deserves and requires.  I guess we could sum it up in a sound bite like the “dumbing down of America” but I believe that merely addresses the race to the bottom marketers skillfully cultivated to gobble up a greater portion of that ever fickle and fluid market share pie.  In a way the deflation we speak of turns this dumbing down on its head and now claims the purveyors of fine ideas and clever tactics devised by the corporate marketing geniuses who were able to enrich themselves by conceiving the brilliant plans to convince us to buy so they can sell as much useless junk to as many people as possible.

The monetization of intellectual capital by incorporated consultants are increasingly becoming inefficient.  New technologies that are enablers of strategic thinking has large consultancies disappearing into the computing cloud.  Large bull pens of gray matter are inefficient as innovation in small firms are more efficient purveyors of thinking large to solve small problems or thinking small to solve larger problems. The large corporate dinosaurs that protected bloated bureaucracies enmeshed in group think stasis increasing showed an inability to be agents of innovation.  They boldly proclaimed best practices to justify and position themselves in the executive office but now that the large corporations have been decapitalized their value creation mantras dissipated as markets capitalization fell.

In appears that the bulge bracket firms viability were dependent on knowledge transfer initiatives to underdeveloped economies to support outsourcing; and rent seeking business models dependent on regulatory mandates of Sarbanes Oxley, GBLA, COBIT, EURO conversions, Basel II, Y2K, PATRIOT ACT, HIPAA, FISMA etc etc. Their business models profited from significant business drivers of the past two decades the reallocation of capital to emerging markets and the guarantee of market protection due to governmental regulatory mandates.  In both instances value creation from the deployment of intellectual capital proved to be unsustainable.

Consider the financial services industry and hedge funds.  Hedge funds claim to offer uncorrelated investment products but most of the hedge funds performance fell in lock step with the market index averages.  Investors pay premiums to participate in absolute return strategies offered by hedge funds.  Fund managers make the claim of absolute returns based on their superior insights that their intellectual capital confers on their investment strategies.  Last year that claim was demolished to devastating effect.

Newspaper publishers are also experiencing a decline in the portfolio value of their intellectual capital.  But many believe that it is more of  a question of their antiquated business model and once they figure out how to Googlize their business model to sufficiently monetize its intellectual capital shareholders will once again be rewarded with an appreciation in its investment and the true value of their intellectual capital will be realized.

The markets are dramatically changing. Today the question is not so much about ideas and strategy its a question of execution. Just as in the recent past it was about raising capital and acquiring assets now its about making informed capital allocation decisions and liquidity. Its true you need the target to shoot at but you also need munitions, a good scope with adjusted cross hairs and a gun. The value proposition of consultants is quickly becoming marginalized.

Its a poor business model. It scales poorly, its racked with inefficiencies, its built on protected markets and knowledge segregation. Now that those barriers are falling and more and more MBAs are out of work the value of this form of intellectual capital continues to fall.

Consultants all to often are beholden to their process biases. They find it difficult to get out of the box and routinely ask their engagements to climb into the box with them. That said it is an absolute necessity that business redefines its business model to address current market realities. It needs to do so with dispassionate dispatch and it needs to create a unique value proposition that differentiates the brand and adds identifiable alpha in an expanded value delivery chain.

Its a big challenge that many professional services firms need to confront. Our firm went through that transition 6 years ago. We went from a strategic sound practices consulting firm to a product creation and marketing firm dedicated to the commercial application of sound practices. For Sum2 creating value was a very different value proposition then delivering value. The need to build equity in our business was our principal concern. Building and marketing tangible product value is how you create a sustainable business model.

Corporations are becoming disenthralled of their self perceived cleverness. Many believe that major investments in applied intelligence create a culture of insularity that hedges all risks and builds enterprise value. In the past it allowed executives to hide behind a wall of opaqueness. They bought the best and brightest minds from our esteemed business schools convinced that this treasure of intellectual capital would protect them. They believed the digital blips of risk models to be sparkling Rosetta Stones containing the secrets that unlock the mysteries of effective risk management, value creation and business sustainability. The codified results of these algorithmic exercises are revered as holy Dead Sea Scrolls that offers the protection of an supernatural mojo. This is the thinking of a bankrupt brain trust.

You Tube Video: Nena, 99 Luft Ballons

Risk: Group Think, sustainable business model, value creation

March 28, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Announcing SME Risk Management Blog

Sum2 announces the publication of the SME Risk Management blog.  The blog will be integrated into our SME Risk Management Apps as a way to communicate with our growing client base and examine how the risk can be managed and utilized as a driver for business growth.

Sum2 strives to deliver essential risk management apps that are easy to use and highly effective at affordable price points.  Our products help Small Mid-Sized Enterprises (SME) manage…

Our assessment products are early warning detection and opportunity discovery applications that empowers managers to react and take corrective actions that avoid losses and reward business initiative.

Sum2 products provide a rigorous assessment framework for SME’s to determine potential risk events, product threats and emerging market opportunities that are designed as commercial applications of a defined sound practices program.

Sum2 uses industry standard application platforms to create and deliver products.  MS Office, Mobile Office, Drop Box, Google Play, MS Windows and Android are some of the product design conventions employed to deliver effective value driven solutions to our customers.

We welcome the opportunity to demonstrate how our sound risk management practice applications can differentiate your firm and create value for your product brands and company shareholders.

We appreciate your interest in our work. 

We hope to be of service to you.  

Continued success,

James McCallum

president@sum2.us

March 19, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

ADP Jobs Report: Reversal of Fortune

ADP has released its National Employment Report for September. During the month, private sector employment decreased by 39,000 on a seasonally adjusted basis. After an upward revision of 10,000 new jobs created for August, the September numbers are a reversal from employment trends that seemed to be stabilizing by arresting two years of employment declines. For seven consecutive moths the economy was creating average employment gains of 34,000 private sector jobs. The September numbers reverses that trend and raises concern about the strength of the economic recovery.

A stabilized labor market is a key ingredient to a sustained economic recovery. Over the past three years the economy lost over 9 million jobs. For a robust recovery to occur the economy needs to create 200,000 jobs per month for the next four years to return the job market to its pre-recession levels.

The Federal stimulus program that directed funds to state and local governments to help stem layoffs has now expired. This will result in further belt tightening by local government agencies and will result in layoffs of employees to meet the fiscal restraint imposed by the poor economy.  This will exacerbate the unemployment problem and further impede the buying power and tax revenues.  This will continue to hurt the retail industry and local governments sales tax receipts.

The reduction in the government work force is symptomatic of the reconfiguration of the economy. During the past decade government employment increased dramatically. Its pairing down will put added pressure on the private sector to incubate new industries to drive the recovery. Manufacturing and the growth industries of the past decade will be hard pressed to create the level of job creation a robust recovery requires.

The ADP report indicates that since its peak in January of 2007, construction employment has lost 2,297,000 jobs. Construction trades along with credit marketing, retailing, community banking and services supporting these sectors have been dramatically weakened and downsized in the wake of the recession. The private sector led by small and mid-size enterprises (SME) will need to incubate growth industries to create jobs and lead the country out of the doldrums of the flailing economic recovery.

Macroeconomic Factors

The principal macroeconomic factors impairing recovery are the continued high unemployment rate, continued weakness in the housing market, persistent deflation concerns, tax policy and deepening fiscal crisis of state, local and federal governments.  The economic impact of the Gulf oil spill was immediate and dramatic to the local aqua-cultural industries, fishing and regional tourist industries. The long term effects of the spill on the ecological communities of the Gulf is yet to be determined.  The geopolitical uncertainty of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, persistent worries about Iran’s nuclear program and the sovereign debt crisis of the weaker EU member states are persistent concerns weighing on capital market participants.

Highlights of the ADP Report for September include:

Estimates non-farm private employment in the service-providing sector decreased by 39,000.

Employment in the goods-producing sector declined 45,000

Employment in the manufacturing sector declined 17,000

Construction employment declined 28,000

Employment in the services sector rose 6,000.

Large businesses with 500 or more workers declined 11,000

Medium-size businesses, defined as those with between 50 and 499 workers declined 14,000

Employment among small-size businesses with fewer than 50 workers, declined 14,000

Overview of Numbers

Job loss in the SME sector is troubling. SMEs are the backbone of the construction and retail industries and the continued weakness of these sectors weighs on their ability to become a driver of consistent job growth. The continued deterioration of the financial health of SMEs and their ability to marshal resources from depleted balance sheets and limited credit lines may be impairing the ability to mount an effective response to the dire economic conditions.

Despite the backdrop of the stock markets stellar performance during September, ADP’s employment figures indicates that the economy continues to dwell at the bottom of an extreme down economic cycle. The danger of a double dip recession still lurks as a possibility.  The balance sheets of large corporate entities are flush with cash.  Some analysts estimate that over $1 Trillion in cash swells corporate coffers.  Some economists speculate that deployment this cash is critical to the economic upturn and still a few quarters away from finding its way into the real economy.

Solutions from Sum2

Sum2 offers SME’s the Profit|Optimizer to help them manage risk, devise recovery strategies and make better informed capital allocation decisions.

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: Van Halen, Ice Cream Man

Risk: unemployment, recession, recovery, SME

October 7, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Using the Z Score to Manage Corporate Financial Health

We use Altman’s Z Score as our measurement tool to assess a company’s financial condition. It incorporates fundamental financial analysis, offers a consistent measurement methodology across all business segments, and an enhanced level of transparency by use of fully disclosed and open calculation model.

Z Score Advantages

The Z Score provides a quantitative measurement into a company’s financial health. The Z Score highlights factors contributing to a company’s financial health and uncovers emerging trends that indicate improvements or deterioration in financial condition.

The Z Score is a critical tool business managers use to assess financial health. It helps managers align business strategies with capital allocation decisions and provide transparency of financial condition to lenders and equity capital providers. Business managers use the Z Score to raise capital and secure credit. The Z Score is an effective tool to demonstrate credit worthiness to bankers and soundness of business model to investors.

The Z Score is based on actual financial information derived from the operating performance of the business enterprise. It avoids biases of subjective assessments, conflicts of interest, brand and large company bias. The Z Score employs no theoretical assumptions or market inputs external to the company’s financial statements. This provides users of the Z Score with a consistent view and understanding of a company’s true financial health.

Background

The Z Score was first developed by NYU Professor Edward Altman. The Z Score methodology was developed to provide a more effective financial assessment tool for credit risk analysts and lenders. It is employed by credit professionals to mitigate risk in debt portfolios and by lenders to extend loans. It is widely utilized because it uses multiple variables to measure the financial health and credit worthiness of a borrower. The Z Score is an open system. This allows users of the Z Score to understand the variables employed in the algorithm. All the mysteries and added cost of “proprietary black box” systems are avoided empowering users to enjoy the benefits of a proven credit decision tool based solely on solid financial analysis.

The Z Score is also an effective tool to analyze the financial health and credit worthiness of private companies. It has gained wide acceptance from auditors, management accountants, courts, and database systems used for loan evaluation. The formula’s approach has been used in a variety of contexts and countries. Forty years of public scrutiny speaks highly of its validity.

Z Score Formula

The Z Score method examines liquidity, profitability, reinvested earnings and leverage which are integrated into a single composite score. It can be used with past, current or projected data as it requires no external inputs such as GDP or Market Price.

The Z Score uses a series of data points from a company’s balance sheet. It uses the data points to create and score ratios. These ratios are weighted and aggregated to compile a Z Score.

Z Score = 3.25 + 6.56(X1) + 3.26(X2) + 6.72(X3) + 1.05(X4) where

X1 = Working Capital / Total Assets
X2 = Retained Earnings / Total Assets
X3 = Earnings Before Interest & Tax / Total Assets
X4 = Total Book Equity /Total Liabilities

If you divide 1 by X4 then add 1 the result is the company’s total leverage.

The higher the score the more financially sound the company.

Z Score Ratings cutoff scores used in classifications:

AAA     8.15             AA        7.30

A          6.65              BBB     5.85

BB        4.95             B            4.15

CCC     3.20             D           3.19

Credit Worthiness and Cost Of Capital

Lenders and credit analysts use Z Scores because they are effective indicators and predictors of loan defaults. it is an important risk mitigation tool and helps them to better price credit products based on borrowers credit worthiness.

Utilizing a 10 year corporate mortality table demonstrates how Z Score ratings correlate to defaults. Those with a rating of A or better have a 10 year failure rate that ranges from .03% to .082%. The failure rate for those with a BBB rating jumps to 9.63%. BB, B and CCC failure rates are 19.69%, 37.26% and 58.63% respectively. These tables will differ slightly as each producer uses different criteria but overall they are quite similar.

Borrowers with higher Z Scores ratings will have a better chance of obtaining financing and secure a lower cost of capital and preferred interest rates because lenders will have greater confidence in being paid back their principal and interest. Financial wellness is an indication of strong company management and that effective governance controls are in place.

Managing Business Decisions to Improve Financial Health

The Z Score is also a critical business tool managers utilize to make informed business decisions to improve the financial health of the business. The Z Score helps managers assess the factors contributing to poor financial health. Z Score factors that contribute to under-performance; working capital, earnings retention, profitability and leverage can be isolated. This enables managers to initiate actions to improve the score of these factors contributing to financial distress. Targeting actions to specific under-performing stress factors allows managers to make capital allocation decisions that mitigate principal risk factors and produce optimal returns.

Focus areas for managers to improve Z Score are transactions that effect earnings/(losses), capital expenditures, equity and debt transactions.

The most common transactions include:

  1. Earnings (Net Earnings) increases working capital and equity.
  2. Adjust EBIT by adding back interest expense.
  3. Adjust EBIT by adding back income tax expense.
  4. Depreciation and amortization expense is already included in the earnings number so it won’t have an additional effect on earnings or equity but it will increase working capital as noncash items previously deducted.
  5. Capital Expenditures (fixed asset purchases) decrease working capital as cash is used to pay for them (whether the source is existing cash or new cash acquired from debt).
  6. Short term debt transactions have no effect on working capital as there are offsetting changes in both current assets and liabilities but does change total liabilities and total assets.
  7. Acquiring new long term debt increases working capital, total liabilities and total assets.
  8. Typical equity transactions (other than earnings, which we have already accounted for) are dividends paid to stockholders resulting in decreases to working capital and equity.
  9. New contributed capital increases working capital and equity.

Scenario Analysis

Using the Z Score financial managers can actively manage their balance sheet by considering transactions and initiatives designed to impact financial wellness. Considerable attention needs to be placed on how losses, sale of fixed assets and long term debt payments effect financial condition.

In the above we included the basic transactions that would likely occur but you can do the same for any scenario by applying the same concept. It may take a little practice to think in these groupings but you’ll shortly find yourself with the ability to project any event. The effects can be measured and revised as necessary by adjusting the contemplated transactions. Remember that several variables exist and that a combination of choices might be necessary to keep your financial strength at the desired level.

Any projection should include the calculation and comparison of key metrics to historical results to ensure that assumptions have been correctly calculated. Significant deviations from prior results should have adequate explanations. Maintaining a strong working capital position can offset the negative effects from increased debt, increased assets and minor earning declines.

Sum2′s Profit|Optimizer

Sum2 publishes the Profit|Optimizer.  The Profit|Optimizer is a risk assessment and opportunity discovery tool for small and mid-sized businesses.  It assists managers to identify and manage risk factors confronting their business. The goal of the Profit|Optimizer is to help business mangers demonstrate creditworthiness to lenders and make make informed capital allocation decisions.

Sum2 boasts a worldwide clientele of small and mid-sized business managers, bankers, CPA’s and risk management consultants that utilize the Profit|Optimizer to help their clients raise capital with effective risk governance.

Cautions

Financial models are not infallible and should be used in conjunction with common sense and with an awareness of market conditions. It is important to understand your model so that other considerations can be incorporated when necessary. Note that most models (Z score included) use a proxy (working capital) for liquidity which works well until there are severe disruptions in credit markets as recently encountered. Use caution with all models. Use extreme caution when using a proprietary black box system where you can’t understand all the components. Are these users aware or ignorant of possible issues?

Trust but verify seems like a prudent policy.

Conclusions

The Z Score is a valuable management tool to proactively assess the financial condition of the company’s balance sheet, uncover factors that are stressing the balance sheet and initiate actions to improve the financial wellness and credit worthiness of the firm. All business decisions and actions are ultimately revealed in the company’s balance sheet. The Z Score measures the effectiveness of business decisions. It empowers managers to anticipate changes occurring in credit worthiness and proactively manage changes in financial condition.

Armed with a tool to calculate future financial positions managers have the latitude to better manage outstanding receivables, improve liquidity and lower their cost of capital. Calls for capital, negotiations for funding or decisions in setting credit policy can now be made from a knowledgeable position with a set of supporting facts.

The Z Score gives business managers an important negotiating tool to defend their credit rating during capital raises when excess leverage or deficient levels of working capital and equity are present.

This post was authored by CreditAides.

This post was edited by Sum2llc

Risk: small business lending, credit risk, commercial lending, SME

July 22, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

ADP Reports Weak Job Growth

ADP has released its National Employment Report for April.   Non-farm private employment increased 32,000 during  the month on a seasonally adjusted basis.   ADP also reported an upward revision of 19,000 jobs for March.  The two consecutive net employment gains reported by ADP indicates that job loss may have bottomed and the slim increase in employment confirms a positive trend is underway.     The massive governmental intervention to recapitalize the banking sector and initiate stimulus programs have stabilized the economy.  The abatement of extreme risk aversion in the credit markets, favorable interest rates, improving consumer sentiment, low inflation and the dramatic rebound in securities markets are all positive growth drivers for the economy.

Highlights of the ADP  report include:

Estimates non-farm private employment in the service-providing sector increased by 50,000.

Employment in the goods-producing sector declined 18,000.

Employment in the manufacturing sector rose for the third consecutive month by 29,000 jobs.

Employment in the construction sector dropped by 49,000.

Large businesses with 500 or more workers  added 14,000 jobs

Medium-size businesses, defined as those with between 50 and 499 workers increased by 17,000.

Employment among small-size businesses with fewer than 50 workers, increased by 1,000 in April.

Employment in the financial services sector dropped 14,000, resulting in over three years of consecutive monthly
declines.

Overview of Numbers

The net gain of 32,000 jobs for the massive US economy is an admittedly weak gain for an economy that has shed 11 million jobs but it is an indication that the economy is stabilizing.

The correlation of the loss of jobs in construction and financial services is an indication of a US economy that continues to transition its dependency on residential and commercial real estate development.  The difficult conditions in the commercial and residential real estate market will continue as excess inventories brought on by high foreclosure rates continue to be worked off.   As the ADP report highlights construction employment has declined for thirty-nine consecutive months, bringing the total decline in construction jobs since the peak in January 2007 to 2,159,000.  Its clear that the US economy has lost two critical recovery drivers.

Soft conditions in the construction sector weighs heavily on small business job creation.  Most contractors are small businesses and with the anemic rate of new housing construction small business job creation will continue to be soft.

Specialty retail is another large component of the small business market.  Improving consumer sentiment will help this sector.  However small retailers have suffered massive business closures during the recession.  A robust recovery in this sector will not commence until commercial lending for start ups and business expansion becomes more readily available from the banks.

The report also indicates that the goods producing sector of small businesses shed 24,000 jobs during the month  to continue the trend in the deterioration of small manufactures.  This decline was offset by a 25,000 gain in service based jobs.  The  growth of the service sector of the US economy continues at the expense of the manufacturing sector.  The growth of small business service sector indicates that businesses continue to managed fixed costs of their business by outsourcing various services.

This ADP report is a positive indication that we may be at a bottom of the economic cycle.  Bottoms don’t mean that things are improving they indicate that conditions are not worsening.  The economic recovery is still confronted with headwinds.  The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the economic and growing political instability of EU countries and the cooling off of the Chinese economy may present some challenges to a sustained and robust recovery in the United States.

Solutions from Sum2

Sum2 advocates the establishment of an SME Bank to sustain long term economic growth.  Sum2 offers SME’s the Profit|Optimizer to help them manage risk, devise recovery strategies and make better informed capital allocation decisions.

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

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Risk: unemployment, recession, recovery, SME

May 5, 2010 Posted by | ADP, banking, credit, manufacturing, real estate, recession, small business, SME, Uncategorized, unemployment | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New Day Rising: ADP Employment Report

Rising Sun Taft McWhorter

ADP has released its National Employment Report for January.   Non-farm private employment decreased 22,000 during  the month on a seasonally adjusted basis.   The ADP report indicates that job loss is decelerating.   Many believe that the massive governmental intervention to recapitalize the banking sector and stimulus programs extending unemployment benefits and the provision of funding aid to state governments are key elements that are helping to stabilize the economy.

Highlights of the ADP  report include:

January’s ADP Report estimates non-farm private employment in the service-providing sector increased by 38,000, the second consecutive monthly increase.

Employment in the goods-producing sector declined 60,000, with employment in the manufacturing sector dropping 25,000.

The employment decline in the manufacturing sector was the lowest since January of 2008.

Large businesses, defined as those with 500 or more workers, saw employment decline by 19,000 while small-size businesses with fewer than 50 workers, declined 12,000.

Employment among medium-size businesses, defined as those with between 50 and 499 workers, increased by 9,000, the first increase in employment since January of 2008.

Employment in the financial services sector dropped 16,000.

Construction employment dropped 37,000. This drop marks the third straight year of consecutive monthly employment declines and brings the total decline in construction jobs since the peak in January 2007 to 1,804,000.

Sum2 advocates the establishment of an SME Bank to sustain long term economic growth.

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

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Risk: unemployment, recession, recovery, political

February 3, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Get Ready for New Treasury Small Business Lending Program

economic_recoveryReuters reports that the U.S. Treasury will soon launch a new program aimed at aiding small business lending, the head of the Treasury’s $700 billion bailout fund said on Thursday.

Herbert Allison, the Treasury’s assistant secretary for financial stability, declined to provide details or specific timing on the program in testimony before the U.S. Senate Banking Committee.

The US Treasury has focused for the past year on stabilizing the banks with massive capital infusions into the sector with the TARP program.  The TARP seems to have succeeded in its goal to shore up the economic capital base of bank’s but lending activity to small and mid-size enterprises (SME)  has dramatically slowed.  Capital constraints and heightened risk aversion by commercial banks has curtailed access to moderately priced credit products for many SMEs.  Credit risk aversion and the recession has hurt the sector and has contributed to growing bankruptcy rates by capital starved SMEs.

SMEs employ more workers then any other business sector demographic.  One of the reasons the recession has been so severe is due to the massive layoffs and business closures within the by SME segment.   There are approximately 6 million SMEs in the United States.  If each SME hired one person that would put a serious dent in the unemployment rate.  Some statistics on the SME demographic includes:

• Represent 99.7 percent of all employer firms.
• Employ half of all private sector employees.
• Pay more than 45 percent of total U.S. private payroll.
• Have generated 60 to 80 percent of net new jobs annually over the last decade.
• Create more than 50 percent of non-farm private gross domestic product (GDP).
• Supplied more than 23 percent of the total value of federal prime contracts in FY 2005.
• Produce 13 to 14 times more patents per employee than large patenting firms.
• Are employers of 41 percent of high tech workers (such as scientists, engineers, and computer workers).
• Are 53 percent home-based and 3 percent franchises.
• Made up 97 percent of all identified exporters and produced 28.6 percent of the known export value in FY 2004.

(Source: Cornell School of Industrial and Labor Relations, Basesky and Sweeney)

The US Treasury program will target the SME segment and direct capital to help lead the economic recovery.  SMEs are the leading source of job creation, product innovation and wealth creation.  A vibrant and financially healthy  SME sector is key to any sustainable economic recovery.  This program will also help to bolster the ailing community banking sector that has seen over 95 closures by the FDIC this year.

It is critical that SMEs prepare to participate in this program.    Sum2 offers a complete product suite to help SMEs capitalize on the many opportunities economic recovery will present.  Sum2’s recently announced webinar series “Recovery Tools for a New Economy” offers SME critical management tools to profit from the emerging business cycle.

As the lending program to SME rolls out, bankers will initiate engagement process and business reviews.  They will be  looking to determine if SME managers have identified risks confronting their business.  It is incumbent on small business managers to understand how changing market dynamics and operational risk factors are impacting their business and demonstrate how they will mitigate these risk factors.

Sum2 provides a series of risk assessment products that assist companies to chart paths to profitability and growth.  The Profit|Optimizer, is a unique risk management and opportunity discovery tool that helps SMEs effectively manage the challenges posed by the recession and recovery business cycles.

Risk:  SME, recession, recovery, stimulus, commercial banking

September 25, 2009 Posted by | banking, credit, FDIC, recession, risk management, TARP, Uncategorized, unemployment | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

G-20 Mulls Sustainable Recovery

800px-G20_2008_summit_participants.svgLast year when the G-20 convened in November it was billed as the Bretton Woods II.  The global economy was in the throes of a banking crisis that rivaled the Great Depression of the 1930’s.  Central bankers and political leaders were struggling to formulate the right mix of policies to strike the proper balance of interventionist programs needed to arrest the accelerating economic decline brought on by the frozen credit markets.  Most believe it worked.

Today in Pittsburgh, conferees  will begin to assess weather the accommodative monetary policies, massive capital infusion programs and historic low interest rates can continue to stabilize the global banking system and bear fruit of real economic growth.   Though economic growth appears to have emerged in the US and the EU, there is  a concern that recovery has become too dependent on the massive government stimulus programs.  The development of a stimulus exit strategy will certainly be on the G-20 agenda.  How to sustain economic recovery without the massive government spending programs is the primary challenge that G-20 leaders need to address.

Global trade agreements and a consistent tax policy across G-20 domiciles will also be areas of focus for conferees.  Regulatory tax arbitrage is an issue that G-20 countries are keen to address.  The days of utilizing domiciles with favorable tax laws to protect assets and revenue derived from a domicile with a less accommodating tax structure is an area that all tax hungry G-20 countries want resolved.  Recognizing taxable revenue streams and repatriating capital gains taxes are particularly pressing concerns considering the massive budget deficits many countries are confronted with.

Global trade issues and the East/West balance of trade continues as concern for conference participants.  The fall of the dollar and China’s growing reticence to continue their purchase of US government debt is an interesting backdrop to the brewing trade spat over US tariffs imposed on the importation of tires manufactured in China.  China has retaliated with an examination of US trade practices and American’s need to keep their fingers crossed that China continues to regularly appear at the government bond auctions with its sizable check book.

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Risk: trade, recession, political, economic

September 24, 2009 Posted by | banking, economics, government, recession, regulatory, sustainability, Treasury, Uncategorized, US dollar | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment