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Working Capital Management – Start 2015 the Right Way

by Robin Bergholm, Head of Working Capital Management, Wholesale Banking, Nordea

Planning for the long-term

As we wrote about earlier, working capital management is a hot topic, and many organisations are setting out to drive their performance in the right direction, swimming against the tide of challenging marketplaces.

We urged caution and a long-term strategic approach, noting that to be effective, working capital management initiatives need clear scope, leadership, and an explicit mission with documented targets. Without these things, organisations are likely to start with good intentions and a flurry of uncoordinated activity — which quickly fizzles out as people realise the true scope of the task ahead.

That advice still holds true. Working capital management is about many iterative improvements to dozens of processes and activities distributed across the organisation. While there will no doubt be opportunity for ‘quick wins’, long-term sustainable results will need long-term sustained efforts. Any CEO or CFO that is looking for easy answers to “fix” working capital management should have their expectations quickly recalibrated.

Virtual and physical treasury centralisation catalysing working capital management

The centralisation of finance processes is gathering momentum. It affects physical treasury units and shared services centres, as well as the virtual — through the consolidation of IT platforms and the introduction of global cash pools and web-enabled data sharing. This trend provides a real opportunity for working capital management to be executed properly.