A Deep Dive into Cash Positioning and Cash Flow Forecasting

💲 We simplify Corporate Treasury Concepts - 🎙️ From the podcast Corporate Treasury 101

A Deep Dive into Cash Positioning and Cash Flow Forecasting

Are you curious about how the financial titans and thriving businesses excel in Cash Positioning and Cash Flow Forecasting, enabling them to navigate the swirling currents of cash flow? It may seem daunting, but there’s a secret weapon at their disposal – effective cash flow management. Just like steering a boat down a river, it’s all about knowing where the money comes from, where it’s going, and ensuring there’s always enough to keep the business sailing smoothly.

This article has a simple guide that makes understanding and managing cash flows as easy as ABC. We’ll look at a podcast chat with Guillaume, a money expert, who talks about cash flows with host Hussam in a way that makes sense for everyone. Guillaume, an expert in corporate treasury, has a personal connection to this topic. Furthermore, In his first job post-graduation, he served as a cash management analyst in investment banking, making this a subject he is especially passionate about.

We’ll discuss what cash flow forecasting means for big bosses in the business world and what “operational,” “non-operational,” and “financing” cash flows are. We’ll look at how businesses keep an eye on their cash flow, using everything from simple Excel spreadsheets to fancy computer programs. Guillaume recommends that if listeners are tuning into this podcast for the first time, they should consider going back and listening to the initial episode that covers the 4 pillars of corporate treasury, with a particular focus on cash and liquidity management. This foundational knowledge will provide context for this current discussion.

In This Article, You’ll discover:

  • How cash flow impacts business decisions at the highest levels. It’s not just about numbers—it’s about shaping your company’s future.
  • The role of cash flow forecasting in business strategy and decision-making, from whether a business can pay dividends to its shareholders to planning new projects.
  • What operational, non-operational, and financing cash flows are, and how do they contribute to the overall financial health of a business?
  • An insider’s view of how businesses track cash flow and use forecasting to guide their financial decisions. This is like the control panel of a spaceship—it’s where all the important decisions are made.
  • How companies of different sizes handle cash flow tracking, from Excel spreadsheets to specialized tools in Treasury Management Systems (TMS).

Ready to unravel the mystery of cash flow management and take your business to the next level? Let’s dive in!

Table of Contents

How Cash Positioning and Cash Flow Forecasting Work in Corporate Treasury?

Let’s dive deeper into these concepts and understand their nuts and bolts. Firstly, Hussam requests Guillaume to unpack the terminologies ‘cash positioning’ and ‘cash flow forecasting.’ Although these terms may sound like financial jargon, their essence is straightforward and significant in corporate treasury. Furthermore, Guillaume breaks down these terms, highlighting their importance in ensuring financial health and avoiding insolvency.

The Significance of Cash Positioning

Cash positioning is your financial “starting point” or snapshot of your present financial standing. Guillaume breaks down this concept using a personal banking scenario. When you open your banking app and see the current balance, that’s your “cash position.”

But when it comes to a corporation, this gets a tad more complicated due to multiple bank accounts across different locations, possibly in various currencies. A corporation’s cash position is the consolidation of balances across all these accounts.

To illustrate this, Guillaume imagines a scenario where Hussam owns three cafes, each with a different bank account. One cafe has 1,000 euros, the second one, doing well, has 500 euros, and the third one, struggling a bit, is at a deficit of 300 euros.

When you sum up the balances of these three accounts, you arrive at the consolidated cash position of 1,200 euros (1000 + 500 – 300). This total gives you an accurate financial snapshot, which is critical for making informed business decisions.

Delving into Cash Flow Forecasting

With the concept of cash positioning in mind, Guillaume prepares to delve into ‘cash flow forecasting.’ This term refers to predicting the future financial scenario of your business by analyzing what’s expected to come in (income) and what’s scheduled to go out (expenses) over a specified period.

Cash flow forecasting is essential to ensure your business always has enough cash to cover its liabilities. If your outflows outpace your inflows, you could find yourself in a situation where you’re unable to meet your financial obligations, a state known as insolvency. Guillaume emphasizes avoiding this scenario, which could lead to severe consequences like bankruptcy.

The efficient management of cash flow forecasting and an accurate understanding of cash positioning allows businesses to plan for the future effectively. It equips them with the necessary foresight to make strategic decisions, whether about expanding operations, investing in new ventures, or navigating through a rough financial period.

How Are Different Currencies Managed in Cash Positioning, and What Is the Role of Hedged Currency?

In this part of the discussion, Hussam raises questions on how multiple currencies are managed in cash positioning and the role of hedged currency in this process. Guillaume’s insightful responses reveal another layer of complexity in corporate treasury.

The Need for Currency-Specific and Consolidated Cash Positions

Hussam begins by correctly surmising that companies would have individual cash positions for each currency they deal in and a consolidated position. In addition, Guillaume affirms this, noting that having both types of positions provides the necessary accuracy and visibility for managing finances effectively. Moreover, maintaining individual positions becomes crucial since companies will likely have payments and revenues in various currencies.

Factoring in Exchange Rates

But how do you consolidate all these different currency positions into one? Well, that’s where exchange rates come into play. An exchange rate is applied to convert the balances of each currency to a common one, ideally the one in use on the day you calculate the position for maximum accuracy.

In a well-structured treasury department, these exchange rates are obtained in an automated manner from external rate providers like Bloomberg or Reuters. The consolidated position reflects the total cash available, adjusted for currency exchange rates, in the company’s reporting currency.

The Role of Hedged Currency

Hussam then brings up an interesting point about hedged currency. In the context of hedging, as discussed in their previous episodes, a company might secure a future exchange rate for a transaction to protect against potential losses due to currency fluctuations. Furthermore, he asks whether this hedged rate should be used when consolidating positions.

In response, Guillaume explains that while the hedged rate might be significant for future transactions, the current exchange rate is preferred for cash positioning. This preference is because cash positioning is about capturing the company’s financial status at a specific moment and using the most accurate, real-time data is important.

So, in a nutshell, cash positioning requires both currency-specific and consolidated positions for accurate financial management. Additionally, exchange rates bring all these positions to common ground. However, it is worth noting that while hedged rates are important, they are more applicable to future transactions and cash flow forecasting.

How Important Is Maintaining a High Cash Position, and What Are Its Implications?

During this segment, Hussam queries the significance of keeping a high cash position, and Guillaume elaborates on the advantages and potential drawbacks of having a large cash balance.

Advantages of a High Cash Position

Hussam starts by stating that a company naturally wants its cash position to be as high as possible. Consequently, having a significant amount of cash brings about more flexibility. Additionally, in the event of fluctuations in your cash flow, you still have enough resources to pay your suppliers or meet other obligations. Building on this, Guillaume agrees with this sentiment, confirming that having plenty of cash, in general, cannot be harmful. Moreover, it provides financial strength and allows you to plan your payments accurately.

Drawbacks of a High Cash Position

However, Guillaume quickly adds that maintaining excessively large cash isn’t always the best course of action. Keeping a significant amount of idle cash in finance might be seen as a missed opportunity because it could earn returns if invested wisely. Nowadays, corporates even face negative interest rates for large Euro balances, meaning they must pay their bank to hold their cash.

This circumstance further strengthens the argument for investing excess cash in short, medium, or long-term investment instruments. These investments could offer higher returns than just letting the cash sit in a bank account.

Balancing Cash Position and Investments

Moreover, Guillaume points out that having a lot of cash can indicate that the company might not use its funds effectively. It might give the impression that the company isn’t innovating or investing in projects that could lead to growth in the future.

Thus, the goal of a corporate entity should be to strike a balance. You want to be financially strong and capable of meeting your financial obligations. At the same time, you want to invest any excess cash to maximize returns. This strategy requires a delicate balance, ensuring financial strength without missing out on potential growth opportunities.

How Do Corporates Manage Cash Positions Across Multiple Bank Accounts and Clients?

Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko from Pexels

Hussam asks Guillaume to explain the intricacies of handling a corporation’s cash position across various bank accounts and multiple clients, especially given the delays in transaction times experienced with traditional banks.

The Challenge of Bank Transaction Times

Hussam acknowledges the complications arising from traditional banks’ transaction times. These banks, which many corporates still use, often process transactions over two to three days, making real-time cash positioning challenging.

The Power of Corporate Banking Relationships

Responding to Hussam’s concerns, Guillaume reveals that the delay in transactions tends to be less of a problem for corporates. This is due to their substantial size and significant leverage over banks. Corporates can negotiate faster transaction times, thus minimizing the delay issue.

Steps to Effective Cash Positioning

Delving into the technical aspects of managing cash positions, Guillaume breaks down the process into several stages. This process can vary depending on the maturity of a company’s Treasury Department:

  1. Manual handling: Some Treasury Departments might handle cash positioning manually by receiving bank statements and inputting the information into Excel to calculate the group’s cash position.
  2. Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP): This is a more sophisticated method of managing cash positioning. ERPs like SAP or Oracle can be used to track transactions and cash balances.
  3. Bank Connectivity Solutions: Best-in-class Treasury Departments utilize more efficient systems for cash positioning. A robust bank connectivity solution is crucial. This solution enables communication between your bank and your systems. An example of such a system is Swift, network banks use to communicate with each other and with corporates.
  4. Receiving and Processing Bank Statements: A company needs to receive bank statements detailing their transactions and closing balance for the day after establishing proper bank connectivity. These statements must be processed and consolidated using a treasury management system.
  5. Reporting Tools: Finally, Guillaume emphasizes the need for user-friendly reporting tools to display the consolidated data in a dynamic and comprehensible format.

In conclusion, Guillaume highlights that an efficient cash positioning process involves a combination of good banking relationships, bank connectivity solutions, treasury management systems, and user-friendly reporting tools.

What Is Cash Flow Forecasting and Why Is It Important?

Hussam prompts Guillaume to delve into the concept of cash flow forecasting, asking for a clear explanation of what it is and its significance in a corporate setting.

Understanding Cash Flow Forecasting

As Guillaume explains, cash flow forecasting aims to predict or estimate the future inflows (money coming in) and outflows (money going out) of cash within a business. The difference between these inflows and outflows is the net cash flow.

Forecasting attempts to predict these values as accurately as possible over a specific period. This period can range from a week to a year, with the understanding that the further the forecast looks into the future, the less precise it is likely to be.

The Significance of Cash Flow Forecasting

Guillaume elaborates on why cash flow forecasting is essential:

  1. Investment opportunities: A positive net cash flow, meaning more money is coming in than going out, can signal potential investment opportunities. If the trend is expected to continue, the company can decide to invest part of the surplus cash rather than letting it sit idle.
  2. Financing business operations: Conversely, a positive cash flow can also fund other parts of the business, such as new projects.
  3. Planning for future obligations: If the forecast shows a negative cash flow, meaning more money is going out than coming in, the company has time to plan accordingly and save to meet its financial obligations in the future.

A negative cash flow over a short period doesn’t necessarily indicate a failing business. It could be due to seasonality or late client payments, for instance. However, if the net cash flow remains negative for an extended period, it could be a symptom of the business not running correctly or even losing money. Prolonged negative cash flow could lead to insolvency when a company can no longer meet its financial obligations.

In summary, cash flow forecasting is a crucial tool for businesses. It helps them plan for future financial obligations, identify potential investment opportunities, and promptly detect any signs of financial distress.

How Can a Company Counteract a Negative Cash Flow Situation?

In this segment, Hussam poses a question to Guillaume about the strategies a company could adopt to counteract a negative cash flow situation. He seeks insights into practical measures businesses can implement when they are in such a predicament.

With his rich experience in the field, Guillaume provides multiple solutions for companies to handle a negative cash flow situation. Remembering negative cash flow isn’t necessarily an indicator of business failure is crucial. It can often result from timing—when the money comes in and goes out. Let’s delve deeper into each of these strategies:

Overdraft Facilities

Businesses, like individuals, can take advantage of overdraft facilities. Banks provide this service, allowing an account to temporarily go negative, lending extra funds to the account holder. This could be a temporary solution for businesses experiencing a pinch in their cash flow. But be careful; this isn’t a free service. Banks usually impose charges for this facility. Therefore, while it could provide a quick fix, it’s not the most financially prudent first choice when managing a negative cash flow.

Negotiating with Suppliers

Another interesting strategy for handling negative cash flow revolves around the terms of trade with suppliers. If you find your company grappling with a cash crunch, consider negotiating for extended payment terms with your suppliers. This could lessen the strain on your cash reserves, providing a buffer by delaying cash outflows. Remember, the goal is not just about reducing costs but managing when the costs are incurred to maintain a healthy cash flow balance.

Prompt Payment from Clients

Just as managing outflows is critical, controlling the inflows also plays a vital role in cash flow management. One way to optimize cash inflows is by promoting or incentivizing clients to settle their invoices sooner. This could increase cash inflows, bolstering your net cash flow situation.

Remember, a negative net cash flow doesn’t necessarily indicate a failing business. It could be more about the timing of inflows and outflows. Therefore, managing when and how money comes in and goes out of your business can significantly maintain a healthy cash flow.

How Does Cash Flow Forecasting Influence Business Decision-Making in The Boardroom?

In this part of the conversation, Hussam probes into the practical implications of cash flow forecasting at the higher echelons of a company’s structure. He is curious about the role of cash flow forecasting in the decision-making process of upper management like CFOs and CEOs.

Cash Flow Forecasting: Driving Strategic Decision Making

Guillaume responds by highlighting the significance of cash flow forecasting in key strategic decisions. Let’s walk through some of these scenarios that show how cash flow forecasting works in a corporate context:

  1. Dividends and Bonuses: A company’s ability to pay dividends to its shareholders or employee bonuses hinges heavily on its cash flow situation. A robust forecast can inform management about the available cash and help them decide whether or not the company can afford these payouts.
  2. Investment in Research and Development: Breakthroughs in products or services often result from targeted investments in research and development (R&D). But innovation requires funding, and a company’s cash flow forecast can determine if there’s enough cash for these investments.
  3. Hiring Decisions: Businesses grow by expanding their workforce. But hiring new people costs money. A reliable cash flow forecast can guide management in hiring decisions – whether for a new project or business expansion.
  4. Expansion Plans: If a company is contemplating opening a new store, plant, or office, it will need sufficient cash to carry it out. A cash flow forecast can provide insights into the company’s financial capability to undertake such expansion plans.

To sum up, cash flow forecasting is a crucial metric in strategic decision-making. It provides a forward-looking view of a company’s financial health, enabling the leadership to make informed decisions about dividends, investments, hiring, and expansion. Cash isn’t just a number on the balance sheet—it’s a key player in driving a company’s strategy and future.

What Are the Different Types of Cash Flows and Their Sources?

In this segment, Hussam seeks clarity on the different types of cash flows and their respective sources. He’s interested in understanding the details of money coming in and going out in a company’s cash flow conversation.

Guillaume divides cash flows into 3 main categories, each with their distinct sources:

Operational Cash Flows

These cash flows pertain to your day-to-day business activities. Let’s discuss a couple of key components under this category:

  • Accounts Payable (AP) and Accounts Receivable (AR): These are transactions linked to invoices issued by your company. AP includes transactions your company is due to pay, while AR represents transactions your company expects to receive. The payment terms on these invoices can vary from 30 to 90 days, depending on the agreement with the other party.
  • Payroll: This represents the salaries paid to employees. It’s an important factor in your operational cash flows because it’s a regular and substantial cash outflow.

Non-Operational Cash Flows

Non-operational cash flows relate to transactions unrelated to your company’s core operations. They can include:

  • Taxes: This encompasses Value-Added Tax (VAT), income tax, and other obligations your company must fulfil.
  • Capital Expenditures (CapEx): These are funds a company uses to acquire, maintain, or upgrade physical assets like buildings, equipment, or technology.
  • Restructuring: This refers to costs associated with changes in the company’s business structure or strategy, such as mergers, acquisitions, or layoffs. However, Guillaume mentions that he will discuss this in a separate episode.

Financing Cash Flows

Financing cash flows encompass transactions related to a company’s financing activities. Some examples include:

  • Interest Income and Expenses: These are earnings from investments or costs associated with borrowing money.
  • Dividend Payments: These are payouts to shareholders from the company’s earnings.
  • Debt Payments: This includes repayment of principal or interest on the company’s borrowings.
  • Acquisitions: The purchase of another company also falls under financing cash flows.

By distinguishing between these cash flows, companies can more accurately predict their future financial position and make informed decisions. This understanding is essential for effective cash flow forecasting.

How Do You Track and Forecast Cash Flows?

Hussam asks Guillaume about the technicalities of tracking cash flows and forecasting future cash flows. He is curious about the mechanisms behind the process and wants to know how organizations handle this crucial financial function.

Understanding Cash Flow Tracking and Forecasting

To answer Hussam’s question, Guillaume takes a step-by-step approach to discuss the mechanisms behind cash flow tracking and forecasting. He emphasizes that the level of sophistication involved largely depends on the maturity of the company’s treasury department.

Manual Cash Flow Tracking and Forecasting:

Cash flows can be tracked manually if a company is relatively small or has a less mature treasury department. This typically involves inputting relevant data into a spreadsheet like Excel. Numerous online resources, including YouTube videos, can guide you in developing a proper cash flow forecasting model using Excel.

Automated and Integrated Cash Flow Tracking and Forecasting:

Cash flow tracking and forecasting are often performed in a more automated and integrated manner for larger companies or those with a more mature treasury department. This approach is preferred because it provides greater accuracy, crucial for effective cash flow forecasting.

Centralized Tool for Cash Flow Forecasting:

Guillaume also highlights the importance of using a centralized tool for cash flow forecasting. This tool should integrate all financial data related to operational, non-operational, and financing cash flows. For instance:

  • Accounts Payable (AP) and Accounts Receivable (AR): These are typically gathered from the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, where the accounting is done.
  • Payroll Information: This can be obtained from the Human Resources (HR) department or a third-party provider managing payroll.
  • Payment Hub Information: This is where the company connects to the banks to collect bank statements.
  • Financing Cash Flows: These can be obtained from the finance department or linked directly to the department’s entries.

Use of Treasury Management System (TMS):

Cash flow forecasting is often done through a Treasury Management System (TMS), consolidating operational, non-operational, and financing flows. Alternatively, companies prioritizing cash flow forecasting may utilize a dedicated tool integrated with the TMS.

Essentially, tracking and forecasting cash flow involves gathering financial data from multiple sources within the company. This information is then used to predict the company’s future financial status. Tracking methods vary from manual spreadsheets to advanced integrated systems based on company size and requirements.

Wrapping It Up

In conclusion, Cash flow management and forecasting are crucial for businesses of all sizes. Understanding how cash flows impact decisions is essential for stability and planning. Cash flow forecasting is vital in the boardroom, guiding significant decisions for CEOs and CFOs. Accurate forecasts drive dividends, investments, hiring, and expansion.

We analyzed operational, non-operational, and financing cash flows. Accounts payable, accounts receivable, payroll, taxes, capital expenditures, and financing expenses play key roles. Also, We explored various methods for tracking and forecasting cash flows, from manual Excel tracking to automated systems. These tools consolidate financial data for comprehensive forecasting.

Cash flow management goes beyond balance sheets. It sustains organizations, fuels growth, and ensures future success. Effective understanding and management are pivotal in business and finance. Mastering cash flow is essential for a healthy and prosperous business. It’s a vital skill for anyone in business and finance, enabling success and maintaining stability.

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