Tag Archives: financial management

Australia’s Love of Credit Set to Continue

Australia’s love of credit isn’t likely to fade anytime soon, a conference in Sydney was told last week. But that’s no bad thing.

Love of Credit

The Banking and Financial Stability Conference, hosted by the University of Sydney Business School, brought together senior representatives of the US Federal Reserve Bank, the Reserve Bank of Australia, the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority, the Bank for International Settlements, and The Bank of Finland.

The one-day conference also discussed:

  • The current global obsession with monetary policy;
  • The constant pressure banks face from new fintech players; and
  • The Brexit vote and what its broader impact could be.
“Over-exuberant Lending”

The Reserve Bank of Australia’s Head of Financial Stability Department, Luci Ellis, spoke on the topic of ‘Financial Stability and the Banking Sector’.

Ellis told the conference that Australia’s ongoing need for credit can mean that the value of a well-functioning creditor sector is sometimes under-appreciated.

“Especially since the (global financial) crisis, the dangers of too much credit have become all too apparent. Over-exuberant lending and borrowing can mean that some people are getting loans that they have little prospect of being able to repay, even in good times.”

Importance of Credit

Less well appreciated are the costs of having too little credit available, Ellis added.

“The point here is simply that in recognising that too much credit can be dangerous, we should not instead fall into the trap of thinking of all borrowing as illegitimate, or somehow immoral. Less credit isn’t always better,” she said.

“The low credit levels available in regulated past decades are not the benchmark we should be evaluating ourselves against now, when trying to assess risk in the system. Some activities can and should be financed with at least some debt, even in bad times. And even thought there are plenty of others that should not.”

While Australia doesn’t have this problem, some recent examples overseas show the damage that can be done when there isn’t enough credit available, Ellis told the audience.

“Australia is one of the more bank-orientated financial systems when it comes to providing credit, but it is hardly alone. Some of the countries at the lower end of the range, such as the United States and Canada, are there partly because their governments support the securitisation market in various ways.

“These interventions allow banks to take some exposures, particularly mortgage exposures, off their balance sheets. In some cases they also allow some non-bank loan originators to operate at larger scale than might otherwise be possible,” Ellis says.

Broader Brexit Impact

Conference Co-Chair and Associate Professor in Finance at Sydney Business School, Eliza Wu, says pull-back in bank lending to Asia-Pacific by global, and in particular European, banks can be expected as a result of the Brexit. This is a major concern for the region’s investment and growth.

“This trend started with the GFC, continued into the European debt crisis, and now with Brexit,” Wu says.

Wu told the conference that, “enhancing financial stability in the face of unprecedented monetary policy regimes, and new risks that have developed, will remain a major challenge for policy makers and conference attendees alike.”

Associate Professor within the Discipline of Finance, Professor Suk-Joong Kim, added: “The most immediate concern is the increased level of uncertainty and volatility expected, and experienced, in the international financial markets due to the Brexit vote. Brexit has cast doubt over London as the world’s most important financial centre, and the future of the international banks that operate there.”

Regulation & Supervision

Luci Ellis also spoke on the role that major banks will play in the future. In a world where banks are central to financial stability, they will always need to be regulated and supervised.

“The Australian financial system has managed to weather the external shocks of the past two decades reasonably well. Strong prudential supervision has helped achieve that positive outcome.”

However, supervision goes far beyond ensuing that banks have enough capital, she added. History shows that banks can have much higher shares of capital in their liabilities than we see nowadays.

“We should remember that the policy measures that safeguard the liquidity of bank deposit liabilities, such as deposit insurance and liquidity provision by the central bank, can create incentives for banks to take those risks,” Ellis said.

“If the ultimate goal of financial stability policy is the real economy, it isn’t enough to require banks to hold enough capital to absorb losses, while disregarding the scale of those losses. The losses themselves can represent distress in the economy. The holders of capital are often part of the same economy, so absorbing the losses does not make them go away,” she says.

“Absorbing the losses, and thus avoiding a collapse of the banking system, prevents knock-on effects to other parts of the economy, which is better than nothing. But it would be irresponsible to disregard the risk profile of the banking system’s assets, as long as banks have enough capital to cover those risks,” Ellis says.

The Smart Way to Buy Your First ERP System

You might not realise it, but you could be making a common mistake when buying your first ERP system.

ERP System

When should a growing company start thinking about a formal, automated spend management program? At the same time you get your first ERP system. The two go hand in hand, but most companies put an ERP system in place and then, when they get to about 800 or so employees, they start thinking about automating spend management, starting with e-procurement and e-invoicing.

A little further down the road, they start thinking about systems for budgeting, travel, employee stock administration and maybe analytics.

The problem with thinking about all these systems separately and sequentially is that instead of thinking about the optimal way to handle each function, you’re thinking about how to solve each problem within the constraints of the systems you already have.

It’s like building a house without a set of plans, one room at a time. It’s an inefficient way to build, and you’re going to end up with a pretty funky floor plan.

You can save time and money, and gain a competitive advantage, by thinking about your finance system as a whole, and drawing up a set of plans for building it from the foundation up, starting with ERP and spend management.

It all starts with invoicing

Your finance system really starts when you start paying invoices. What most growth companies do is buy QuickBooks or some other inexpensive entry-level software to do that, and then shift their focus back to sales and revenue.

As the company grows, it becomes evident that this entry-level system is no longer meeting the company’s needs so they start thinking about an ERP system. These days that doesn’t have to be a multi-million dollar undertaking. Cloud ERPs such as NetSuite can work for businesses as small as 40-50 people, and they can scale up to work for as many as 100,000 people.

So, the CFO or Controller spearheads an effort to get an entry-level ERP system to address core financials, and then, once again, they shift focus back to sales and revenue.

The ‘flip the switch’ myth

Spend management – most notably, e-procurement and e-invoicing – are what people typically tackle next, but most postpone thinking about them until they get there. Or they think, “the ERP system has some requisitioning and invoicing functionality. We’ve got the license and we’ll just flip the switch on those when we need them.”

If only it were that easy.

Yes, many ERP systems do some basic requisitioning and e-invoicing. But their functionality will not come close to satisfying requirements for effectively managing spend, and there’s too much they don’t do, such as sourcing and contracts.

Flipping the switch will only expose those decisions you didn’t make at the outset. Don’t fall into the “flip the switch” trap. Nobody intentionally uses the requisitioning in their ERP to manage spend – they settle for it.

Or, they figure out they need more functionality than the ERP provides and launch an entirely new initiative to vet spend management solutions. But it could have all been figured out at the point where you went from QuickBooks to NetSuite, without taking too much more time, money and resources.

ERP and those first pieces of spend management should be done all at once, so bring procurement and AP to the table for that discussion. Not only will you make a better buying decision, but you’ll have an opportunity to streamline the implementation process.

It will only take fractionally longer to implement both at once, but if you do your ERP implementation and then come back later to implement spend management, you’ll end up doing a lot of the same work over.

A Biggish Bang

There might be reasons to do it that way, but those have to be weighed against the fact that when it comes to your financial management system, it’s not “if” but “when.” It makes more sense to implement ERP and spend management solutions together in a biggish bang because like peanut butter and chocolate, they’re even better together.

Spend management is a low impact, high return insertion that will make your ERP implementation better. The procurement piece can create all the purchase orders that get pushed into the ERP, where you’ve already got the right categories and accounting codes.

Why wouldn’t you want to feed your ERP good, clean data to begin with, in an easy way that people can use and understand? With the cloud, it doesn’t matter if you only have twenty people buying things, or if you’re only doing a few hundred invoices a month.

You probably won’t automate your whole financial system right out of the gate, but you should still think it through and draw a set of plans with the end goal in mind. So, think thrice before you buy that ERP system. Think about the next imminent piece, which is spend management. Think about how you build out from there. You’ll be way ahead of the competition that’s doing it the way we’ve always done it.

You’re not going to have a lot of messes to clean up because you set it up right from the outset, and you’ll be paying a lot less for transactional processing than the competition.

Life Changing Technology to Save You Time

When time is money, making sure you’re spending it on what matters is a key metric to profitability.

Time Saving Tech

Do you know how much time you’re spending on certain tasks? Do you know how your teams are spending their work day? And more importantly, do you know how your finance teams are spending their time?

Where Does Time Go?

APQC, a Texas-based research firm, recently conducted a study of some 832 companies’ finance departments. Using data from APQC’s Open Standards Benchmarking database, they found out what finance teams really get up to at work.

Things like transaction processing, decision support and management activities were all looked at as part of the study and APQC found that no matter how big or small the company was, roughly half of finance teams’ time was spent on transaction processing. Half.

Instasupply-Life-Changing-Tech

Source APQC

In plain English, this means highly paid finance staff spend the time equivalent to Monday AM through to lunchtime on Wednesday making sure invoices are being processed, bills are getting paid and fixed assets are accounted for.

Shifting the Balance

Now, ask a CEO what he’d like to see his finance team doing and he will tell you he’d like them delivering fast, reliable information about the economic implications of specific tactical business moves. When the year is halfway through and performance needs improving, a CEO wants to know the monetary impact of the decisions they plan to make. What the potential revenue and operational implications are when it comes to investing company resources.

When the finance team spends nearly 50 per cent of its time on transactions, plus a few more hours per week going through internal approvals and putting together financial reports, it equals not much time left to offer that critical decision support.

A finance team therefore needs to constantly juggle providing key financial information to support company growth and getting those bills paid. Reducing paperwork and minimising manual labor are an absolute must when it comes to shifting the balance.

Away from Paper-Based Methods

Based on research from bodies such as The Hackett Group, we know that just under 70 per cent of vendor invoices globally are still in paper form. That means someone within the finance department needs to manually enter all of that paper-based data into a computer based program, either straight into the accounting software, or in a spreadsheet first and then into said accounting software. This means there is a hell of a lot of paper clogging up the system, costing time and money in training, execution and management.

Further still, the software in use was generally built circa 1995 and fails to offer transparency on transactions, clarity in reporting or intuitive processes. Since the main aim here is to deal with transactions quickly, in a minimum amount of time, whilst minimising errors, having such software in place is nonsensical.

Finance departments need their working hours back to focus on their actual function in driving companies forward. Understanding costs, revenue streams and operational cost pitfalls is where their true value comes into play. Pushing paper around is a waste of time.

Be Sure to Choose Wisely

As the digital trend has been making its way into B2B (finally), larger companies have pushed for greater finance efficiency and invested resources into implementing digital tools to facilitate electronic information flows. Merely investing in something branded “cloud” though doesn’t mean it will solve all problems.

The choice needs to be made wisely. It needs to be made with the end user in mind. If it seems too complicated, it IS too complicated. And that means your staff won’t use it, or certainly won’t use it properly. You will be buying an Aston Martin, and it will be driven like a Ford.

Smart companies able to recognise the importance of user focused tech will instantly reduce the time spent managing transactions. This will enable them to direct finance talent away from repetitive tasks and back towards company growth.

What could your finance team do with more time?