Risk & Economy » FX » Currency risk management shouldn’t be a CFO’s main priority

Currency risk management shouldn’t be a CFO’s main priority

CFOs must adopt proactive and strategic measures to manage the impact of these exposures and ensure they do not become a problem requiring inordinate attention and investment of time.

Entering 2024, Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) are facing an increasingly complex global financial landscape. Geopolitical tensions are becoming ever more prevalent and volatile; global supply chains are being disrupted in the Red Sea, the Russia-Ukraine war continues to endure and the recent Middle East conflict all present inescapable risks to economic stability.

In the year ahead, FX will absorb the ramifications of the biggest electoral year ever, with some 40% of the world’s population going to the polls from the USA to Russia, India to South Africa and beyond. Any CFOs managing international transactions, or a global portfolio, must learn to navigate this terrain to minimise their own risks.

While managing FX risk can be complex, it needn’t be a priority for CFOs. With these geopolitical tensions rising, it’s paramount that businesses and their CFOs have the right processes in place to minimise impacts before it becomes too late.

A recent survey by Argentex underscores a pivotal challenge in currency risk management: a lack of visibility. This issue manifests through a labyrinth of data sources, a patchwork of suppliers, and cumbersome processes that obscure a CFO’s view of their foreign exchange (FX) exposures. It’s a challenge that goes beyond simply gathering data; it’s about distilling actionable insights from that data to inform strategic decisions.

Yet given the prevalent challenge the lack of visibility brings, the survey also revealed a concerning trend whereby only a minority of CFOs regularly stress-test their FX exposure (48% on a weekly or more frequent basis), and even fewer engage in scenario modelling (47%). This gap in risk management practices leaves businesses vulnerable to the whims of the currency market, as many have learned the hard way when unexpected exchange rate shifts impact their balance sheets.

Taking a proactive approach

CFOs must adopt proactive and strategic measures to manage the impact of these exposures and ensure they do not become a problem requiring inordinate attention and investment of time. A sound FX hedging strategy should be defined well in advance, and it should be crafted in collaboration with specialists who bring a deep understanding of the complex currency market dynamics.

This collaboration is not just about choosing the right hedging instruments; it’s about knowing precisely when and how to employ them to the company’s advantage.

The movements of currency markets can have an acute effect on a company’s profitability. Therefore, it is imperative for CFOs to refine their currency risk management strategies before they are caught off guard by unplanned for scenarios. Proactive optimisation of these strategies is not merely a defensive manoeuvre; it is an initiative that can help safeguard an organisation from the adverse effects of currency fluctuations and allow for sustained growth in a volatile market.

The path forward involves a combination of technology, expertise and foresight. Advanced analytics and forecasting tools can provide the real-time data and predictive insights necessary for CFOs to act swiftly and confidently.

Partnering with FX specialists can offer the nuanced guidance required to navigate market complexities. And a forward-looking mindset will ensure that currency risk management is not just a reactive task but a strategic pillar of the organisation’s financial health.

Most businesses seek to maximise profit by maintaining high margins. FX scenario modelling seeks to support this objective and helps firms achieve their intended financial goals. Modelling different scenarios will predict how changing currency rates affect profit margins and how different hedging strategies will manage the impact of these fluctuations.

Consequently, it allows CFOs and Treasurers to take appropriate measures to hedge against possible risks, achieve their desired profit margins, and potential opportunity gains.

With more uncertainty ahead, CFOs must recognise the critical importance of visibility in their currency risk management strategies. By undertaking regular stress tests, engaging in scenario modelling and collaborating with currency market experts, CFOs can transform their approach from one of vulnerability to one of strength without compromising their main priorities.

To understand in greater detail how to negotiate this economic environment, read the 2024 FX Navigator, here

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