Friday, April 25, 2014

S&P Downgrades Russian Sovereigns

Standard & Poor’s cut the Russian Federation sovereign debt credit rating citing the capital flight and risk to investment in the wake of the Ukraine crisis. S&P lowered Russia’s sovereign debt rating from BBB to BBB- placing it one notch above junk status.

Russia’s economy has slowed in step with the rest of the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India, China). As the global economy entered recession in 2008, the BRICs were one of the few remaining bright spots still generating economic growth. For a variety of reasons tied to specific national and global macro conditions all BRICs economic growth has slowed considerably.

Russia’s fortune was closely tied to energy exports. The devaluation of the US dollar and acute political risk heightened by wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria; and the uncertainty surrounding the impact of events in Libya, Egypt and Iran had supported a rich valuation of oil prices.

New sources of fossil fuels coming online in North America, Libya, Iraq and Iran has undermined oil prices. Political instability in Venezuela and the fracturing of Russia’s paternalistic relationship with Ukraine and the potential disintermediation of Russian oil exports to its largest market in the EC adds a new uncertainty to global energy markets. It may also serve to support the rich valuation for oil even as supply expands.

In its commentary, S&P notes the rising debt burdens the Russian Federations Local and Regional Governments, slowing domestic growth, over dependency on energy exports and the developing conflict with Ukraine as reasons for the downgrade.

Turning business cycles create powerful macroeconomic risk factors that challenge SMEs. Rapidly changing market dynamics surface grave threats to SMEs. The Ukrainian Crisis is a risk event that impacts the cost of capital for the global SME community, spikes increase in commodity prices and disrupts global supply chains and market access. Acute macro risk drivers force market players to compete for capital in realigning markets. How will this global risk event impact your business? SME's must continually assess market events to seize emerging market opportunities.
Get Risk Aware
Get risk aware with MERA, a Macroeconomic Risk and Event Assessment app available on Google Play. MERA's Mobile Office capabilities provides business managers a world class risk management tool to assess emerging risk factors to adapt and capitalize on the opportunities shifting markets present.

risk: Russian Federation, EU, Ukraine, commodities, oil, Standard & Poor's, sovereign debt, credit risk, sme lending, market dynamics, macroeconomic risk

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Sustainable Economics

We have put our good mother through a lot over the past few million years. Ever since we walked out of the great rift the biospheres dominant species has really left a mark. I know that mark is but a tiny spec on the archaeological record of the earth which spans a few billion years but our impact is unmistakable.

I guess it started with the invention of hand tools, fire, wheels, shelter construction, water cultivation and agriculture. You can’t forget hunting in packs, weaponry, domestication of animals, speech, art and writing. A consciousness of a portfolio of skills, specialization, division of labor and the ability to discern exchange value within the community birthed a notion of governance. Our social nature was crowned with our ability to transmit craft and knowledge to successive generations, assuring continuity and cohesion with a common history and a well articulated cosmology. Put it all together and I think you got your basic modern Homo sapien.

Oh yeah, we also developed a psychology, an ego, that incorporates the primacy of ourselves and our selfish needs. It rationalizes and guides our interactions with nature, transforming the intention of our labor into a transaction that alters the conditions of the environment. It also serves as indisputable empirical evidence of the master species, elevated above all others as time marks the progress and dominion of the human race.

Our dominion has been codified into our sacred literature. Our creation stories and cosmic mission statements expressly state to exercise our dominion over nature, to propagate the species and to be fruitful and multiply. The screaming unencumbered id, left to its own devises, unchecked in the grand supermarket. We human’s have succeeded beyond our wildest expectations and the species continues to be fruitful and multiplying. 

We sojourn on, notching the ladder of history with marks of our progression through the ages. Along the way we Cro-Magnons expropriated the Neanderthals and moved into their Mediterranean digs complete with fire pits, burial chambers and the best take on modern art until Picasso came along.

I guess that's the point. Our survival comes at the expense of other creatures and things. I’m no Malthusian, but Tom Friedman’s flat world is getting crowded.    And as we celebrate the 44th Earth Day a midst the greatest die off of species since mankind coronated himself as master and commander of all things earth; it may be time to consider how our dominion is hampering the well being of the lesser flora and fauna kingdoms and what we can do to begin the practice of a more sustainable economics.

When I look at Las Vegas, I behold a garish mecca of capitalism on steroids.  I’m overwhelmed by the banality of the the things we so highly esteem. A community venerated and propped up on the foundation of vice, hedonism and the radical pursuit of money. Unbridled development of a crystal neon city constructed in the middle of a desert, recklessly consumes water and energy resources and misdirects human capital to maintain the facade of an unsustainable economy. 

Phoenix poses the same paradox. Darling child of the credit boom, Phoenix is a city consuming itself. The rising threat of climate change, blistering heat, dwindling water supplies and raging haboobs would give any urban planner reason to pause. A bustling city of many millions of striving citizens consuming energy, water and human capital built on the unsustainable foundation of excessive consumption and an unrealistic valuation of the capital required to maintain it. 

The explosion of fracking natural gas deposits in the Marcellus Shale formation is another example of sacrificing long term sustainability for the immediacy of shareholder returns. The Marcellus Deposit has proven reserves that only last a decade. As evidenced by the hyper development occurring in North Dakota,  economies tied to resource extraction are prone to experience classic boom bust cycles. During boom times all is well. But the good times don’t last all that long and communities are left in the wake of the bust cycle to deal with the aftermath. 

The Keystone XL Pipeline and the rapid expansion of the LNG extraction industries are being touted as the foundation of American energy independence. But this energy resource extracts a high cost on the land and its natural bounty. It poses significant risk to water aquifers, air quality, wildlife and the storage of waste-water byproducts will present long term remediation challenges to communities for many decades after the last well is capped.

Our new found fortune of LNG comes with a significant opportunity cost to develop alternative energy sources as it continues to tether our economic dependence on a dwindling supply of fossil fuels. Perpetuating this dependence also requires us to expend huge sums of money on the military. The political arrhythmia in the Ukraine and the keen interest of the United States has much to do with the changing political economy of fossil fuels and the protection and accession of markets.

Sustainability requires a new approach to the emerging realities of the global political economy. Recognition that competing interests bring important capital to the table, and that all must be recognized and fully valued in the new algorithms of sustainability is the keystone and pipeline of sustainability. The practice of unfettered development is unsustainable. Regulation, arbitration and revitalization cannot be sacrificed at the altar of laissez-faire politics that only serves to widen the wealth gap at tremendous social cost. The politicization of economic policy cannot continue to be beholden to rampant monetization. Sustainability is the creation of long term value for a diverse community of stakeholders. It needs to become our guiding mantra as the global population approaches 8 billion souls. 

Happy Earth Day.

Music Selection:

Risk: fracking, political, water, air, war, opportunity cost, renewal clean energy, climate change

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Conflict Minerals, AML and Supply Chain Risk

Conflict Minerals Reporting Requirement Struck Down

Received a timely Good Friday Alert from Nixon Peabody about a recent district court ruling on regulations concerning Conflict Minerals. Conflict minerals are mined in areas where conditions of armed conflict exist. The minerals, extracted with forced labor under conditions employing human rights abuse, is common in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Rebel groups use the proceeds from the sale of conflict minerals to finance armies to enrich leaders and gain political power.

A provision in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act required companies to publish notice that minerals acquired for use in production must be certified as being sourced from a conflict free zone. The National Association of Manufacturers brought suit against the Securities and Exchange Commission that the Conflict Mineral Disclosure provisions in the Dodd-Frank law violates the First Amendment right of free speech of corporations. The DC District Court agreed and overturned the reporting provision. 

Nixon Peabody’s note makes clear that other provisions of the law still stand. Though the ruling provides relief from the reporting requirement, firms remain obligated to audit their supply chain to determine the source of conflict minerals and what economic and political interests are engaged in the sale. 

The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) publishes a list of people and corporations, Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) that have been identified as affiliates of terrorist organizations, known to engage in money laundering activities. Proceeds derived from the sale of Conflict Minerals like Blood Diamonds are sources of terrorist financing and financial crime. Proceeds from the sale of Conflict Minerals underwrite black market activities relating to counterfeiting, drugs, restricted chemicals, uranium, guns and slave trading. Global Financial Intelligence Units (FIU) like Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and FInCEN oversee and enforce regulations concerning money laundering to prohibit proceeds of illicit transactions from entering the regulated economy. 

Manufacturers and commodity merchants engaging in transactions involving Conflict Minerals from the Central African Republic and its surrounding countries must consult the OFAC’s SDN List, conduct PEP Checks (Politically Exposed People) and certify that source of materials, countries and banking institutions comply with the provisions concerning money laundering and reporting compliance with the Dodd-Frank law. 

Though the law only lists four minerals its applications span a wide range of industry groups. The following is a list of Conflict Minerals and its applications. Source is Wikipedia. 

Columbite-tantalite (or coltan, the colloquial African term) is the metal ore from which the element tantalum is extracted. Tantalum is used primarily for the production of capacitors, particularly for applications requiring high performance, a small compact format and high reliability, ranging widely from hearing aids and pacemakers, to airbags, GPS, ignition systems and anti-lock braking systems in automobiles, through to laptop computers, mobile phones, video game consoles, video cameras and digital cameras. In its carbide form, tantalum possesses significant hardness and wear resistance properties. As a result, it is used in jet engine/turbine blades, drill bits, end mills and other tools. 

Cassiterite is the chief ore needed to produce tin, essential for the production of tin cans and solder on the circuit boards of electronic equipment. Tin is also commonly a component of biocides, fungicides and as tetrabutyl tin/tetraoctyl tin, an intermediate in polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and high performance paint manufacturing. 

Wolframite is an important source of the element tungsten. Tungsten is a very dense metal and is frequently used for this property, such as in fishing weights, dart tips and golf club heads. Like tantalum carbide, tungsten carbide possesses hardness and wear resistance properties and is frequently used in applications like metalworking tools, drill bits and milling. Smaller amounts are used to substitute lead in "green ammunition". Minimal amounts are used in electronic devices, including the vibration mechanism of cell phones. 

Gold is used in jewelry, electronics, and dental products. It is also present in some chemical compounds used in certain semiconductor manufacturing processes. 

SME's with supply chain exposures need to audit its supply chain to assure compliance with the in force provisions of Dodd Frank and Treasury Department anti-money laundering provisions. 

Sum2’s Credit|Redi offers managers tools to gain better insights into supply chain risk. 

Sum2's also offers an AML compliance tool to screen OFAC and SDN lists. 

Risk, Dodd-Frank, Conflict Minerals, Nixon Peabody, Central African Republic, OFAC, SDN, FATF, supply chain, AML, money laundering, AML BSA Reporting, Credit|Redi,

Graphic: Source Intelligence

Friday, April 18, 2014

SME Lending: Get Redi to Get Funded

The tough conditions in the credit markets require small businesses to communicate and demonstrate their credit worthiness to satisfy exacting credit risk standards of lenders. Credit channels are open and loans are being made but strict federal regulations and heightened risk aversion by lenders places additional burdens on borrowers to demonstrate they are a good credit risk.

“You have to be prepared,” said Robert Seiwert, a senior vice president with the American Bankers Association. “If you have a viable business model and the banker feels that this business model is going to work in this new economy, you have a very good chance of getting financing. But you have to be ready to show that it will work.”

"Small and medium-sized businesses are the lifeblood of the U.S. economy.  Their ability to prosper and grow is key to job creation to help our nation recover from the economic slowdown. But with the number of bad loans mushrooming in recent years because of the economic downturn, federal regulators have put in more stringent guidelines for qualifying for financing.", stated Ken Lewis former CEO of Bank of America.

Communication with Lenders is Key
Maintaining an open line of communication with your credit providers is key.  During times of prosperity the lines of communication are open; but during times when businesses face adversity the phone stops ringing and lenders start to get nervous.  When business conditions get difficult businesses need to communicate with greater frequency and openness with their lenders.  Bankers don't like surprises.

Reason to Communicate: Risk Assessment
The entrepreneurial nature of small business owners make them natural risk takers.  They have an unshakable belief in the fail safe nature of their ideas and have strong ego identification with their business.  This often makes them blind to the risks lingering within the business enterprise.  Their innate optimism may also cloud an ability to objectively analyze business risks and prevent them from seizing opportunities as a result of poor assessment capabilities.

Conducting a disciplined business assessment will uncover the risks and opportunities present in the enterprise and in the markets that the business serves.  This risk assessment is a great opportunity to communicate to lenders and credit providers that business management are capable risk managers and are a worthy credit risk.  Lenders will be impressed by the transparency of your risk governance practice and will be more disposed to provide financing for projects and opportunities that will propel future growth.

Banks are looking for businesses that are prepared with their financial and business plans. Business owners must present a clear purpose for the loan tied to clearly defined business objectives.   The risk assessment exercise is a vital tool that assists in the construction of a business plan that builds  lender's confidence in your business.  The assessment will reveal the largest risk factors confronting your business and outline clearly defined opportunities that promises optimal returns on loan capital.

Its music to a bankers ears that clients are managing risk well and have identified the most promising opportunities  for business investments.  It is usually a recipe for success and that will allow you and your banker to develop a trusted business relationship based on honesty and transparency.

Get Credit|Redi
Sum2 offers a portfolio of risk assessment applications and consultative services to businesses, governments and non-profit organizations. Our leading product Credit Redi offers SMEs tools to manage financial health and improve corporate credit rating to manage enterprise risk and attract capital to fund initiatives to achieve business goals. Credit Redi helps SMEs improve credit standing to demonstrate creditworthiness to bankers and investors. On Google Play: Get Credit|Redi

Risk, SME, commercial lending, alternative credit channels, credit risk, community banking, small business lending, business plan, capital raise, risk assessment

Monday, April 14, 2014

SMEs Dance to the Basel III Shuffle

cap structure sme eu.PNG
I often wonder, what if Basel II capital accords had been in place prior to the Great Recession? 

Could the devastating crisis fueled by the serial pops of credit bubbles rumbling through the dismal landscape of G20 principalities been avoided with better capital adequacy safeguards? 

Could the precious Post Cold War peace dividend been preserved; had the fiduciaries of global solvency not toppled the dominoes of economic prosperity and political stability through extreme selfishness and irrational behavior?

Some economists assert that had the guidelines of Basel II been in place it would not have mattered. That may certainly be true, but one is still left to wonder if Systemically Important Financial Institutions (SIFI) had followed better governance frameworks the fissures emanating from the epicenter of the global economic meltdown would not have been as deep or as widespread.

The lessons learned from the crisis are being codified in the new governance frameworks of Basel III. Whereas previous Basel Accords focused on capital adequacy and loss reserves aligned to risk weighted assets and counterparty exposures, Basel III looks to strengthen capital adequacy by addressing liquidity and leverage risk in the banks capital structure. Basel III recognizes the primacy of mitigating the systemic risk concentrated in the capital structure of a SIFI and lesser designees, and the contagion threat it poses on its counterparties and the greater economy. 

To ally solvency concerns, Basel III installs a leverage ratio and bolsters its Liquidity Coverage Ratio (LCR) which will require all banking institutions to increase its regulatory capital reserves of High Quality Liquid Assets (HQLA). An increase in HQLA reserves will raise the cost of capital for all financial institutions requiring it to raise its spreads on credit products. 

SMEs will be particularly affected by Basel III initiatives. SME’s are highly dependant on bank capital and credit products and remain highly sensitive to the cyclicality of macroeconomic factors. D&B’s Small Business Health Index reports that SME business failures in the US were in excess of 140,000 per month in 2013. The OECD reported that during 2012 over 800,000 EC SME’s closed shop in 2012. 

Eurofact reported that 60% of all non-financial value add to the EC economy is attributable to SMEs. Though SMEs are generally recognized as principal economic drivers in both the developed and lesser developed economies; during the economic crisis SME’s were rationed out of the credit markets. Large capital infusions and accommodative monetary policy by the central bank authorities principally sought to bolster bank capital and inject liquidity into the faltering global banking system. 

As such much of the low cost capital provided to banks did not trickle down to SMEs. Better returns were realized by deploying capital to investment partnerships, energy resource development, the acquisition of strategic commercial enterprises and underwriting speculative trading in the global security markets. 

Little of the low cost capital found its way onto Main Street; driving the bifurcating wedge between the real and speculative economy. As a more conservative political landscape emerges from the wreckage of the economic calamity created by “elitist” financial institutions and “remote” Brussels based government bureaucrats, the cause of the SME is resonating in the rising voice of a middle class spoken with a distinct nationalist accent. 

Politicians, legislators and advocacy groups are fully invested in the cause of the SME. Stakeholders are advocating more government involvement to underwrite and guarantee sponsored loans. In an era where government involvement in markets is under severe attack, political expediency and prudent economics coalesce to fund the incubation of SMEs. Even if greater government intervention is counterintuitive to laissez faire proclivities of the politically engaged, higher taxes would be required to fund the risk of capital formation initiatives. The securitization of SME loans is also a consideration; but aversion to leverage and the risk to encourage poor lending practices raise fears of creating yet another credit bubble.

The Government of Singapore recently rose its guarantee on SME loans to cover 70% of principal in response to the increase in cost of capital banks will charge as a result of Basel III. Spreads on SME loans are estimated to increase between 50 to 80 basis points. This rise in the cost of capital will allow banks to recoup Basel III compliance expenses associated with the segregation of regulatory capital requirements to service SME loan portfolios.

The risk premia on SME loans is justified by regulators because it guarantees the availability of credit through the business cycle. The financial health of SME’s are highly correlated to the vicissitudes of the business cycle. During times of cyclical downturns risk factors for SMEs are magnified due to the prevalence of concentration risk in products, regions, markets, client and critical macroeconomic factors germane to the SME’s business. Mitigation initiatives are inhibited due to liquidity constraints, resource depletion and balance sheet limitations. The closure of credit channels exacerbates this problem and Basel III risk premia pledges to fund SMEs through a trying business cycle.

To maintain profitability of SME lending, banks will enhance quality standards and haircut collateral margins; a potentially onerous demand since asset valuations remain severely distressed from the effects of the Great Recession. Banks will avoid SMEs with enhanced risk profiles, make greater use of loan covenants, expand fee based services and hike origination fees to protect margins and instill enhanced credit risk controls to minimize default risk.

As the strictures of Basel III take root within commercial banks alternative credit channels are opening to better match an SME’s credit requirements and market situation with a financial product that best addresses their business condition. D&B has initiated a timely capital formation initiative for SMEs. Access to Capital - Money to Main Street is an event tour that is bringing together regional providers of funding for SMEs and startups. 

The economic recovery is combining with technology to energize innovations in SME funding options. Crowd-funding, micro-lending, asset financing, leasing, community bank loans, credit unions and venture capital channels are a few of the many options available for small business funding. Each channel offers distinct terms and advantages that match a funding option to the specific situation of an SME. 

SME associations and advocacy groups are surfacing in the EU that seek to harness the residual capital created by SME failures. Second Chance and Fail2Suceed are initiatives that seek to harness the intellectual capital garnered by entrepreneurs in unsuccessful enterprises. It is a clear recognition that a great failure can be the mother of greater wisdom. This may augur well for the success of Basel III as it seeks to build on the shortfalls of its forebears to better protect the global banking system as it promotes the wealth of nations by equitably funding the growth of the global SME segment.

Sum2 offers a portfolio of risk assessment applications and consultative services to businesses, governments and non-profit organizations. Our leading product Credit Redi offers SMEs tools to manage financial health and improve corporate credit rating to manage enterprise risk and attract capital to fund initiatives to achieve business goals. Credit Redi helps SMEs improve credit standing to demonstrate creditworthiness to bankers and investors. On Google Play: Get Credit|Redi

Risk: SME, Basel III, commercial lending, political stability, economic growth, USA, EU, alternative credit channels, credit risk, global banking, business failure, OECD, SIFI

This article was originally released on DaftBlogger.  

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Spring Thaw to Grow US Jobs

It was a hard winter in the US. For weeks on end massive weather fronts would creep across the continent spreading ice storms, howling blizzards and a polar vortex that brought frigid misery to large swaths of the Mid Atlantic States. It seemed winters assault would never end but seasons do change and as today's temperature nears 70 spring has arrived after all. 

Mark Zandie, Chief Economist for Moody’s used the springtime analogy in a recent note to describe the recovery of the US economy from the Great Recession. Zandie notes some emerging factors that are creating positive momentum for economic growth.
  • falling rate of short term unemployment signals workers are returning to the job market 
  • businesses are primed for expansion with strong balance sheets, consistent profits and favorable financial and market conditions
  • fiscal and regulatory uncertainty that weighed on confidence is slowly clearing up
Rising employment and greater workforce engagement is a powerful economic stimulus. More people receiving paychecks translates into the exponential growth of buying power. Retail, real estate, entertainment and hospitality industries are best positioned to benefit from the recovery. As economic health of these sectors improve, employment opportunities within these segments and ancillary industries will also expand. 

SMEs must anticipate the advent of this positive business cycle. Managers can best position their enterprises for growth by assessing what emerging market factors bear the greatest weight on their business. This allows managers to determine how to align operational capabilities with capital deployment initiatives that best address conflating market factors to serve business growth.

For example as recovery in the real estate market proceeds, new opportunities open in a multitude of related industries. The construction of high density affordable housing in urban areas is a powerful demand drivers that stimulate the need for LEED certified construction firms, inspectors, engineers, architects and building supply companies. Attorneys, CPAs, community banks, credit unions and other service providers are also beneficiaries from these emerging developments. 

As community development accelerates demand is stimulated for hospitality, grocers and numerous products and services designed to address the specific idiosyncrasies of a young urban buying demographic that is affluent and growing.  Is your firm ready to address emerging opportunities that emerging in your marketplace?

Turning business cycles create powerful macroeconomic risk factors that challenge SMEs. Rapidly changing market dynamics surface grave threats to complacent SMEs. Acute macro risk drivers force market players to compete for capital in realigning markets. SME’s must assess new macroeconomic risk factors to seize emerging opportunities. 

Get risk aware with Macroeconomic Risk and Event App (MERA) on Google Play; a Mobile Office app that runs on MS Office and Android. MERA helps SME's assess emerging risk factors to profit from the opportunities shifting markets present.

risk: Moody’s, Mark Zandi, sme lending, job creation, market dynamics, macroeconomic risk, credit risk, LEED compliant, real estate, unemployment

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Cost of Reputation Risk

I came across a great presentation on Reputation Risk from Martin Davies of Causal Capital. It outlined the many dimensions of this onerous corporate threat. It offered a definition, a list of risk factors, its impact on a company’s financial condition and proposed frameworks to mitigate its effects.

In the pantheon of risk factors, reputational risk is the classic riddle wrapped in a mystery. Its obtuse nature is due in part because it can spring from a multitude of internal and external factors. This makes predicting the occurrence of a reputational risk event difficult to assess and near impossible to quantify making ROI mitigation funding decisions a perplexing task. 

Reputation risk seems to loom as a phantom menace that inhabits the dismal swamp of innumerable asymmetric risk factors. Its appearance is rare but potentially catastrophic in nature because it strikes at the heart of brand value and corporate integrity. 

The dissolution of Arthur Andersen due to its failures to detect fraudulent business and accounting practices at Waste Management, Worldcom and Enron destroyed the firms reputation for honesty and integrity. Though some argue the cause of this spectacular corporate collapse was due to the contradictions of an attestation/consultancy business model, AA’s pattern of high profile failures in its attestation business made it impossible to continue in business as a firm with unimpeachable standards for audit and accountancy excellence. 

Though corporate dissolution is the worst case scenario resulting from a catastrophic reputational risk event, larger firms with the financial wherewithal and organizational resource to underwrite corporate resilience strategies are best positioned to overcome the severe shocks of a reputation risk event. Mitigation initiatives must be more than a PR exercise in damage control. Senior management must take ownership of the event and implement a strategy that allocates resources to the problem to assure stakeholders that an optimal return on capital employed will be realized to the benefit of a sustainable enterprise.

Though reputational risk seems to arise from a kismet of asymmetrical factors, which are difficult to foresee and nearly impossible to plan for due to the limitations of linear causation and factor biases of quantitative based risk models; reputational risk is best addressed by striving for GRC (governance, risk compliance) excellence throughout the corporate enterprise.

This is particularly important for SME’s who lack an expansive balance sheet, financial reserves and organizational resources to ride out and overcome the profound impact of a reputational risk event.

Quantification of reputation risk is difficult to measure. The cost of mitigation initiatives and the expected loss realized from a reputational risk event must be funded through the GRC culture of the enterprise. The above slide caught my attention because it graphically displays the impact of a reputational risk event on the equity value of a publically traded company. Though equity exchanges are good barometers to determine monetary impact of a risk event, the managers of privately owned firms are beholden to a different set of expectations of closely held corporate stakeholders. 

Amorphous performance standards of idiosyncratic investors, the close coupling of corporate goodwill, shareholder identification, corporate identity and product branding concentrates and magnifies the intensity of reputation risk. 

SMEs mitigate reputational risk factors by developing a vigilant GRC culture that encourages the engagement of all employees in the mission of the enterprise. In so doing, all company stakeholders are deputized as vigilant risk managers; all wholly invested in the protection of corporate goodwill and the creation of long term sustainable value of an extended enterprise. 

Sum2 believe this to be the case as well. Our clients engage risk as a daily cost of doing business. We design risk management products for small business managers that empower them to lower the odds and consequences of damaging risk events while positioning themselves to be the beneficiaries of opportunities changing market conditions produce. 

Get risk aware and protect your business with the S3 an SME Seismograph, a risk detector and an early warning and opportunity discovery app on Google Play. 

Risk: reputation, Arthur Andersen, sme, macro, catastrophic, Black Swans, facilities, business interruption, transportation, contagion risk, infrastructure risk, S3, GRC, Martin Davies, Causal Capital

Thursday, April 3, 2014

ADP Employment Report: Job Creation Marches On

Private-sector employment increased by 191,000 during the month of March, according to the latest ADP National Employment Report (NER) released yesterday. The NER suggests a steady, albeit uneven growth of nonfarm private employment since net job creation first turned positive during the first quarter of 2010. The pattern of rising employment gains, confirms signs of an accelerated economic recovery reinforced by a March report that is above the 12 month average. 

Though the report is an indicator of continued recovery, job growth forecasts for the month were closer to 205,000. As fears of a jobless recovery recede, the US economy has a long way to go before pre-recession employment levels are achieved. Full employment requires the economy to create over 200,000 jobs per month for 48 consecutive months to achieve pre-recession employment levels. The monthly average is well below that level; even though the unemployment rate has been trimmed to 6.6%. 

The March report is encouraging because it points to an accelerating pace of job creation. The post Christmas season employment surge represents a 70,000 job gain over January's anemic numbers. The service sector accounted for over 164,000 of the job gains. The manufacturing and goods producing sector combined to create 28,000 jobs. Construction offered confirmation of a tepid recovery in the housing market adding 20,000 jobs during the month. The construction industry has lost over 2.1 million jobs since its peak in 2008. 

The report also indicated that the five selected industry groups all reported positive job growth for the second consecutive month. The professional/business service sector was the strongest performer adding 54,000 jobs, followed by trade/transportation/utilities with 36,000 and financial services and manufacturing each adding 5,000 jobs. Job creation is welcomed for all sectors of the economy but sustainable economic growth can only be achieved by a robust turnaround in the goods producing and manufacturing sectors. Service sector jobs offer lower wages, tend to be highly correlated to retail consumer spending and positions are often transient in nature. Small and Mid-Sized Enterprises (SME) is where the highest concentration of service jobs are created and the employment figures bear that out with SMEs accounting for over 124,00 jobs created in March. 

Large businesses added 67,000 jobs during the month. The balance sheets of large corporations are strong. The great recession provided large corporates an opportunity to rationalize their business franchise with layoffs, consolidations and prudent cost management. Benign inflation, global market presence, favorable tax codes, outsourcing, low cost of capital and strong equity markets created ideal conditions for profitability and an improved capital structure. The balance sheets of large corporations continue to exceed $1 trillion in cash and it appears that large businesses are beginning to deploy this capital into job creating initiatives. 

The restructuring of the economy continues. The Federal Reserve Quantitative Easing program is ratcheting down. The capitalization of banks has grown considerably stronger with fewer bank failures and only Citibank failing the last round of FDIC stress testing. Most believe this will free more capital for loans to SMEs. This coupled with the emergence and development of nascent alternative credit channels bodes well for future job creation. 

Macroeconomic Factors: 

The principal macroeconomic factors confronting the economy are the continued widening of the wealth gap and the creation of low paying jobs. The unemployment rate continues to decline and signs of a recovering housing market are encouraging. Tax policy, fiscal stability of state and local governments and the underfunding of deteriorating civic infrastructure continue to vex economic recovery strategies. 

In the United States, as the 2014 election cycle proceeds, acute partisanship will undermine the political will to address recovery initiatives with legislative action. The Affordable Health Care Act (AHCA) is being implemented against a backdrop of continued partisan strife. The AHCA should drive long term economies in public health care. The goal of seven million program enrollments was achieved by the March 31 deadline. Enrollment levels confirms the pent up market demand for affordable health care. Going forward a nagging concern of the AHCA is the quality of the experience pool of enrollees and the consistent payment of monthly insurance premiums to fund the program. The complex rules for business participation in the program creates a level of uncertainty of how the AHCA will affect SMEs. 

Globally, political uncertainty in Eurasia is an emerging risk particularly for the European Community which is just beginning to emerge from its recession. The cooling of the BRICS as global economic drivers seems to have run its course as is the case with all commodity sensitive business cycles. China's GDP growth is expected to be 7%. This predicted modest growth will tamp down China's role as a principal driver of global growth. 

The volatility of global energy markets remain susceptible to the political stability of OPEC. Political instability in Venezuela and the disintermediation of Russian oil and natural gas supply to the EC may encourage the acceleration of NG , shale oil extraction and refining in North America. 

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has recently issued a report. The panel indicated that evidence is pointing to accelerated rates of climate change. Though climate change poses significant risk to political stability and economic growth, it also offers opportunities for governments, businesses and communities to engage in mitigation and adaptation initiatives with positive economic benefits. 

Political uncertainty tends to heighten risk aversion in credit markets. The emergence of the US and EC from the distress of the Great Recession and Global Credit Crisis has improved the conditions of global credit markets. Bank stabilization has grown opportunities for increase commercial lending to SMEs. The development of alternative credit channels like crowd funding, micro lending, asset financing is developing to the benefit of the global SME sector. 

Highlights of the ADP Report for March include: 

Private sector employment increased by 191,000 
Employment in the service-providing sector rose 164 ,000 
Employment in the goods-producing sector increased 28,000 
Employment in the manufacturing sector increased 5,000 
Construction employment increase 5,000 
Large businesses with 500 or more workers increased 67,000 
Medium-size businesses, between 50 and 499 workers increased 52,000 
Employment among small businesses less than 50 workers, increased 72,000 

Overview of Numbers: 

The 72,000 jobs created by the SME sectors represents over 65% of new job creation. Large businesses comprise approximately 20% of private sector employment and continues to underperform SMEs in post recession job creation. The strong growth of service sector though welcomed continues to mask the underperformance of the manufacturing sector. The 11 million manufacturing jobs comprise approximately 10% of the private sector US workforce. The 5 thousand jobs created during March accounted for 2.5% of new jobs. Considering the severely distressed condition and capacity utilization of the sector and the favorable conditions for export markets and cost of capital, the job growth of the sector appears extremely weak. The US economy is still in search of a driver. 

The stock market continues to perform well. The Fed taper of QE2 initiative seems to signal a change in fiscal policy principally focused on the troubling dynamics of inflation/deflationary pressures. The IMF forecasts a 2.8% GDP growth rate for the US. 

Interest rates have been at historic lows for four years and despite the QE2 taper adverse conditions in the credit market appear to be benign. The political crisis in the EU has settled down but the long term stability of the currency and European Federation are under severe attack by growing nationalist movements across the continent. 

As the price of agricultural commodities, water rights and food staples continue to trend upward The balance sheets of large corporate entities remain strong. The availability of distressed assets and market volatility has eased. Venture capital and private equity capital formation continues to drive premium asset valuations in numerous tech sectors encouraging business start ups and global entrepreneurship. 

Solutions from Sum2 

Sum2 offers a portfolio of risk assessment applications and consultative services to businesses, governments and non-profit organizations. Our leading product Credit Redi offers SMEs tools to manage financial health and improve corporate credit rating to manage enterprise risk and attract capital to fund initiatives to achieve business goals. Credit Redi helps SMEs improve credit standing to demonstrate creditworthiness to bankers and investors. On Google Play: Get Credit|Redi

Risk: unemployment, SME, China, EU, small business, QE, Federal Reserve, Citibank, stress testing, manufacturing, BRICS, fracking, inflation, service sector, micro lending, AHCA, Obamacare

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