Monday, July 21, 2014

How Deep is the Ocean? SME liquidity.

The crisis in the credit markets created some new American superheroes. Former Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner are fondly recalled as a dynamic duo who engaged the titanic struggle with the evil forces of inflation, stagflation, a weak dollar and dysfunctional credit markets. Their mission was is to keep the specter of a depression at bay. By all accounts they succeeded. For the time being.

Their weapon of choice was high octane capital swaps (Quantitative Easing I & II), a low interest generator and paper guarantee machine. The machine produces accelerated capital flows that pumped liquidity into credit channels faster than water surging over the Hoover Dam at the height of a Rocky Mountain snow melt. 

Just as the great Colorado River brings life and growth to the parched deserts of the American southwest so to is liquidity the essential condition to sustain the economic viability of a corporate enterprise. 

Liquidity concerns grow particularly close to the bone of small businesses (SME). Liquidity is their bread of life and SME must master the fine art of liquidity management. Unlike large corporations and governments, the ability of small businesses to print money, tap commercial paper markets, leverage or sell assets or engage in other forms of exotic balance sheet alchemy is limited. So at the end of the day, when the payroll is due, a key supplier is waiting by the receptionist for a check and your best sales person is doing her best to close that huge new deal your anxiety grows a bit as you ponder your cash position and begin to project the next three months. 

You call your local banker. You are a long standing and valued customer but “risk aversion” continues to creep into the discussion and they tell you that their funding sources have grown “risk averse” due to losses in the sub-prime mortgage market and finding new funding sources have been difficult. So for now at least the expansion of a credit facility with them is not an option.

You keep getting calls from those merchant finance companies that are offering short term loans but the prospect of paying usurious rates of 18%-30% on future credit card receivables will put a major dent in your profit margins. That makes this credit channel’s cost of operating capital prohibitively expensive.

That’s where risk management comes in. Many small business owners are masters at risk management. They are skilled entrepreneurs that put personal capital at risk. They got major skin into the game and that motivates them to continually evaluate how to protect their assets and maximize returns. Many small business owners are extremely gifted at leveraging assets to address opportunities. Assets such as economic capital, people, intellectual capital, suppliers, facilities and products are routinely utilized to enhance and extend liquidity. But as credit markets tighten all small businesses need to become more aware of preserving liquidity. This can be accomplished by incorporating a few simple risk management practices.

A good place to start is to make sure your systems and business processes are optimized to support efficiency. Many of the traditional cash management techniques are well known. Small business accounting software and the availability of internet banking tools are a great help to small businesses. These tools help to extend and manage payment cycles, match assets to liabilities and a good banker will help you develop specific strategies and practices to address these issues and improve your cash position. 

Another area to consider is to arbitrage credit providers. Obviously this tactic works great during times of enhanced liquidity but credit channels are still vibrant and the market is crowed with numerous providers and products. Though it is true that as more participants enter markets they tend to become more efficient resulting in small spreads the volatility of the credit markets can work to your advantage. If you can replace a line of merchant finance credit with a bank offered facility you will increase your margins by the spread of the savings. 

Sources of capital leakage from the company are a major threat to liquidity. Small business managers must be aware of how to assess this risk factor and how to minimize potential damage it can cause. By “leakage” of enterprise capital we mean to suggest that capital invested by the business did not create an acceptable rate of return. A concerted approach to assessing and managing risk factors preserves liquidity, builds equity and a strong balance sheet. 

The principal villains that contribute to capital leakage are poor cash management and inappropriate, non-prioritized or misdirected capital allocation initiatives. These initiatives are acquisitions or projects requiring the investment of time, money, personal energy and corporate resource that do not produce an acceptable rate of return. 

Small businesses need to incorporate opportunity cost in determining ROI on business initiatives. This is because a small business must limit the number of projects it can engage. It must be certain that current projects will build greater value for the business then the project it declined to pursue. An understanding of value at risk (VaR) is also a useful metric to determine what initiative or project will mitigate the greatest risk and produce the greatest return on capital expenditures. 

Risk assessment is a powerful opportunity discovery exercise that requires intentionality and discipline. Many small business owners do these assessments in their head and make decisions based on gut feeling or intuition. An opportunity discovery methodology that walks you through an objective assessment of risk factors is a wonderful complement to the fine tuned business instinct of the small business owner.

Lastly, small businesses need to focus on their most profitable products, best clients and key suppliers within their most promising markets. This may seem obvious but many businesses are reluctant to alter their business models to accommodate this blatant reality. Inertia, culture and ego are the principle culprits and ironically clients, products, suppliers and markets pose some of the greatest risks to small businesses.

It is true that a rising tide lifts all boats. We have just experienced one of the greatest economic expansions in the history of the global economy. It’s been a great run. But the party is over. The era of an unending flow of easy credit and cheap capital is over for now. Until happy days return again we must adapt and protect our solvency through effective liquidity management practices. During times of economic uncertainty and distress it’s a great opportunity to build financial health through effective risk management because when the tide goes out the rudderless businesses captained by poor stewards will crash upon the rocks and get beached on unforeseen shoals or sink into the depths of the unforgiving briny deep.

Get liquid and stay liquid with CreditRedi.
How can I tell you what is in my heart?
How can I measure each and every part?
How can I tell you how much I love you?
How can I measure just how much I do?

How much do I love you?
I'll tell you no lie
How deep is the ocean?
How high is the sky?
How many times a day do I think of you?
How many roses are sprinkled with dew?

How far would I travel
To be where you are?
How far is the journey
From here to a star?

And if I ever lost you
How much would I cry?
How deep is the ocean?
How high is the sky?
Lyrics from How Deep Is the Ocean?

Irving Berlin

risk: #sme, #metasme, #smeiot, #liquidity, #capitalallocation, #optimization, #riskassessment #profitoptimizer

The Yin and Yang of Inflation

Inflation like all risk is a double edge sword. Its negative nature will upset the apple cart and pose uncomfortable challenges for SME managers that have grown accustomed to the status quo. 

It will force managers to reconsider their well conceived business plans and perhaps more closely scrutinize this quarters P&L or the company balance sheet. It will present serious challenges for businesses supply chain and client relationships. It may raise the eyebrows of your shareholders and credit providers perhaps provoking some pointed questions concerning your management skills and the validity of your business model.

That said inflation does have an upside. Like all risk factors it has the potential to create opportunities. Inflation will drastically alter market conditions. It will reveal inefficiencies that nimble SME can actively engage and manage to turn those market conditions to their advantage. The key operative words are management, intentionality and active engagement. 

Inflation is a silent killer. It stalks all SME threatening to gobble up product margins, revenue opportunities and bottom line profits. It diminishes customer buying power and may threaten the solvency of large customers and suppliers. It drives up the cost of capital, making credit more expensive while it forces state and local governments to raise taxes and fees. 

The inflation bogey man lurks in the profit and loss statements of all businesses with SME being particularly vulnerable to its effect. Inflation dramatically shows itself on the expense side of the ledger in the increases for basic materials, energy, delivery services, T&E, administrative expenses and employee benefits. Inflation also affects the income side of the profit loss statement. It erodes the buying power of your customers and threatens collection of receivables by extending days outstanding, increased write offs or the sale of uncollected debt for pennies on the dollar.

SME profitability is particularly sensitive to the effects of inflation because of economies of scale, concentration of risk factors and lack of pricing power.

Many SME lack pricing power. Pricing power suggests that if price of a product rises to a certain level demand for that product will not diminish. For a SME to have pricing power it must offer value add product to dependent buyers. Its product or service cannot be easily replicated or widely available from other sources. 

While pricing power escapes most SME numerous factors inhibit their ability to become low cost producers. They deliver product or service differentiation to their customers by other means then low price. Inflation erodes consumer purchasing power driving buyers to seek low cost producers. In this environment SME may suffer when buyers trade down to low cost providers. Key customers may compel SME to lower prices to be more in line with lower cost producers. This is a major threat to SME. 

SME tend to have greater risk concentration in their business model. Heightened risk concentrations are most pronounced in small businesses due to a limited product line, geographical risk, market cyclicality and in client and supply chain relationships. Consider a small manufacturer of finished steel products for the home construction industry. Generally, manufactures profitability is highly correlated to the price it pays for basic commodities and has an extremely high concentration of supply chain and product risk. Small businesses may not be able to recover or adjust its product prices to cover increased commodity prices due to existing contractual agreements with customers or its lack of pricing power. The abatement of market demand due to a recession may provoke larger customers to demand price concessions by threatening to move their business to lower cost producers. The pressure on this small manufacturer is compounded by a spike of smaller account losses and moribund demand due to weak cyclical market conditions in its target market. 

It’s almost a perfect storm of negative business conditions. Small businesses managers need to understand how inflation touches all aspects of their business and must manage its impact to maintain profitability and sustainable growth.

Managing Inflation Risk with a WIN Campaign

SME can meet the challenge of inflation head on by implementing a Whip Inflation Now (WIN) program that engages the numerous risks inflation poses. In deference to our former President Gerald Ford, business managers can initiate WIN Programs and actions to temper the impact of inflation and to seize opportunities that rapidly changing market conditions create. Small businesses must be extra vigilant and proactive in managing all classes of business risks.

Some small businesses will cave into the demands of their large accounts to cut prices to prevent them from going to a lower cost provider. This is very dangerous for small businesses and can result in “death by a thousand cuts.” Managers should not wait for their largest account to approach them seeking price concessions. Now is the perfect time to go on the offensive and alter the value proposition that only your firm can uniquely deliver to key accounts. Remember your largest accounts are experiencing the negative effects of inflation as well. Go to them and propose a WIN Campaign. 

A company’s WIN Campaign can offer a joint marketing program using advanced web enabled technologies.  Your WIN Campaign can implement an expanded training and support program tied to a business development program or supply chain rationalization. You may suggest a partnership to develop a new product or put in place a customer loyalty program. Your job is to create a unique value proposition that adds value to your product and convey it to your customer so they cannot commoditize your product. Together you and your clients can WIN the fight against inflation and turn it into a business development initiative. Your clients will appreciate the fact that you are thinking about their business success.

Another common knee jerk reaction to fight rising business costs is to reduce expenses by cutting expenditures on areas that do not support the mission critical functions of the business. Capital is allocated to maintain funding to support sales, production and product delivery. This is coupled with a lean administrative management structure and this model is seen as a recipe for economic survival. Being good stewards of corporate capital is essential during these times. Capital leakage is always a threat to business profitability and needs to be even more diligently managed during times of economic duress. But this strategy is a subsistence survival strategy. It is based on investing the barest minimum of capital to address fluctuating market conditions. This strategy may limit small businesses ability to literally capitalize on opportunities that changing market conditions present. 

Cutting expenses for marketing is usually another budget casualty when businesses look to cut costs. This will reduce your current expense line for this quarter and will certainly help bottom line profitability; but skipping this year’s trade show will not help you to locate that new customer who is looking for a supplier because his current provider is struggling with product quality issues. Cutting this expense won’t provide you with the critical insights you need to stay competitive and ahead of new market entrants that are attending trade shows. Who by the way are also aggressively courting your largest account to get just a tiny slice of your business to demonstrate their “superior value proposition.” 

Employee benefits and training is another area that is often the focus of budgetary cutbacks. Many SME need to closely consider the gains they will realize by cutting back on benefits offered to its employees. Cutting benefits could increase employee turnover. Training and hiring new employees are an expensive proposition for SME. The loss of key employees can potentially devastate a small business. Expertise, intellectual capital and critical business intelligence leaves the organization when a key employee walks out the door. This is doubly true if some key employees leave the firm and walk some major client relationships out the door with them.

SME can also try to employ risk transfer strategies. Insurance purchases may help in some areas but to fight inflation small businesses can use financial instruments (capital permitting) to hedge against rising prices. The purchase of TIPs, FX forward contracts, commodity or energy futures can help to offset the negative effects of key inflation business threats. As the price of oil rose this summer a modest equity position in oil or other energy company would have helped to offset the increase in energy expenses.

Thankfully adverse economic conditions will force SME to take an honest look at their product lines and business model. Economic adversity provides an opportunity for management to make hard decisions concerning product lines. This is an ideal time to focus and fund the development of products that offer the greatest potential for long term profitability and sustainable growth.

Inflation is a significant problem for small businesses but it is a problem that can be managed. Changing economic conditions alter the landscape for all businesses that accelerate and starkly reveal market inefficiencies. These inefficiencies create market anomalies and opportunities that astute small business owners and managers can capitalize on through an intentional practice of a risk management and opportunity discovery program.

Sum2’s objective is to assist clients to implement corporate sound practices that enhance profitability and sustainable growth. Sum2’s offers a wide stable of risk management apps for SME.  The Macroeconomic Risk Assessment App helps managers review macroeconomic and event risks to better manage its potential effect on their business. Sum2 offers a Macroeconomic Risk App and can be downloaded from Google Play or by visiting or by calling us at 973.287.7535.

risk: #sme, #inflation, #macroeconomic, #supplychain #office365, #mobileoffice, #metasme, #smeiot #eventrisk, #marketrisk, #WIN, #sum2 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Big Data for a Small World: SMEIoT

The world is a great big database and algorithmic wizards and mad data scientists are burning the midnight oil to mine the perplexing infinities of ubiquitous data points. Their goal is to put data to use to facilitate better governance, initiate pinpoint marketing campaigns, pursue revelatory academic research and improve the quality of service public agencies deliver to protect and serve communities. The convergence of Big Data, Cloud Computing and the Internet of Things (IoT) make this possible.
The earth is the mother of all relational databases. It’s six billion inhabitants track many billions of real time digital footprints across the face of the globe each and every day. Some footprints are readily apparent and easy to see. Facebook likes, credit card transactions, name and address lists, urgent Tweets and public records sparkle like alluvial diamonds; all easily plucked by data aggregators and sold to product marketers at astonishing profit margins. Other data points are less apparent, hidden or derived in the incessant hum of the ever listening, ever recording global cybersphere. These are the digital touch points we knowingly and unknowingly create with our interactions with the world wide web and the machines that live there.
It is estimated that there is over 20 billion smart machines that are fully integrated into our lives. These machines stay busy creating digital footprints; adding quantitative context to the quality of the human condition. EZ Passes, RFID tags, cell phone records, location tracking, energy meters, odometers, auto dashboard idiot lights, self diagnostic fault tolerant machines, industrial process controls, seismographic, air and water quality apparatuses and the streaming CBOT digital blips flash the milliseconds of a day in the life of John Q. Public. Most sentient beings pay little notice, failing to consider that someone somewhere is planting the imprints of our daily lives in mammoth disk farms. The webmasters, data engineers and information scientists are collecting, collating, aggregating, scoring and analyzing these rich gardens of data to harvest an accurate psychographic portrait of modernity.
The IoT is the term coined to describe the new digital landscape we inhabit. The ubiquitous nature of the internet, the continued rationalization of the digital economy into the fabric of society and the absolute dependency of daily life upon it, require deep consideration how it impacts civil liberties, governance, cultural vibrancy and economic well being.
The IoT is the next step in the development of the digital economy. By 2025 it is estimated that IoT will drive $6 Trillion in global economic activity. This anoints data and information as the loam of the modern global economy; no less significant than the arrival of discrete manufacturing at the dawn of industrial capitalism.
The time may come when a case may be made that user generated data is a commodity and should be considered a public domain natural resource; but today it is the province of digirati shamans entrusted to interpret the Rosetta Stones, gleaning deep understanding of the current reality while deriving high probability predictive futures. IoT is one of the prevailing drivers of global social development.

There is another critical economic and socio-political driver of the global economy. Small Mid-Sized Enterprises (SME) are the cornerstone of job creation in developed economies. They form the bedrock of subsistence and economic activity in lesser developed countries (LDC). They are the dynamic element of capitalism. SME led by courageous risk takers are the spearhead of capital formation initiatives. Politicians, bureaucrats and business pundits extol their entrepreneurial zeal and hope to channel their youthful energy in service to local and national political aspirations. The establishment of SME is a critical macroeconomic indicator of a country's economic health and the wellspring of social wealth creation.
The World Bank/ IFC estimates that over 130 million registered SME inhabit the global economy. The definition of an SME varies by country. Generally an SME and MSME (Micro Small Mid Sized Enterprises) are defined by two measures, number of employees or annual sales. Micro enterprises are defined as employing less than 9 employees, small up to 100 employees and medium sized enterprises anywhere from 200 to 500 employees. Defining SMEs by sales scale in a similar fashion.
Every year millions of startup businesses replace the millions that have closed. The world’s largest economy United States boasts over 30 million SME and every year over one million small businesses close. The EU and OECD countries report similar statistics of the preponderance of SME and numbers of business closures.
The SME is a dynamic non homogeneous business segment. It is highly diverse in character, culture and business model heavily colored by local influence and custom. SME is overly sensitive to macroeconomic risk factors and market cyclicality. Risk is magnified in the SME franchise due to high concentration of risk factors. Over reliance on a limited set of key clients or suppliers, product obsolescence, competitive pressures, force majeure events, key employee risk, change management and credit channel dependencies are glaring risk factors magnified by business scale and market geographics.
In the United States, during the banking crisis the Federal Reserve was criticized for pursuing policies that favored large banking and capital market participants while largely ignoring SME. To mitigate contagion risk, The Federal Reserve quickly acted to pump liquidity into the banking sector to buttress the capital structure of SIFI (Systemically Important Financial Institutions). It was thought that a collateral benefit would be the stimulation of SME lending. This never occurred as SBA backed loans nosedived. Former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner implemented the TARP and TALF programs to further strengthen the capital base of distressed banks as former Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke pursued Quantitative Easing to transfer troubled mortgage backed securities onto Uncle Sams balance sheet to relieve financial institutions of these troubled assets. Some may argue that President Obama’s The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) helped the SME sector. The $800 billion stimulus was one third tax cuts, one third cash infusion to local governments and one third capital expenditures aimed at shovel ready infrastructure improvement projects. The scale of the ARRA was minuscule as compared to support rendered to banks and did little to halt the deteriorating macroeconomic conditions of the collapsing housing market, ballooning unemployment and rising energy prices severely stressing SME.
The EU offered no better. As the PIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Greece, Spain) economies collapsed the European Central Bank forced draconian austerity measures on national government expenditures undermining key SME market sensitivities. On both sides of the Atlantic, the perception of a bifurcated central banking policy that favored TBTF Wall Street over the needs of an atomized SME segment flourished. The wedge between the speculative economy of Wall Street and the real economy on Main Street remains a festering wound.
In contrast to the approach of western central bankers, Asian Tigers, particularly Singapore have created a highly supportive environment for the incubation and development of SME. Banks offer comprehensive portfolios of financial products and SME advisory services. Government legislative programs highlight incubation initiatives linked to specific industry sectors. Developed economies have much to learn from these SME friendly market leaders.
The pressing issues concerning net neutrality, ecommerce tax policies, climate change and the recognition of Bitcoin as a valid commercial specie are critical developments that goes to the heart of a healthy global SME community. These emerging market events are benevolent business drivers for SME and concern grows that legislative initiatives are being drafted to codify advantages for politically connected larger enterprises.
Many view this as a manifestation of a broken political system, rife with protections of large well financed politically connected institutions. Undermining these entrenched corporate interests is the ascending digital paradigm promising to dramatically alter business as usual politics. Witness the role of social media in the Arab Spring, Barack Obama’s 2008 election or the decapitalization of the print media industry as clear signals of the the passing away of the old order of things. Social networking technologies and the democratization of information breaks down the ossified monopolies of knowledge access. These archaic ramparts are being gleefully overthrown by open collaborative initiatives leveling the playing field for all market participants.
This is where SMEIoT neatly converges. To effectively serve an efficient market, transparency and a contextual understanding of its innate dynamics are critical preconditions to market participation. The incubation of SME and the underwriting of capital formation initiatives from a myriad of providers will occur as information standards provide a level of transparency that optimally aligns risk and investment capital. SMEIoT will provide the insights to the sector for SME to grow and prosper while industry service providers engage SME within the context of a cooperative economic non-exploitative relationship.
This series will examine SME and how IoT will serve to transform and incubate the sector. We'll examine the typology of the SME ecosystem, its risk characteristics and features. We’ll propose a metadata framework to model SME descriptors, attributes, risk factors and a scoring methodology. We’ll propose an SME portal, review the mission of Big Data and its indispensable role to create cooperative economic frameworks within the SME ecosystem. Lastly we’ll review groundbreaking work social scientists, legal scholars and digital frontier activists are proposing to address best governance practices and ethical considerations of Big Data collection, the protection of privacy rights, informed consent, proprietary content and standards of accountability.
SMEIoT coalesces at the intersection of social science, commerce and technology. History has aligned SMEIot building blocks to create the conditions for this exciting convergence. Wide participation of government agencies, academicians, business leaders, scientists and ethicists will be required to make pursuit of this science serve the greatest good.


This is the first in a series of articles on Big Data and SMEIoT . It originally appeared in Daftblogger eJournal. Next piece in series is scheduled to appear on Daftblogger eJournal within the next two weeks.
#smeiot #metasme #sum2llc #sme #office365 #mobileoffice #TARP #capitalformation #IoT #internetofthings #OECD #TBTF #Bitcoin #psychographics #smeportals #bigdata #informedconsent

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Enhanced Qualitative Risk Assessment for Micro-finance Lending

Many lenders base their small and mid-size enterprise (SME) lending decisions on quantitative credit scoring methods and models. Quantitative credit scoring is an efficient means to evaluate borrower’s creditworthiness and to effectively price credit products. It provides accurate predictive metrics of a borrower’s future ability to meet debt obligations based on past experience. 

In the micro-finance segment determining a credit score is difficult if not impossible. Lack of financial data due to limited business history, the inability to capture and articulate financial data or its non existence hinder transparency and make credit decisioning by lenders difficult. 

In the absence of credit scoring metrics, lenders need to rely on qualitative methods to weigh credit risk and determine the creditworthiness of a micro-finance borrower. 

Even with larger SME’s product markets and a company’s financial health can change direction seemingly overnight. Rapid changes in technology, capital market shifts and geopolitical and demographic risk factors are heightened and accelerated in today’s global economy. SME are impacted by these risk factors and commercial lenders should consider how well an SME is prepared to meet these mounting challenges. That is why bankers need to consider qualitative business risk factors in the credit decisioning process. 

An effective qualitative risk assessment program targets six critical aspects of the micro business enterprise. Those six business aspects are: 
  • Company’s Product and Market Dynamics 
  • A Risk Assessment of Business Functions 
  • Review of Critical Success Factors 
  • Optimized Business Plan 
  • Capital Allocation 
  • Realistic Projections 
Managers and owners of micro-finance enterprises must demonstrate to their banker how they have assessed these risks in their franchise. They must also articulate to lenders how their governance structure manages these risks and how their business plan will leverage capital to transform these risks into opportunities for growth and profitability.

Commercial lenders can feel safe in the assurance that owners and managers who can answer to these questions are the type of client the bank wants as customers. 

Risk: #micro-finance #sme #smerisk #smeiot #metasme #creditrisk #creditscoring

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

2014 Regulatory Changes Impact SMEs

Accounting Today lists nine key regulatory changes identified by Paychex that could have a significant impact on Small Mid-Sized Enterprises (SME). 

 Many SME’s hope to fly under the radar when it comes to regulatory compliance issues. With the drive toward greater transparency and governance practices required by regulators and corporate stakeholders, SMEs must adopt better engagement strategies to incorporate regulatory mandates into the enterprise. 

Regulatory compliance initiatives need not be a check the box exercise. SME’s dedicated to a best practices regimen incorporate regulatory compliance initiatives as an opportunity to implement improvements in operational and governance practices. SME’s committed to a culture of continuous improvement use regulatory mandates to integrate requirements into sound practices as central pillars of effective governance, risk, compliance (GRC) program.

Sound practices are a set of standards and controls that mitigate numerous risk factors in the corporate enterprise. Sound practices address corporate governance, operational and market risk factors, regulatory compliance, corporate citizenship, and stakeholder communications within a set of defined expense ratios. Market leading SME’s effectively ascertain emerging regulatory initiatives to optimize operations to enhance competitive position. 

The Paychex list notes the Affordable Healthcare Act, Defence of Marriage Act, Minimum Wage legislation, Immigration and E-Verify, IRS focus on Revenue Recognition, Retirement Programs, Employment Regulations, Privacy Rights and Data Security, Mobile Technology and Bank regulations. These emerging regulatory concerns need to be thoroughly assessed to determine how they can be incorporated into the company’s business model to create a new and improved value proposition for clients, employees and stakeholders.

A STEEPLE analysis is a useful tool to determine how these emerging issues will impact the SME business model. STEEPLE is an acronym for Social, Technological, Economic, Environmental, Political, Legal and Emerging Risk factors confronting the business. A STEEPLE analysis is fully incorporated into Sum2’s S3 app.

Sound practices require that regulatory compliance programs be embraced as a brand building exercise. Corporations that approach compliance by implementing best practice solutions will mitigate reputational and regulatory risk, attract high end clientele, and command premium product margins.

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: regulatory, tax, emerging risk, GRC, S3, STEEPLE, AHCA, Defence of Marriage Act, Card Check, Immigration and E-Verify, Minimum Wage, Accounting Today, IRS, Paychex, STEEPLE

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 of 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