Flash back pretty much 3 years ago, to the “technical” finish of the Fantastic Recession in June of 2009. The depth of the monetary crisis was just starting to be felt, and banks have been tightening the reins on credit, which resulted in a credit crunch that created it almost not possible for numerous organizations to receive the capital they required to develop, a lot much less preserve their operations going.

In this atmosphere, money conservation became the name of the game for numerous CFOs. To attempt to squeeze additional money out of their provide chains, organizations focused on tightening collection of receivables, stretching out their payables and decreasing inventory.

A Diverse Situation

Now, quick forward to right now. According to the information revealed in the 2011 CFO/REL Functioning Capital Scorecard, U.S. organizations are now flush with money. As a outcome, the emphasis on wringing each and every dollar out of functioning capital appears to have dissipated somewhat.

For instance, the scorecard revealed a paltry two% lower in days functioning capital (DWC). Meanwhile, days sales outstanding (DSO) declined by just .1% and days inventory outstanding (DIO) and days payable outstanding (DPO) each rose by just 1.1%.

These modest improvements in functioning capital functionality look to indicate that the emphasis by U.S. organizations has shifted from functioning capital improvements to sales development and profit enhancement. “The power and concentrate have now been placed a lot additional on the profit-and-loss statement,” noted Mark Tennant, a principal with REL, which co-sponsored the analysis. “There is not a continuous concentrate on money flow and functioning capital.”

Meanwhile, business enterprise lending activity seems to be on the rise. Information not too long ago released by the FDIC reveals that general industrial and industrial (C&I) lending by banks enhanced for the duration of every of the 5 quarters preceding third-quarter 2011 soon after declining steadily because early 2008. And the development price in borrowing amongst modest organizations (as measured by the Thomson Reuters/PayNet Modest Enterprise Lending Index) enhanced by double digits more than the earlier year for the 15th consecutive month in October, increasing by 20 % soon after a 14 % rise in September.

A New Mindset?

So, do enhanced corporate balance sheets, a brighter business enterprise lending image and an enhancing economy imply that CFOs ought to adopt a new mindset when it comes to functioning capital management? My answer: Not necessarily. In truth, statistics like these noted right here could lead CFOs to adopt a false sense of safety.

In the short article posted on CFO.com reporting on the outcomes of Functioning Capital Scorecard, Stephen Payne, Americas leader of functioning capital advisory solutions at Ernst & Young, stated that corporate balance sheets may perhaps not be almost as impervious as they look. Regardless of an impressive current comeback in corporate productivity, higher unemployment continues to plague the economy, Payne noted. To create sustainable development, organizations will “have to employ individuals and invest by means of capex, and that is going to start off depleting their money hoards,” he mentioned.

I would add that, although there have been current indicators of improvement in the U.S. economy, we're by no signifies out of the woods but. Even though optimistic, financial development remains anemic, specifically compared to most other post-recession rebounds. And unemployment remains stubbornly higher, regardless of some current improvements in the employment image.

Lastly, although the Modest Enterprise Lending Index points to optimistic indicators for business enterprise lending, additional FDIC information paints a distinct lengthy-term image: The general volume of modest business enterprise loans (defined as loans of $1 million or much less) has been shrinking because 2008 and was down 15 % from its peak as of September 30, 2011. There have been just 1.five million modest business enterprise loans outstanding at this time, the smallest quantity because 1999, according to the FDIC.

Now, contrast these figures with the most current Asset-Primarily based Lending Index, which is published quarterly by the Industrial Finance Association. There was a 1.five% improve in total committed credit lines in the third quarter of 2011 from the earlier quarter, which was the fourth consecutive quarterly improve in asset-primarily based credit lines.

Total asset-primarily based credit commitments grew by five% compared to the third quarter of 2010, and new commitments have been up by additional than 26%. Half of asset-primarily based lenders reported an improve in new credit commitments and 70% reported an improve in total commitments, although utilization of asset-primarily based lenders' credit lines enhanced for the third consecutive quarter, to 40.five%.

Uncertainty… and Chance

The presidential election this November will most likely add to, rather than subtract from, the uncertainty that has plagued the economy because the monetary crisis started additional than 3 years ago. Offered this, CFOs would be sensible not to get also complacent about functioning capital management.

Meanwhile, this uncertainty could imply chance for asset-primarily based lenders in 2012. If the economy continues to choose up steam, modest business enterprise credit demand will surely rise. But numerous modest organizations nonetheless will not qualify for bank financing, creating them very good candidates for non-conventional and asset-primarily based loans.

This tends to make now a very good time to start off cultivating relationships with nearby bankers, who can be vital referral sources for modest organizations that could potentially advantage from factoring and other asset-primarily based loans. Carrying out so could be a single of the most vital strategic moves you make in 2012.