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HOW AND WHY CORPORATE CASH HOARDING MUST END – PART II

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HOW AND WHY CORPORATE CASH HOARDING MUST END – PART II

By Kisandka Moses, Treasury Lead, FinTech Connect 

logoIn the previous white paper Kisandka Moses outlined the current epidemic of corporate cash hoarding and the far ranging global implications it is having. In Part II of this exclusive white paper series she analyses the long term consequences if it continues to happen and asks whether it is down to regulators or companies themselves to bring an end to this practice.

Diversify holdings internally to avoid the ‘trapped cash’ pickle

Whilst there is no hidden or mythical equation which can be used to come to a conclusion on the ethics of surplus cash or balance sheet decorum, all treasurers should adhere to the divestment of corporate currencies in accordance with wider business needs.

U.S. treasurers belonging to the likes of GE, Apple, Verizon and Pfizer will be briefed to keep an eye on industry signs that an opportunity for M&A may be afoot. They will also be called upon to manage the delicate balance between maintaining the liquidity of cash reserves with careful capital preservation. For smaller-mid caps with a much larger debt-equity ratio, treasurers may opt to take advantage of global low-interest rates through paying down on outstanding debt.

As referenced in Part I – for some, the threat of surplus weighs down balance sheets with no-yield investments cluttering portfolios.

“Cash is an evil necessity now, we shouldn’t have too much and the real return is within the business. It is key for multi-national corporations to drive down excess cash reserves whilst preserving liquidity” said one VP of Treasury at an American billion-dollar firm specialising in fire protection and security services.

Clearly then, there is one-size-fits-all strategy for surplus, with each corporation’s debt-equity ratio, revenue stream or spread of geographical operations determining the optimal outcome for cash usage. However we should pay close attention to the share buyback trend as a strategy for avoiding high-capital gains tax at the hands of repatriation, driving down surplus and capitalising on incentives to invest in company shares using cheap finance.

The Economist coined the term ‘repurchase revolution’ to describe the post-2008 gobbling up of treasury shares across corporate America as a vehicle used to return excess cash, or in some cases borrowed cash to shareholders.

The success of Home Depot’s share buybacks provides a fairy-tale example of having, “52 cents [of every dollar] on share repurchases… [allowing Home Deport to use]excess cash flow and cheap debt to repurchase stock [and create] value for investors [resulting in] Home Depot’s shares [having] trebled since 2010”[1].

High-powered supporters of stock buybacks include business magnates Warren Buffett and Carl Icahn, Charles Holley, former CFO at Walmart; the world’s largest company by revenue and perhaps its most customary user Carol Tome, CFO at Home Depot who has overseen the buying back of almost $50BN of company shares since 2002.

In a low-interest rate environment in which corporations regularly encounter cash surpluses, low-yielding investment margins and activist investors; buybacks are necessary to remain accretive to earnings per share whilst reducing the overall cost of capital.

However, not all corporate titans are in favour of the “short-termism” of buybacks as expressed recently by BlackRock’s Chairman and CEO, Larry Fink in his annual letter to shareholders. Fink stated that, “…in the U.S., the quality of corporate earnings is deteriorating, with record share repurchases in 2015 driving valuations — an indication of companies succumbing to the pressures of short-termism in place of constructive, long-term strategies”[2].

Corporates should be mindful of adopting a short-sighted view or reliance on any one particular method of surplus cash diversification as in periods of stunted economic growth or worsening market conditions; excessive buybacks and acquisitions could prove to drain the economic buffers needed to ‘survive the storm’.

Idle cash stunts growth – for everyone

In short, long-term corporate overcapitalization is both a government and business-level nightmare. The trend of cash hoarding has been accused of holding back a full-global economic recovery with knock-on effects for wage growth at the bottom-end of society and capital investment.  In addition, “too-big-to-fail’ corporations are empowered and continue to gain even larger shares of ownership over diversified industries.

In many cases, foreign cash remains idle – unlikely to be repatriated, used for acquisitions or capital expenditure overseas. Far from nimble, proficient cash savers are often the victim of weighed-down balance sheets with an apparent inability to redistribute profits back to the workforce – in the form of wages or to investors – in the form of dividends.

Whilst the U.S. unemployment rate has dropped markedly to 5% since the global recession, wage growth remains anaemic signalling that all the gains the U.S. economy is making are being captured by the already wealthy. Despite capitalism driving corporations to reach ever-higher levels of profit year-on-year, it is no secret that many a U.S. corporation has effectively transformed from an engine of growth to a bloated tax shelter. Rather than concentrate on global expansion, hoarding has caused U.S. firms to become insular and adopt economic short-sightedness – focusing largely on domestic market growth, short-term profits and stock prices.

How much trillions-in-hiding will be enough before corporations begin to take stock of the opportunity to capitalize on the kind of efficiency gains generated only though nimble expansion and R&D?

The answer could lie in the prospect of increased interest-rates, as should they rise, corporate investment must surely rise alongside it and irrespective of the currency, country of origin or industry, corporate cash should not be left to ferment, but rather set to work – hard, to meet the growth targets of the corporation year-on-year. It is also no secret that a wholly diversified investment portfolio has always been central to a firm’s ability to optimize cash and that hasn’t changed – nor does it need to.

1 “The repurchase revolution”, The Economist,http://www.economist.com/news/business/21616968-companies-have-been-gobbling-up-their-own-shares-exceptional-rate-there-are-good-reasons, (September 13th, 2014)

[1]Fink, L, ‘My Annual Letter to Shareholders’, Linkedin, https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/my-annual-letter-shareholders-larry-fink?trk=hp-feed-article-title-share (April 11th, 2016)

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Half of UK’s finance sector confirms diversity should be more of a priority in the workplace, with calls for action across the industry

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Half of UK’s finance sector confirms diversity should be more of a priority in the workplace, with calls for action across the industry 1

Almost half (45%) of Britain’s banking/financial services workforce think their employer could do more when it comes to diversity, according to a report from UK-based tech-for-good developer, Culture Shift.

Despite 74% of employees in the sector confirming that working somewhere with a diverse workforce is an important factor for their happiness at work, almost half (46%) think diversity seems like less of a priority in the workplace currently, with 52% stating it should be more of a priority. The same report also uncovered that 53% of employees in banking and financial services said their employer makes token gestures that feel surface level when it comes to diversity and inclusion.

Diversity and inclusion have long been key factors for ensuring a positive and happy work environment, however the events of recent months, such as the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, have resulted in these climbing up the agenda of many employers.

“The insights on diversity and inclusion uncovered in Culture Shift’s report really do resonate with me, as they shine a light on the lack of true representation across the UK’s positions of power. Employees are calling for their employers to focus on recruiting people from more diverse backgrounds, while providing training to the workforce on diversity and inclusion, confirming action really does need to be taken.

“If organisations want to create a happy work environment then they should take heed, as most employees confirmed working somewhere with a diverse workforce was an important factor to their happiness at work,” comments Olive Strachan MBE, founder of Olive Strachan Resources Ltd, global business woman and diversity and inclusion specialist.

The research found that fostering a diverse workforce representative of reality is a key factor for creating a positive culture and a key component for most employees’ happiness at work. With many calling for more to be done when it comes to ensuring that not only do under-represented groups have a presence in businesses, but also a seat at the table and a voice, there are various factors organisations should be keeping front on mind whilst planning for the future.

On fostering a diverse workforce, representative of reality, the research revealed that:

  • 80% of employees in banking/financial services said working at a company with a strong ethical background was important to them, with 84% stating that working at a company with a good reputation for treating employees fairly was integral to their happiness at work
  • Almost one-fifth (18%) said their employer could improve workplace culture by recruiting more people from BAME backgrounds, while one-quarter (25%) said by providing training to the workforce on diversity and inclusion
  • 15% said their employer could improve its culture and be more inclusive by recruiting more people from LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer) backgrounds
  • More than one-quarter (26%) said their employer could improve its culture by recruiting more people of varying abilities; while 21% said by recruiting a better gender balance
  • One-quarter (25%) said their employer could improve its culture by recruiting more people of different religions/faiths
  • 15% said their employer should prioritise the promotion of people from minority and marginalised backgrounds to improve its workplace culture

“To create an empowering culture for all employees, it’s absolutely essential for organisations to be diverse, inclusive and showcase true representation across all levels of the business. Not only do recruitment processes need to be inclusive, but promotion opportunities too, and employees from marginalised backgrounds need to be supported through their career, as well as other employees.

“We firmly believe this is an incredibly important conversation to have and the insights uncovered in our research solidify that we’re not alone in believing more action needs to be taken by those at the top. It’s a shift that won’t happen overnight, but there needs to be clear intent from employers to keep diversity and inclusion at the top of their agenda,” adds Gemma McCall, CEO, Culture Shift.

Culture Shift exists to lead positive change in organisational culture, through building products that empower them to tackle harassment and bullying.

“We hope the insights uncovered in our report, combined with the fact that diverse workforces are consistently proven to be more successful, result in employers making some tangible changes across the board to ensure their teams are truly representative of reality,” concludes Gemma.

To see more insights uncovered by the research or to download the full ‘Maintaining workplace culture in a rapidly changing environment’ report, visit info.culture-shift.co.uk/maintaining-workplace-culture.

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American Express and Amazon Business Launch Co-branded Credit Cards for Small Businesses in the UK

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American Express and Amazon Business Launch Co-branded Credit Cards for Small Businesses in the UK 2

The co-branded Cards offer flexible benefits and payment optionality by allowing small businesses to decide between earning rewards or adjusting payment terms on eligible purchases

UK small business Card launch builds on American Express and Amazon’s long-term relationship and co-branded Card programme in the US

American Express (NYSE: AXP) today announced the launch of the new Amazon Business American Express® Card and the Amazon Business Prime American Express® Card for small businesses in the UK. The Cards offer a host of rich rewards and payment flexibility designed to help businesses better manage their cash flow and gain greater insight into their spending.

The Cards provide an enhanced check-out experience on Amazon Business UK and Amazon.co.uk that gives Cardmembers the option to earn reward points or select a deferred payment term for each transaction, enabling them to make the best payment choice for their finances. Reward points can be earned anywhere American Express Cards are accepted and redeemed toward future Amazon purchases or applied to the balance of their monthly Card statement. This new Card programme in the UK has been developed as part of the on-going relationship between American Express and Amazon which includes a co-branded programme in the US and a global Card acceptance relationship.

This launch comes at a time when 63% of British small businesses say cash flow issues have led them to delay purchasing goods and services they need to run their business, according to new research from American Express and YouGov1. Nearly a quarter (23%) of the survey participants said they have put off ‘bigger ticket’ purchases over the last six months until they have funds available, and 38% of them are only buying the ‘essentials’ they need to keep their business operating.

Commenting on the new Card launch, Colin O’Flaherty, General Manager of UK Global Commercial Services at American Express, said: “We have been serving small businesses for over 60 years, and are passionate about helping our small business customers effectively run and grow their businesses, especially during this challenging period. With many UK SMEs facing financial hardships, we want to make it easier for businesses to manage their finances and continue accessing the goods and products they need with more options to pay. We know that a vast number of the UK’s businesses rely on Amazon’s wide-ranging products and services and are excited to launch this powerful and flexible new payment tool that will allow small businesses to select how to pay, purchase by purchase.”

Dave Brittain, Director of Amazon Business UK, said “Working with American Express to launch the small business credit Card was a natural decision for Amazon, given our shared long-standing commitment to helping small businesses flourish globally. We’re incredibly proud to launch this Card programme as it offers small business owners and entrepreneurs the best of both companies: the convenience and value they have come to know and love from Amazon, underpinned by the world-class service, benefits, access and security of American Express. These benefits have never been more important at a time when businesses are navigating the challenges and uncertainty which Covid-19 has presented.”

Amazon Business American Express Cardmembers and Amazon Business Prime American Express Cardmembers will have access to the following key benefits:

  • 2% Amazon Rewards points on the first £120,000 in purchases at Amazon.co.uk, Amazon Business UK and Whole Foods Market UK each calendar year, 1% thereafter or 90-day payment terms on such purchases for Cardmembers who are Business Prime members on Amazon Business UK
  • 1.5% Amazon Rewards points on the first £120,000 in purchases at Amazon.co.uk, Amazon Business UK and Whole Foods Market UK each calendar year, 1% thereafter or 60-day payment terms on such purchases for all other Cardmembers
  • 0.5% Amazon Rewards points on all other purchases for all Cardmembers

Both Cards come with a £50 annual fee, however, this is waived for new Business Prime American Express Cardmembers in the first year. Upon approval, new Cardmembers who are Business Prime members will receive an Amazon gift card with £50 value, and all other Cardmembers will receive a £25 Amazon gift card. As an added benefit for Amazon Business Prime American Express Cardmembers, their Cards will feature a unique vertical design that is composed of metal.

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Go Global To Expand Your Revenue Stream

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Go Global To Expand Your Revenue Stream 3

By Christian Spaltenstein, Managing Director, AFEX Americas

Banking and financial operations have evolved immensely in the past few years. Innovation in banking technology has set new standards for businesses, with multiple players actively participating in the journey to make financial services transparent, accessible and secure. In a globalized economy, where borders dissolve and even a micro-business can build an international footprint, a global payments offering is the magical key for any business to thrive. With competition from digital-first challengers, businesses are now realizing the importance of enhancing their product offerings to flourish in today’s internet based marketplace.

The pandemic has certainly played a massive role in forcing businesses to re-think strategies and optimize their operating model to suit the needs of the present economy. Ensuring business continuity is top-of-mind for many businesses who are struggling to remain afloat.

Expanding your revenue stream, especially during these challenging times, can be tough but profitable. A primary area of focus for many businesses today is to have an efficient and reliable supply chain. That could mean exploring unfamiliar markets and sourcing new service providers. Some businesses are also adapting their product lines to accommodate new needs in the market.

As other businesses effect digital transformations and find new ways of working, hacking is on the rise. Customers today want everything over the web; ensuring your systems are secure and efficient is even more important during these challenging times.

Businesses that are unable to cope with these increasing demands suffer the challenge of surviving and remaining relevant.

Companies that have been able to implement API solutions have observed proven success in achieving a multitude of business objectives. Automating financial operations with advanced technology solutions can help you not just differentiate your business, but also capture market share in today’s economy. It can add operational efficiency and help enhance your organization’s productivity—and as a result, revenues.

A trusted API solutions partner for global payments with an efficient banking and payments infrastructure can open your business to opportunities to grow internationally. It can also help your business to adapt to changing customer needs and offer services that can help you stay at the top of your game. Here are a few ways such solutions can help your business thrive and go global:

1. Currency risk management

Uncertainty due to ongoing market volatility can have adverse effects on your business’ profits. The ability to create forward contracts enables businesses to lock in a favorable rate and ensure financing certainty for their future currency needs.

2. Entrance into new markets

Introducing a business into new markets, or sourcing new services, comes with a host of challenges, the biggest being currency and payments. API solutions can support a business’ expansion plan today, tomorrow and in the future, with seamless scalability ready when it’s needed.

3. New revenue streams

A global payments API solution can help your business operate more efficiently. It offers a competitive edge, which can transform FX from a cost to a strategic advantage. As a business grows, so should its revenue.

4. Product growth and competitive advantage

An efficient FX and payments system can help businesses to steal an advantage in the market. Many business functions depend on either incoming or outgoing payments, and integration of these basic features into a business’ product can represent exponential growth in new users and wallet share.

5. Data is gold –

In today’s changing environment, protecting yourself and your customers’ data is a necessity. A secure and stable infrastructure to keep data safe helps you avoid financial and reputational damage— adding to your peace of mind—and increases customers’ trust.

Christian Spaltenstein

Christian Spaltenstein

A global payments partner can certainly help expand your revenue stream and strengthen your value proposition. However, it is critical to analyze your core competencies. Taking a look at your own cost structure and restructuring your delivery channels to best suit the needs of your end customer is essential. Using tools like AI can help you draw better conclusions about customer behavior, guiding you to choose the right enhancements. The objective for any expansion should be to improve the business ecosystem you operate in.

Your global payments partner should also be able to understand your target market and your business goals to better help you navigate risks and mitigate market volatility.

In evaluating a partner, key considerations include:

  1. Product knowledge and demand: Choose a partner with experience with companies like yours and the ability to adapt their solutions to your needs.
  2. Regulatory set-up: Make sure your partner is licensed and fully compliant across the world, and has robust cybersecurity protocols in place.
  3. Infrastructure: A well-developed, stable global payments infrastructure and robust payment rails saves you the time and resource you’d need to build your own.
  4. Cultural understanding for expansion: Communication and business practices vary across the world. A partner with a sizeable global footprint can help you navigate efficiently in new markets.

Times of crisis often produce innovation in processes and practices. The digital transformation of financial services has been extensively accelerated by COVID-19. Companies are seeking new ways to keep costs down while they weigh opportunities to expand internationally. Adapting to survive and ensure business continuity, especially during the ongoing pandemic is critical for businesses.

In times of uncertainty it’s important to keep both feet on the ground and ensure your operations are smooth and your data secure. Automating your global payments process is an important step in digital transformation. Adding efficiency and reducing errors can boost your profitability and can help you scale for the future.

 

This is a Sponsored Feature.

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