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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.

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Risk: Group Think, sustainable business model, value creation

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

Credit Tight from SBA Lenders

Last year lending to small businesses evaporated with glaring exception of Wells Fargo which increased its lending through Small Business Administration (SBA) programs.  With bank lending to small businesses nearly frozen many small businesses are scrambling for the credit lines and loans they need to keep their companies alive.

The landscape of lenders willing to provide credit to small business is evolving.  Wells Fargo has emerged as the principal provider of credit to the small business market becoming the number-one lender through the SBA loan programs during 2009.

CIT Group, JPMorgan Chase, Banco Popular and Bank of America have cut their SBA lending by more than 70% this year.  While Wells Fargo buttressed by its acquisition of Wachovia, increased its loan volume 4%, from $583 million in 2008 to $605 million during 2009.

Wells Fargo acquisition of Wachovia closed three months into the 2009 fiscal year allowing Wells Fargo to book only nine months of Wachovia SBA lending which totaled $742 million a decrease of  24% from aggregate SBA loans extended during 2008.   During 2009 the number two lender to small businesses was U.S. Bank which made $250  million in loans through the SBA’s lending program.

The large banking institutions that received TARP funds  used that infusion to prop up the capital ratios to improve weak balance sheets.  Little of these funds were used to fund credit programs for small businesses.  Wells Fargo’s capital ratios were healthier then its larger competitors.  This allowed Wells Fargo to take advantage of their rivals distraction from the small business market.  Indeed the bankruptcy filing by CIT, the management tremors at Bank of America, Citibank’s scramble for capital and JP Morgan Chase digestion of Bear Stearns allowed Wells Fargo to fill the large vacuum in the  neglected SBA lending market.

Wells Fargo also had the advantage of not being dependent on securitizing its SBA loans and selling them in the  secondary market.  As evidenced by CIT’s bankruptcy filing,  funding for securitized loans disappeared as the risk aversion of institutional investors grew and liquidity evaporated from the market.  These market events led Wells Fargo to develop a focused discipline on the small business lending market.  The bank was committed to closing larger 7(a) SBA loans which are held and managed in the banks loan portfolio.  Wells Fargo’s small business strategy discouraged originating SBA Express Loans that offer lower credit limits and tend to have much higher default rates.  Wells Fargo’s SBA program and business model should be studied and replicated by community banks to energize small business lending.

Small business lending and capital formation in the sector is a critical component for sustainable economic growth.  Banks need to engage the small business market with a deeper understanding of the risks associated with the market.  Small business managers must demonstrate to bankers and shareholders that they are worthy stewards of credit and equity capital by implementing sound risk management and corporate governance practices.  This assures bankers that  small business managers are a good credit risk capable of building a mutually profitable business relationship for the many years to come.

Risk: SME, SBA, credit, small business, banking, community banks

March 11, 2010 Posted by | banking, bankruptsy, credit, credit crisis, recession, risk management, SME, TARP | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Profitability of Patriotism: SME Lending

What a  difference a year makes.  A year ago the banks came crawling to Washington begging for a massive capital infusion to avoid an Armageddon of the global financial system.  They sent out an urgent SOS for a $750 billion life preserver of tax payers money to keep the banking system liquid.  Our country’s chief bursar Hank Paulson, designed a craft that would help the banks remain afloat.  Into the market maelstrom Mr. Paulson launched the USS TARP as the vehicle to save our  distressed ship of state.  The TARP would prove itself to be our arc of national economic salvation.  The success of the TARP has allowed the banks to generate profits in one of the most prolific turnarounds since Rocky Balboa’s heartbreaking split decision loss to Apollo Creed.  Some of the banks have repaid the TARP loans to the Fed.  Now as Christmas approaches and this incredible year closes bankers have visions of sugar plum fairies dancing in their heads as they dream about how they will spend this years bonus payments based on record breaking profitability.   President Obama wants the banks to show some love and return the favor by sharing more of their recapitalized balance sheets by lending money to small and mid-size enterprises (SME).

Yesterday President Obama held a banking summit in Washington DC.  Mr. Obama wanted to use the occasion to shame the “fat cat bankers” to expand their lending activities to SMEs.  A few of the bigger cats were no shows.  They got fogged in at Kennedy Airport.  They called in to attend the summit by phone.    Clearly shame was not the correct motivational devise to encourage the bankers to begin lending to  SMEs.    Perhaps the President should have appealed to the bankers sense of patriotism; because now is the time that all good bankers must come to the aid of their country.  Failing that, perhaps Mr. Obama should make a business case that SME lending  is good for profits.   A vibrant SME sector is a powerful driver for wealth creation and economic recovery.    A beneficial and perhaps unintended consequence of this endeavor is  the economic security and political stability of the nation.  These  are the  worthy concerns of all true patriots and form a common ground where bankers and government can engage the issues that undermine our national security.

The President had a full agenda to cover with the bank executives.  Executive compensation, residential mortgage defaults, TARP repayment plans, bank capitalization and small business lending were some of the key topics.  Mr. Obama was intent on chastising the reprobate bankers about their penny pinching credit policies toward small businesses.  Mr. Obama conveyed to bankers that the country was still confronted with major economic problems.  Now that the banks capital  base has been stabilized with Treasury supplied funding they must get some skin into the game and belly up to the bar by making more loans to SMEs.

According to the FDIC, lending by U.S. banks fell by 2.8 percent in the third quarter.  This is the largest drop since 1984 and the fifth consecutive quarter in which banks have reduced lending.   The decline in lending is a serious  barrier to economic recovery.  Banks reduced the amount of money extended to their customers by $210.4 billion between July and September, cutting back in almost every category, from mortgage lending to funding for corporations.  The TARP was intended to spur new lending and the FDIC observed that the largest recipients of aid  were responsible for a disproportionate share of the decline in lending. FDIC Chairman Sheila C. Bair stated,   “We need to see banks making more loans to their business customers.”

The withdrawal of $210 billion in credit from the market is a major impediment for economic growth.  The trend to delever credit exposures is a consequence of the credit bubble and is a sign of prudent management of credit risk.  But the reduction of lending activity impedes economic activity and poses barriers to SME capital formation.  If the third quarter reduction in credit withdrawal were annualized the amount of capital removed from the credit markets is about 7% of GDP.  This coupled with the declining business revenues due to recession creates a huge headwind for SMEs.  It is believed that 14% of SMEs are in distress and without expanded access to credit, defaults and  bankruptcies will continue to rise.  Massive business failures by SMEs shrinks market opportunities for banks and threatens their financial health  and long term sustainability.

The number one reason why financial institutions turn down a SME for business loans is due to risk assessment. A bank will look at a number of factors to determine how likely a business will or will not be able to return the money it has borrowed.

SME business managers must conduct a thorough risk assessment if it wishes to attract loan capital from banks.  Uncovering the risks and opportunities associated with products and markets, business functions, macroeconomic risks and understanding the critical success factors and measurements that create competitive advantage are cornerstones of effective risk management.  Bankers need assurances that managers understand the market dynamics and risk factors present in their business and how they will be managed to repay credit providers. Bankers need confidence that managers have identified the key initiatives that maintain profitability.  Bankers will gladly extend credit to SMEs that can validate that credit capital is being deployed effectively by astute managers.  Bankers will approve loans when they are confident that SME managers are making prudent capital allocation decisions that are based on a diligent risk/reward assessment.

Sum2 offers products that combine qualitative risk assessment applications with Z-Score quantitative metrics to assess the risk profile and financial health of SMEs.   The Profit|Optimizer calibrates qualitative and quantitative risk scoring  tools; placing a powerful business management tool into the hands of SME  managers.   SME managers  can  demonstrate  to bankers that their requests for credit capital is based on a thorough risk assessment and opportunity discovery exercise and will be effective stewards of loan capital.

On a macro level SME managers must vastly improve their risk management and corporate governance cultures to attract the credit capital of banks.  Through programs like the Profit|Optimizer,  SME’s can position themselves to participate in credit markets with the full faith of friendly bankers.  SME lending is a critical pillar to a sustained economic recovery and stability of our banking system.  Now is the time for all bankers  to come to the aid of their country by opening up credit channels to SMEs to restore  economic growth and the wealth of our  nation.

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Risk: banking, credit, SME

December 15, 2009 Posted by | banking, credit crisis, economics, FDIC, government, SME, TARP | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 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

Sum2 Announces Business Alliance with CreditAides

sum2 risk managementSum2, LLC is pleased to announce that they will begin to offer the corporate rating products of CreditAides. CreditAides is an independent corporate rating and research firm that provides financial health assessment reports and credit risk analysis ratings on companies using the Z-Score methodology. The CreditAides reporting system is a predictive tool that helps managers gain insights into the financial health of a company.  The insights help managers identify a company’s ability to remain competitive and financially sound while measuring the impact of business initiatives to achieve profitability and growth.

James McCallum, the President of Sum2 stated, “The CreditAides quantitative assessment tool is a wonderful compliment to the qualitative risk assessment applications offered in the Profit|Optimizer.  Now our clients have a recognized standard to measure the financial impact and returns on capital allocation decisions they implemented as a result of a Profit|Optimizer review.  The challenging business cycle requires that managers allocate capital to a few select initiatives.  It is critical that managers fund initiatives that mitigate the greatest risk and provide the potential of optimal returns.  The combination of CreditAides reports with the Profit|Optimizer will provide our clients with the ability to discern the optimal initiatives to fund and measure the effectiveness of their capital allocation decisions.”

The Profit|Optimizer guides business managers through an thorough enterprise risk assessment.   Uncovering the risks and opportunities associated with products and markets, business functions,  numerous macro risks and critical success factors are key components of  effective enterprise risk management (ERM).  ERM requires the assessment and aggregation of hundreds of risk factors.  The Profit|Optimizer helps managers identify the key initiatives that will  help to maintain profitability and sustainable growth.  The use of CreditAides provides an important measurement tool to affirm and validate that managers have made correct bets on capital allocation decisions.

Z-Score Financial Analysis Tool

The Z-Score formula for predicting bankruptcy was developed by Edward I. Altman a Professor of Finance at New York University.  The Z-Score is used to assess the financial health of companies and the probability of  bankruptcy.   The Z-score uses multiple corporate income and balance sheet values to score  the financial health of a company. The use of  Z-scores is a strategic tool managers use to measure and validate the effectiveness of their business strategy.

Risk Assessment and Opportunity Discovery

The recession has created macroeconomic conditions that are causing widespread business failures.  Small and mid-size business enterprises (SME) require effective risk management tools to effectively manage business threats to survive extreme business downturns.  Assessing, measuring, aggregating, prioritizing, pricing and initiating actions are the tactical means risk managers use to support the business objectives of the enterprise.  Sound risk management practices are central to a healthy corporate governance culture and are central to maintaining profitability and long term sustainable growth for the business enterprise.

The Profit|Optimizer

Profit|Optimizer helps managers assess risk factors and uncover opportunities that are always present in the business environment. The product is based on Basel II working group recommendations that outline optimal risk profiles of SMEs.  The Profit|Optimizer incorporates four focus areas.

1.) product and market dynamics (products, clients, competition, supply chain, market segments)

2.) business functions (management, sales and marketing, operations, facilities, IT, HR, accounting)

3.) critical success factors (generic and specific)

4.) macro risk factors (macroeconomic, STEEPLE, SWOT, segment benchmarks, business plan optimization)

SME’s lack of agility and reluctance to change has made it difficult for these businesses to survive severe market conditions. There are tremendous market forces at work in the current business environment that are creating dangers and opportunities for SMEs if they can effectively assess and adapt.  Business managers must be astute and exacting how they allocate the precious capital resources required to achieve business objectives.  The Profit|Optimizer helps managers make better capital allocation decisions.  CreditAides provides fiscal metrics to validate or adjust business strategy and initiatives.   Sum2’s risk assessment products coupled with the measurement tools provided by CreditAides creates a leading edge solution for SME risk management.  The ease of use and superior value proposition  of the combined solution is unsurpassed in the market.

About CreditAides

CreditAides (www.creditaides.com) online business analysis and credit assessment portal provides business managers with important insights into the financial health of their company. Automated financial analysis improves efficiency of the business enterprise.  CreditAides reports are used to assess the financial health of clients, supply chain and used to demonstrate financial health and credit worthiness to credit and equity providers.

True underlying financial health of companies has never been harder to identify and never been of greater importance. Across both equity and credit markets, understanding relative financial strengths of companies is paramount for effective business decisions.  Good decisions cannot be made without good quality information generated by incisive tools.

About Sum2, LLC

Sum2 (www.sum2.com) was founded in 2002 to promote the commercial application of corporate sound practices. Sum2 manufactures, aggregates, packages and distributes innovative sound practice digital content products to select channels and market segments. Sum2’s sound practice products address risk management, corporate governance, shareholder communications and regulatory compliance. Sum2’s objective is to assist businesses and industries to implement sound practices to create value for company stakeholders and demonstrate corporate governance excellence to assure profitability and long term sustainable growth.

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Risk: bankruptcy, default, market, credit

November 5, 2009 Posted by | banking, Basel II, business, credit, CreditAides, recession, risk management, SME, sound practices, Sum2, sustainability | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Growing Contagion: One in Seven Companies Are a Credit Risk

contagion1-450The H1N1 Swine flu threat may be the big topic on CNN but a growing contagion of financial distress is widely infecting small and mid-sized enterprises (SME) with potentially fatal consequences.

CFO magazine reports that 14% of companies are struggling to pay their bills or are at risk for bankruptcy. These findings are the result of a study CFO conducted on 1500 Midcap companies. The 2009 Credit Risk Benchmarking Report indicated that 550 companies of the 1500 made the credit watch list and over 200 of the names were in or are entering a distressed financial condition.

The report measures each company on three factors: cash as a percent of revenue, days payable outstanding (DPO), and DPO relative to the DPO of that company’s industry. The last of these measures is intended to expose which companies are under performing regardless of the economic condition of their industry as a whole. A company scoring low in all three areas is rated a potential credit risk.

The strain of a two-year recession and limited credit access is taking its toll on small and mid-sized businesses. This development is not surprising. The recession has hurt sales growth across all market segments. Banks, still reeling from the credit crisis are still concerned about troubled assets on their balance sheets. Bankers can’t afford more write downs on non-performing loans. Banks remain highly risk adverse to credit default exposures and have drastically reduced credit risk to SMEs by shutting down new lending activity.

Reduced revenue, protracted softness in the business cycle and closed credit channels are creating perfect storm conditions for SME’s. Bank’s reluctance to lend and the high cost of capital from other alternative credit channels coupled with weak cash flows from declining sales are creating liquidity problems for many SMEs. As a defensive maneuver, SMEs are extending payment cycles to vendors to preserve cash. This same cash management practice is also being employed by their clients resulting in an agonizing daisy chain of liquidity pain. SME’s that have concentrated exposures to large accounts are at the mercy of the financial soundness of few or in some instances  a single source of revenue.

The growing contagion of financial distress is also a major threat to supply chains. Buyers might prize their ability to drive hard bargains with their suppliers but the concessions won may be the straw that breaks the camels back driving a supplier into insolvency.

It is critical that managers understand all risks associated with clients and suppliers. It is critical that managers assess risks associated with client relationships and key suppliers. In this market, enhanced due diligence is clearly called for. The financial soundness of suppliers and clients must be determined and scored so as to minimize default exposures to your business.

CreditAides is a company that delivers  SaaS based financial health assessments on SMEs.  CreditAides reports that their clients are becoming more vigilant and thorough  in their due diligence of customers and suppliers.  They have noted a particular emphasis on the growing practice of reviewing the financial health of suppliers.  Supply chain risk is a heightened risk factor for SME’s due to their over dependence on single source.  Conducting a financial health assessment on key suppliers and other enhanced due diligence practices mitigates a risk factor that could have potentially devastating consequences.  SME manager’s need to button down their due diligence practices  to prevent the sickness from infecting their business.

CreditAides SaaS can be accessed here: www.CreditAides.com

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Risk: contagion, credit risk, counter-party, supply chain, client, recession, banking

October 9, 2009 Posted by | banking, business, commerce, credit, credit crisis, economics, recession, risk management, SME, supply chain, sustainability | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Mom and Pop Go Chapter 11

american-gothic-large4The Wall Street Journal ran an interesting article about the devastating effect the recession is having on family owned businesses.  The SBA estimates  90% of U.S. businesses are family-owned.  During 2008 about 4.3 million businesses with 19 or fewer employees closed according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. If 90% of those firms were family controlled businesses more then 3.8 million families have lost their livelihoods and most likely have also lost a considerable amount of personal wealth.  This drastic dissipation of  wealth and family control of assets  is yet another blow to the middle class.  Its impact of entrepreneurial activity and capital formation initiatives may create additional headwinds for the economy seeking to overcome the deep recession.

John Ward a professor at Northwestern University observed “that the economic downturn is really just the latest setback for family-run businesses. In the 1970s and ’80s, exorbitant income taxes and estate taxes forced many to close.  Before that, the anti-establishment movement during and after the Vietnam War made many children reluctant to take over the family business.”

Beth Wood, a family business market development specialist  at MassMutual observes that family businesses are “often steeped in tradition and not as flexible to change, tend not to have formal plans in place to respond to crisis.  They’ve seen reductions in top line revenue that they just can’t react fast enough to. Problems securing credit in this recession have also prevented some family businesses from getting the funding they need.”

Ms. Wood makes an interesting observation about the importance of business agility.  The need to assess the rapidly changing market dynamics is a critical exercise that SMEs must undertake.  Business as usual will not get it done.  SMEs  must begin to transform itself to better align its business model to rapidly changing markets.  Conducting a thorough risk assessment and opportunity discovery exercise is critical  to creating a sustainable business enterprise.  Sum2’s Profit|Optimizer is a critical tool that helps SME managers assess risks, spot opportunities and initiate actions to achieve business growth and profitability.

Family owned enterprises must overcome the gravity of generational business cultures that inhibit and resist change.  SMEs will survive and thrive if they can identify emerging opportunities the current business cycle is creating.  SME’s will survive and thrive if they have the will, resourcefulness and a supportive culture to change.  These are the qualities required for long term sustainability and growth.  Business as usual is giving way to a “New Normal,” where adaptability to structural market changes are keys to asset preservation and wealth creation.

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Risk: family trusts, asset preservation, small business, bankruptcy

October 6, 2009 Posted by | bankruptsy, business, credit, economics, product, risk management, SME, Sum2, sustainability | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

As Bank Failures Rise, FDIC Funds Sink

fdic-cartoon-2-2The FDIC has reported the failure of 77 banks so far this year.  It is the highest rate of bank failures since the height of the Savings and Loan crisis in 1992.  The cause of the failure for many of these banks are mounting loan loses on commercial loans made to commercial real estate developers and small and mid-sized businesses (SME).   This is dramatically different from the banking crisis that unfolded in the later part of 2008.  Bank solvency was threatened due to high default rates in sub-prime mortgage loans and the erosion of  value in residential mortgage backed securities (RMBS) held by larger banking intuitions. This led to the TARP program that was created to purchase distressed assets and inject much needed capital into struggling banks.

Most of the bank failures are the result of the macroeconomic factors spawned by the recession.  High unemployment and tightening credit availability has stressed many consumer oriented businesses.  It has led to alarming bankruptcy rates of SMEs.  This has hurt community banks who have a significant portion of their commercial lending portfolios exposed to commercial real estate dependent on a vibrant SME segment.  Bank failures remove liquidity from the credit markets.  As more banks fail funding sources and loan capital are withdrawn from the system.  This is yet another dangerous headwind c0nfronting SMEs  as they struggle with a very difficult business cycle.

The FDIC is growing increasingly alarmed about the solvency of its insurance fund and its ability to cover depositors of failed banks.  This years largest bank failure, Colonial Bank Group is expected to cost the FDIC insurance fund$2.8 billion.  Its a large amount for the  stressed fund to cover in  light this years high number of bank failures and an expectation that failures will continue to rise.

According to Forbes online, the FDIC has indicated concern that the Guaranty Financial Group Inc., a Texas-based company with $15 billion in assets that racked up losses on loans to home builders and borrowers in California, and Corus Bankshares Inc., a $7 billion Chicago lender to condominium, office and hotel projects are also at risk of failing.  Each failure will place a added  strain on the FDIC insurance fund. The costliest failure was the July 2008 seizure of big California lender IndyMac Bank, on which the fund is estimated to have lost $10.7 billion.

The FDIC expects bank failures will cost the fund around $70 billion through 2013. The fund stood at $13 billion – its lowest level since 1993 – at the end of March. It has slipped to 0.27 percent of total insured deposits, below the minimum mandated by Congress of 1.15 percent.

The FDIC has a huge challenge on its hands.  It needs to maintain the orderly working of the banking system to alleviate the waning confidence of consumers and shareholders.  Recently it was announced that restrictions on private equity firms purchasing banking companies will be relaxed to assure that the industry remains sufficiently capitalized.  Regulators will need to increase oversight of community banks risk  management controls.  The added transparency may be resented by bank management but it may help to stem the tide of accelerating bank failures as the difficult conditions in the commercial real estate market persists.  In any case bankers should expect to see an increase in FDIC insurgence premiums to recapitalize the depleted fund.  Unfortunately bank customers will be burdened with rising fees banks charge for services as they seek ways to cover the rising expense of default insurance.

Bankers must become more vigilant in their assessments to determine the credit worthiness of SMEs. Sum2’s Profit|Optimizer is helping bankers assess small business credit worthiness; leading to lower loan defaults, higher profitability and more harmonious client relationships.  The Profit|Optimizer is also available for purchase on Amazon.com.

You Tube Music Video: Ray Charles, Busted

Risk: FDIC, banks, credit,

August 22, 2009 Posted by | banking, credit, credit crisis, economics, FDIC, private equity, real estate, recession, regulatory, risk management, SME, Sum2, TARP, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Avoiding Bankruptcy

bankruptcyThe soft economy, the rise of inflation and the curtailment of credit is having a dramatic effect on small businesses. Annual bankruptcy rates among small businesses is sky rocketing. As the recession continues small business bankruptcy will continue to rise.

Bankers are undertaking a comprehensive review of their small business loan portfolios to enhance risk mitigation programs. They are increasingly driven to engage their small business clients to determine if they can detect any problems that is affecting their clients financial health. Poor operating performance leads to a distressed condition that can ultimately lead to insolvency.

Banks are becoming more proactive. Small business managers need to take action to uncover the factors that are damaging the business.  They must recognize the early warning signs of an emerging distressed condition to remain in the good graces of bankers by honoring the parameters of existing loan covenants.

Banks are taking the lead.  Bankers are initiating an effective engagement process by conducting business reviews  that disseminate information and provide tools to help businesses identify sources of risk in clients business operation. It is incumbent on small business managers to understand how changing market dynamics and operational risk factors are impacting their business and more importantly demonstrate a willingness to take steps to mitigate these factors

The problems posed by curtailment of credit and rising unemployment pose acute threats to small businesses. This is particularly true for businesses that cater to retail consumers. The erosion of consumer buying power due to loss of income and evaporation of customers credit lines means that they won’t be purchasing goods and services offered by small businesses.  Small business sales and profitability evaporates due to exposures to these risk factors.  Small businesses must devise strategies to address these types of risks.

Bankers need to be involved with their small business clients to determine how these risk factors are affecting business profitability and what steps need to be taken to temper their effect.  This a great opportunity for bankers to enhance their engagement level with small business clients. The exercise will preserve relationships, mitigate potential credit defaults and build the banks brand as an effective and involved partner to small businesses.

Sum2 provides a series of risk assessment products that assist companies to chart paths to profitability and growth.  Please visit our website to learn more about the Profit|Optimizer, a unique risk management and opportunity discovery tool that can help you more effectively manage the challenges posed by the recession.

You Tube Video:

risk: credit, bankruptcy, banking, SME

August 20, 2009 Posted by | commerce, credit crisis, recession, SME, unemployment | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

$700 Billion is a lot of Guacamole!

paulsonAn article in today’s  Forbes online entitled Trouble with TARP,  reports a growing concern by the Congressional Oversight Panel (COP) about the effectiveness of the $700 billion program.  The COP reports that the effectiveness of the program is difficult to determine due to lack of transparency of how funds were spent.  The COP report also states that the absence of any reporting guidelines for TARP participants impedes effective oversight.

The 145 page report starts with a retelling of the extreme conditions confronting the banking sector as the credit crisis exploded last autumn.  It also outlines the choices confronting regulators, legislators and industry executives as the crisis deepened.  We were led to believe by Treasury and Federal Reserve officials that the global banking system was in imminent  danger of collapse.  Nothing less then immediate and drastic measures taken by sovereign government officials and industry executives would prevent the catastrophic consequences of global economic carnage.  The report makes it clear that these market conditions were so extreme that regulators were navigating through uncharted waters.  Any remediation measures taken had little historical precedence to guide actions.  Hence Paulson was given carte blanche to handle the crisis with unprecedented latitude and executive facility.

As this blog reported earlier this week, the TARP was originally designed to acquire troubled assets from banking institutions.  TARP funds were earmarked to purchase mortgage backed securities and other derivatives whose distressed valuations severely eroded capital ratios and stressed banks balance sheets.  Hank Paulson later shifted the strategy and decided to inject TARP funds into the banks equity base.  This has done wonders for the shareholders of the banks but troubled assets remain on the banks balance sheet.  As the recession continues,  unemployment, home foreclosures, SME bankruptcies and the looming problem with commercial mortgage backed securities  (CMBS) are placing a new round of added strain on the banking system.

The TALF program is designed to draw private money into partnership with the government to acquire troubled assets from banks.  So far the program has received a tepid response.  I suspect that the principal factors inhibiting the expansion of the TALF program are numerous.  Chief among them is the inability of FASB to decide upon valuation guidelines of Level III Assets.  Banks holding distressed securities may also be reluctant to part with these assets because they have tremendous upside potential as the economy improves.

The COP also questioned the effectiveness of TARP because stress tests were only conducted on 19 banks.  The report states that additional  stress tests may be required because the previous tests failed to account for the length and depth and length of the recession.   Community banks are also of concern.  They face a perfect storm in challenging macroeconomic conditions.  Of particular concern is commercial real estate loans.  Many economists are concerned that high rate of loan defaults in commercial loan portfolios pose great threats to the community banking sector.

Though interest rates remain low due to the actions of the Federal Reserve,  lending by banks still remains weak.  SME’s are capital starved and bankruptcy rates are quickly rising.  SME’s are critical to any economic recovery scenario.  A strong SME sector is also crucial for a vibrant and profitable banking system.  Perhaps a second round of TARP funding may be required to get more credit flowing to SME’s.  If banks start failing again it would be devastating.  The Treasury and the Federal Reserve don’t have many bullets left to fire  because of all the previous expenditures and a waning political will of the people to continue to fund a systemically damaged banking system.

Risk: banks, SME, economy, credit, market

You Tube Video Music: Billie Holiday with Lester Young, Pennies from Heaven

August 13, 2009 Posted by | banking, credit crisis, economics, FASB, Paulson, real estate, recession, regulatory, SME, TALF, TARP, Treasury, Uncategorized, unemployment | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment