by Hugo Parry-Wingfield, Head of Market Management, EMEA Liquidity & Investments, Treasury & Trade Solutions, Citi Transaction Services
With market saturation and sluggish growth in many traditional markets, companies of all sizes are looking to new destinations. Fast-growing economies in Asia, Africa, Latin America, Central & Eastern Europe are increasingly attractive for North American and European corporations. Similarly, companies headquartered in emerging markets are expanding geographically, with increasing trade flows between fast-growing regions, such as between China and Africa.
Tapping into potentially new supplier and customer markets is an exciting proposition. Treasurers may not, however, always be inclined to share in this pioneering spirit. After all, they are responsible for putting in place the financial infrastructure for doing business in a territory that may be unfamiliar, and integrating the new business into a global cash, liquidity and risk management framework. This article looks at how to resolve the conflict between the pursuit of growth on one hand, and managing the associated challenges and constraints on the other.
Market expansion considerations
The rapid development of physical and communication infrastructure in many parts of the world, and a growing desire of governments around the world to encourage international trade, is proving irresistible to many companies in pursuit of growth. So what are the key considerations that are required to facilitate this expansion?
- Regulatory environment: This includes the tax, legal and statutory reporting requirements. but also issues such as the procedure for opening bank accounts and the payments and collections environment, including the practical arrangements that need to be put in place.
- Cash & treasury integration: Although sophisticated, flexible opportunities for physical and notional cash pooling globally now exist, it is not always possible simply to plug a new country into an existing liquidity structure. This presents a dilemma for treasurers who need to maintain controls and manage risk, whilst ensuring operational efficiency.
- Political risk: This is often (but not always) a greater issue in newer markets such as Middle East and North Africa than others. Treasurers need to understand the impact of political change and volatility in terms of banking and sovereign risk, as well as the wider business implications.
- Infrastructure issues: The physical and communications infrastructure will also have an impact on the way that a company structures its operations in a new country, alongside factors such as population centres, education and culture. Financial infrastructure is equally important, not only in terms of the banking system, but also the trend towards adopting mobile and instant payments and cash alternatives, such as in Kenya and Nigeria, and other forms of electronic payment.
Engaging expertise and advice
Not only is infrastructure developing at a staggering pace in many of the newer economies, but the regulatory climate is also shifting. In Russia, China and other parts of Asia, there is a trend towards currency and market liberalisation. In others, such as Latin America, more stringent controls are being introduced. Treasurers are increasingly turning to banks such as Citi that are present across these markets to help them prepare for regulatory change and the resulting opportunities or constraints, as figure 1 illustrates in relation to China.