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Cash management needs urgent reform

Companies suffering from suppliers demanding early invoice payments and a lack of credit amid a recession across most Western economies should use this time of increased pressure to review the way they manage their working capital, a report from KPMG has said.

The report found many companies had slack visibility and control of their
cash flow.This had impacted their ability to manage the knock-on effects of
recession and seizure in the credit markets.

Just 14% of more than 500 chief financial officers across the UK, Europe and
the US surveyed said their cash forecasts were on target over the last 12
months, because there is a disconnect between the metrics used by finance
functions for forecasting and the way divisions across a business work out their
own predictions. In times of financial strain, this slows down the process of
effective capital management and puts the business in greater danger of
suffering from cash shortage.

“Though the credit crunch may not feel like a blessing for finance
departments, it does present an opportunity to push through reforms to how
companies manage their working capital,”
says. “With cash in short supply, now is the time to consider
installing the processes and procedures to sustain improvements to working
capital performance over the longer term.”

Squeezing clients
In its study, KPMG said that about 90% of respondents said that suppliers were
demanding early payment on invoices as a result of the credit crunch and that
33% of those claimed there was a seriously adverse effect on their business. A
further 35% said their customers were delaying payment of bills which was also
very damaging to them. About half of respondents said they had recently
renegotiated payment terms with their suppliers to get more time to hand cash

The need to squeeze clients and extend payment terms with creditors was a
result of companies paying less attention to their cash management processes in
good times, the Big Four firm added.

“Once normality returns, and credit is available again, the temptation will
be to revert back to bad habits. The task for many finance departments in the
years ahead will be to try to ensure that doesn’t happen,” the report warns.
“The key is to attend fastidiously to detail ­ to the processes, policies and
people that define cash and working capital performance.”

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