The Dynamics of Netting Eric Cohen, PwC - Bruno Lopes, PwC - 3 Oct 2013 Netting, a liquidity management tool for managing commercial flows, is typically used by multinationals that generate large volumes of intercompany invoices in multiple currencies. Multilateral netting, the process most commonly-used by large organizations, is examined in detail by this article. How useful was this article? (5=high) 5 10737474322 ctl00_cph_main_c /WorkArea/ /WorkArea/image 0 Average 2.5 out of 5 Share Share on emailShare on printShare on linkedinShare on twitterShare on facebookShare on googleMore Sharing Services </body> From the several netting alternatives large multinational companies (MNCs) have at their disposal to net their internal trade and financial flows, the most commonly-used by large corporates is multilateral netting. This is a process whereby companies establish a central entity that becomes a party to all intercompany transactions, thus eliminating the need for multiple bilateral transaction flows. The participants in this process are typically internal (subsidiaries), but in some cases can also be external (for example, third-party suppliers). Specifically, the multilateral payments between participating entities are consolidated, offset and then reduced to a single transaction to and from each participating entity via the centralised netting centre. Few other processes provide the possibility for a treasury department to quickly obtain such significant savings for the overall organisation. Multilateral netting is typically a process that provides scalable benefits to those companies that have large inter-company flows in multiple currencies. As an illustrative example, in a company with 100 subsidiaries there is the potential to have 9,900 inter-company flows between subsidiaries. With a netting centre and 100 participating companies in the netting process, this is reduced to a maximum of 100 flows. While netting is not a new concept - some large corporates fully implemented their netting process years ago - many companies have yet to implement a netting programme. Although the benefits of this process are clear, the main factors commonly cited by companies as reasons for not implementing a netting programme include: Tax and regulatory constraints; for example for many companies it is complex to determine which flows can be netted across businesses and to address local country regulatory requirements and restrictions around netting. Decentralised corporate culture may result in a lack of willingness by subsidiaries to participate in the multilateral netting process. The cost and resources required to implement the process and technology enablers of an effective netting programme. The benefits Notwithstanding the challenges noted above, in our experience the benefits of implementing a multilateral netting programme can be compelling. In addition, some of the market changes over the last few years (such as the development of internetbased netting solutions and balance netting), has kept multilateral netting as a high priority in the treasurer’s agenda. In general, the benefits that companies experience from implementing a multilateral netting process includes: Reduced bank costs, due to fewer fund transfers, a lower number of foreign currency accounts required and savings on foreign exchange (FX) spreads, volumes and commissions. Reduced operational risk associated with manual and decentralised intercompany settlement processes. Increase in transparency to settlements, as netting can assist in increasing visibility to inter-company payments and providing greater predictability in cash flows. Increase in process efficiencies, by minimising fund requests and potentially the number of manual wire transfers. In practice, the most significant quantifiable benefit is the reduction in number of FX trades that have to be executed and the ability to hedge this consolidated currency exposure. For example, instead of each individual subsidiary having to execute foreign currency exchange transactions to settle its own payables, with a netting solution each entity would only have one cash flow (payable or receivable) in its own currency and the foreign currency execution is then typically centralised within the netting centre. From a risk management perspective, a growing number of companies have been centralising their FX exposure at a regional level or global level through a central entity that invoices the subsidiaries in their local currency. This allows the company to hedge the residual net position externally at the netting centre versus hedging each exposure at the entity level. The establishment of a netting centre enables treasury to potentially establish a hedge contract that will offset the net inter-company exposures on the same maturity date as the netting cycle settlement. In addition, as the multilateral netting process evolves, the benefits that MNCs can obtain by implementing a multilateral netting process can be enhanced by further integrating multilateral netting and cash management. Specifically, the integration of the netting centre with an in-house bank (IHB) enables the company to settle the netting transactions without the physical movement of funds. Implementation Considerations The main consideration for implementing a multilateral netting process depends on the strategy and vision of the company's overall treasury organisation. In situations where the implementation of multilateral netting is part of an integrated treasury roadmap for improvement, there is more flexibility on the implementation options (i.e. technology and linkage with cash management) than in scenarios in which a company implements this process apart from other cash management initiatives. Although the basics of a netting centre implementation can be easily grasped, there are still many organisations that face practical issues during the implementation. In most cases, these are related to the non-standardisation of the existing underlying processes and infrastructure, and to the particular aspects of some of the flows. Factors such as the number of enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, chart of accounts, geographic location of entities and degree of corporate centralisation are important elements that determine the complexity of the implementation. A key question to consider in developing a netting programme is whether the company should outsource the multilateral netting to a bank or a third-party provider or should run the process in-house. In general, it is important to understand the following trade-offs when making the selection of the infrastructure to assist with the multilateral netting process: Ease of deployment: Outsourcing outsourcing the multilateral netting to a bank or a specialised netting provider typically provides an easier and more rapid deployment versus leveraging an in-house ERP or treasury management system (TMS), due to the need in the latter case to configure these systems. Functionality provided: Although in general all options provide good baseline service offerings, third-party ERP modules, or TMS solutions are more flexible and scalable and tailored to the company’s specific requirements - for example TMS allows users to meet specific requirements including to add a netting centre margin for the services provided. Integration with existing systems (e.g. ERP, TMS): While the ERP modules may offer less robust netting functionality (such as workflow around invoice disputes and escalation) than their TMS alternatives, the ERP module is typically easier to integrate with existing inter-company/payment systems. Cost of implementation and maintenance: Although cost is the hardest component to compare - given the different functionality across the alternative solutions - typically as transactions grow companies prefer to internalise the process to reduce costs and gain flexibility. Flexibility: third-party ERP modules or TMS solutions provide more flexibility to accommodate specific company requirements as compared to implementing a bank solution (such as alternatives for the company to direct their FX trading to the bank offering the best quote). In order to manage the implementation resource requirements and risk, it is common for companies to adopt a phased approach that focuses on rolling-out multilateral netting - first by country and regions and later at a global level. This progressive approach can also be applied to the scope of payments within the netting process. Typically the netting process starts with the inter-company trade flows; at a later stage, inter-company financial flows and third-party payables and receivables may be added. In cases where a company has many subsidiaries across different territories that have accounts payables towards the same third-party, the inclusion of third-party payables in the netting process is a key enabler to reduce the number of cross-border transfers. This can be achieved by netting the flows with the third-party and then having a local entity process the payment (or, if available, the IHB may use a local account to process the payment) on behalf of the obligor. The third-party receivables, due to lower predictability around the timing of settlement, are less commonly included in the netting process. As the process becomes more mature, companies may also begin to reduce the netting period; for example running the netting cycle on a weekly basis, rather than monthly. Running the netting cycle on a more frequent basis can be important in decreasing the horizon of some outstanding foreign currency exposures - such as intercompany accounts payable or accounts receivable (AP/AR) - included in the netting cycle. Finally, for those companies with the most evolved multilateral netting processes, leading and lagging are two techniques that are applied to leverage the netting centre to achieve additional liquidity management benefits. Leading and lagging are techniques employed in accelerating cross-border payments to fund cash-poor subsidiaries, and to adjusting the timing of payments and receipts to take advantage of expected currency movements. In practice, these are sophisticated techniques that enable the company to leverage the netting centre to both enhance overall liquidity management and optimise its management of foreign currency risk. As corporate treasurers continue to focus on ways to better manage liquidity and foreign currency risk, reduce transaction costs and improve controls through automation of manual processes, multilateral netting should be a focus point for treasury and finance to further add value to their organisation.