We’re living in a volatile economic environment with a landscape on its way toward a slowdown. This can mean uncertainty for your business, but there are ways to mitigate the risk. Managing, allocating, and preserving your cash is important to stay ahead. Taking advantage of technology and leveraging data science to look at the trends of your customers, regions, and different emerging countries need to be top of mind as you create your plan for the rest of 2019.
Discussing more on these pressing topics during a recent webinar, James Daly, President and CEO of the Americas region at Euler Hermes, and Dan North, Chief Economist, North America at Euler Hermes spoke with Anjan Roy, Global Finance Executive at General Electric (GE) about the best practices CFOs should take to prepare for the uncertainties in the months ahead, as well as where the economy is on a global scale.
Read below some of the main takeaways from their roundtable discussion.
Question: What economic factors are affecting organizations?
Global economies varying from region to region are showing signs of uncertainty in their growth. There are a few unpredictable events that are affecting performances just as much as the economic downturn.
For example, a few companies in Canada who grow and process canola oil send most of their oil to China. Because of the current trade dispute with China, they have nowhere to send the oil, leaving them with unpaid invoices and excess products. These organizations are now in an unfortunate bind because of the uncertainty of change in the way the world is evolving in terms of global trading relations.
Another example is the lack of preparation for the future and evolving with the times. For example, we have Toys“R”Us and Sports Authority, two giant retailers in the U.S. that didn’t and couldn’t compete against the Amazon’s of this world because they didn’t future-proof their business and evolve with the changing landscape. In order to invest in your business, you need to think about if you will still be relevant in years to come. Sometimes that means doing something you wouldn’t normally do, like partnering with your competitors or working with organizations in sectors similar to yours to see what’s going on and what trends are out there.
Question: How can you become more agile to prepare for volatility and reduce risk to protect your bottom line?
Standardize your finance operations as much as possible—especially if you work with different industries and countries. You are setting yourself up for failure if you don’t standardize the way you execute your invoices, the way you talk to your customers, or the way you manage your financial performance and cash flow. Ask yourself, how can you better oversee collections and delinquent payments?
Treat your finance department as a business partner, and recruit people to your team who have the cross-functional experience to help work on company culture. Make it a point to stay connected with all teams and understand all the connection points between sales and marketing. It’s easy for teams to operate in silos and work on their own metrics and incentives, but by coming together and understanding which actions impact the overall arching goal of the business, you can come together to work as one team with a common and shared goal.
You can also implement a culture of de-centralizing the decision making process to make decisions faster based on data. When decisions are data-driven, people feel accountable and empowered to make the call on their own. The faster and the more real-time data you have, the quicker you can react and the more you can empower your teams to make good judgments.
Question for Chief Economist, Dan North: From your perspective, do you think the global economy is weak?
“Yes, I do. There are three economies in a recession: Italy, Turkey, and Argentina with Germany skating right around the edge. In the third quarter of last year, there were six economies that had negative GDP growth.
The macro data we get out of Europe shows that typically Europe grows fairly slowly, and it's slowed down quite a lot, which is a cause for concern. And China’s growth rates have fallen sharply. There’s no question that the economy has slowed and probably has slowed more than the official data shows. We have people on the ground in China and the indications we get from them are that we are indeed seeing more slowing than in the official numbers, which can be basically anything they want them to be, to be quite honest.
“The World Bank, the IMF, they've all downgraded their global growth forecasts. And a lot of that is organic, but there's this concern over the trade war. And that's actually having a real effect on exporting economies. We're hardly dependent on exports at all. It's something like 12 or 13% of our GDP. Many countries are much more dependent on exports and with tariffs globally going into place. It's a very real situation where we do have a global growth slowdown,” stated Dan.