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Digital investments correlate to financial success – The 21st Century Supply Chain – Perspectives on Innovative

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Executives live daily with a daunting dual challenge. One part is the need to manage the business through steady-state operations and times of disruption. The other is to create value for shareholders through financial excellence and growth.

At the intersection of these two parts lies the digitalization of supply chain. Through digital transformation, supply chain leaders can begin to develop the capabilities that are already needed to manage disruption, as well as those that will help overcome known obstacles, such as data availability and quality. Layering on top of data is information and insight, which are critical to ensuring that those in supply chain are making the decisions that matter most to the business.

The operational opportunities are evident, so the rationale behind the investment is clear. However, that only solves one part of the executive’s dual challenge. Quantifying the value created through financial excellence has been more difficult, but recent research from Professor Morgan Swink of Texas Christian University now shows the correlation between investing in digital transformation and delivering financial success.

Kinaxis customers outperformed during the pandemic

Using quarterly financial statements for 48 publicly held, North American companies that use Kinaxis for their supply chain planning, Professor Swink conducted what is known as a difference in differences analysis for all of 2019 and the first three quarters of 2020. In that analysis, the 48 companies represented those who have already begun their digital transformation against industry averages for each respective vertical over the corresponding period. Furthermore, the analysis was performed as a pre/post event comparison based upon the declaration of COVID-19 as a global pandemic in Q1 2020.

While industry averages showed declines after the pandemic declaration in return on assets (ROA), return on sales (ROS) and return on invested capital (ROIC), the Kinaxis users all delivered improvements when compared to the pre-pandemic performance.

“These data are very strong. I was quite surprised at the level of positivity in these findings,” Professor Swink said upon sharing his findings. The results were so impressive that among the initial six financial metrics compared, the group of 48 Kinaxis customers, representing the digitally transformed, outperformed their industry averages across the board.

The academically rigorous, statistically significant data shows that while industry averages showed declines after the pandemic declaration in return on assets (ROA), return on sales (ROS) and return on invested capital (ROIC), the Kinaxis users all delivered improvements when compared to the pre-pandemic performance. The largest gap occurred for return on sales, which acts as a measure of operational efficiency, where the Kinaxis group improved by more than 1.5%, while the industry declined by more than 0.5%, leading to an overall performance gap of more than 2%. Costs, as a percentage of revenue, also were an advantage for the group of 48 Kinaxis users as both costs of goods sold and sales, general and administrative costs decreased while industry averages either declined slightly or grew.

Translate supply chain success into the CFO’s main metrics

With an impressive array of data, like the research findings, it becomes critical that supply chain leaders be able to convey the right information to the right people. In the case of what matters most to CFO’s, Professor Swink says, “The two things that every CFO cares about are profit and growth. And from the CFOs perspective, they’re looking at ways to invest money to drive profit and growth.”  

Therein lies a significant opportunity for supply chains because they have historically struggled with translating operational capabilities into financial success. This carries over to digital transformation, as well. In both cases, the benefits are typically stated in the terms of those desiring the investment, as opposed to the metrics of whomever is making the decision. As Professor Swink stated, “You need to learn what those metrics are and be able to position your proposal in that language just like the other people who are competing for those funds.”

Flow chart connecting digital capabilities to financial outcomes
Translate digital transformation outcomes into meaningful impacts for decision makers, for example, aligning supply chain capabilities to financial outcomes.

Once the metrics are identified, begin to understand how operational capabilities work as input drivers for them. For example, increased visibility is highly desirable so that supply chains can sense disruptions as it is happening and respond immediately. That alone is a tremendous benefit and it can be tied to financial outcomes such as reduced inventory and cash buffers, improved capacity utilization and lower cost resolution of demand-supply mismatches.

Taking it a step further, the improvements in return on invested capital, and even return on assets, can then be tracked as digitally enabled capabilities are now linked to these financial performance measures. By doing so, the “why an investment is needed” aligns with what it means to the decision maker.

This creates a pivot point for supply chains as Professor Swink suggests that practitioners must be able “to relate structural choices, policies, technology investments, and training and labor investments to the kinds of KPIs that show up on income statements and balance sheets.” This is crucial because “if we really want to speak the language of the CFO we must think beyond those kind of specific operational metrics to think about how our choices affect these larger outcomes.”

To hear more about Professor Swink’s research, watch his on-demand webinar, Speak your CFO’s language – Managing risk and opportunity in supply chains.

Watch the on-demand webinar, "Speak your CFO's language - Managing risk and opportunity in supply chains"

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Economy

Canadian dollar notches biggest gain in a month as stocks rally

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The Canadian dollar strengthened to a one-week high against its U.S. counterpart on Thursday as investor sentiment picked up and domestic data showed that retail sales fell less than expected in July.

World stock markets rallied and the safe-haven U.S. dollar retreated from one-month highs as worries about contagion from property developer China Evergrande eased and investors digested the Federal Reserve’s plans for reining in the stimulus.

Canada is a major exporter of commodities, including oil, so the loonie tends to be particularly sensitive to investor appetite for risk.

“The assumption here is that (Fed interest) rate hikes are still a long way out and so equities markets can still perform with accommodative financial conditions,” said Mazen Issa, senior FX strategist at TD Securities in New York.

“Consequently, currencies that have a higher beta to the equity market, like the CAD, can do alright.”

U.S. crude oil futures settled 1.5% higher at $73.30 a barrel, while the Canadian dollar was trading up 0.9% at 1.2653 to the greenback, or 79.03 U.S. cents.

It was the currency’s biggest advance since Aug. 23. It touched its strongest level since last Thursday at 1.2628.

Canadian retail sales dipped 0.6% in July, compared with expectations for a decline of 1.2%, while a preliminary estimate showed sales rebounding 2.1% in August.

Canadian government bond yields were higher across a steeper curve, tracking the move in U.S. Treasuries.

The 10-year touched its highest level since July 14 at 1.335% before dipping to 1.330%, up 11.6 basis points on the day.

(Reporting by Fergal Smith; Editing by Nick Zieminski and Peter Cooney)

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Investment

Why it is wise to add bitcoin to an investment portfolio – The Economist

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“DIVERSIFICATION IS BOTH observed and sensible; a rule of behaviour which does not imply the superiority of diversification must be rejected both as a hypothesis and as a maxim,” wrote Harry Markowitz, a prodigiously talented young economist, in the Journal of Finance in 1952. The paper, which helped him win the Nobel prize in 1990, laid the foundations for “modern portfolio theory”, a mathematical framework for choosing an optimal spread of assets.

The theory posits that a rational investor should maximise his or her returns relative to the risk (the volatility in returns) they are taking. It follows, naturally, that assets with high and dependable returns should feature heavily in a sensible portfolio. But Mr Markowitz’s genius was in showing that diversification can reduce volatility without sacrificing returns. Diversification is the financial version of the idiom “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

An investor seeking high returns without volatility might not gravitate towards cryptocurrencies, like bitcoin, given that they often plunge and soar in value. (Indeed, while Buttonwood was penning this column, that is exactly what bitcoin did, falling 15% then bouncing back.) But the insight Mr Markowitz revealed was that it was not necessarily an asset’s own riskiness that is important to an investor, so much as the contribution it makes to the volatility of the overall portfolio—and that is primarily a question of the correlation between all of the assets within it. An investor holding two assets that are weakly correlated or uncorrelated can rest easier knowing that if one plunges in value the other might hold its ground.

Consider the mix of assets a sensible investor might hold: geographically diverse stock indexes; bonds; a listed real-estate fund; and perhaps a precious metal, like gold. The assets that yield the juiciest returns—stocks and real estate—also tend to move in the same direction at the same time. The correlation between stocks and bonds is weak (around 0.2-0.3 over the past ten years), yielding the potential to diversify, but bonds have also tended to lag behind when it comes to returns. Investors can reduce volatility by adding bonds but they tend to lead to lower returns as well.

This is where bitcoin has an edge. The cryptocurrency might be highly volatile, but during its short life it also has had high average returns. Importantly, it also tends to move independently of other assets: since 2018 the correlation between bitcoin and stocks of all geographies has been between 0.2-0.3. Over longer time horizons it is even weaker. Its correlation with real estate and bonds is similarly weak. This makes it an excellent potential source of diversification.

This might explain its appeal to some big investors. Paul Tudor Jones, a hedge-fund manager, has said he aims to hold about 5% of his portfolio in bitcoin. This allocation looks sensible as part of a highly diversified portfolio. Across the four time periods during the past decade that Buttonwood randomly selected to test, an optimal portfolio contained a bitcoin allocation of 1-5%. This is not just because cryptocurrencies rocketed: even if one cherry-picks a particularly volatile couple of years for bitcoin, say January 2018 to December 2019 (when it fell steeply), a portfolio with a 1% allocation to bitcoin still displayed better risk-reward characteristics than one without it.

Of course, not all calculations about which assets to choose are straightforward. Many investors seek not only to do well with their investments, but also to do good: bitcoin is not environmentally friendly. Moreover, to select a portfolio, an investor needs to amass relevant information about how the securities might behave. Expected returns and future volatility are usually gauged by observing how an asset has performed in the past. But this method has some obvious flaws. Past performance does not always indicate future returns. And the history of cryptocurrencies is short.

Though Mr Markowitz laid out how investors should optimise asset choices, he wrote that “we have not considered the first stage: the formation of the relevant beliefs.” The return from investing in equities is a share of firms’ profits; from bonds the risk-free rate plus credit risk. It is not clear what drives bitcoin’s returns other than speculation. It would be reasonable to believe it might yield no returns in future. And many investors hold fierce philosophical beliefs about bitcoin—that it is either salvation or damnation. Neither side is likely to hold 1% of their assets in it.

This article appeared in the Finance & economics section of the print edition under the headline “Just add crypto”

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Investment

An Atlantic Investment Bubble Will Help Companies Grow And Create Jobs – Huddle – Huddle Today

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Blair Hyslop is the President of the Order of the Wallace McCain Institute. He is co-CEO, along with his wife, Rosalyn Hyslop, of Mrs. Dunster’s and Kredl’s Corner Market, New Brunswick-based companies that employ more than 200 people and have operations throughout Atlantic Canada.

As the Covid-19 pandemic raged around the world, the four Atlantic Canadian provinces came together in an unprecedented spirit of cooperation and collaboration to tackle the challenges it presented. The result was one the safest places in the world, with untold lives saved. That showed what we can do as a region when we work together.

Recently, a group of entrepreneurs from all four provinces came together to discuss ways to grow our economy and erase that gap that still exists with the rest of Canada.

It’s about controlling our own destiny and creating a region with more opportunities for our people.

The Atlantic Investment Bubble

The first item this group is proposing is the creation of an “Atlantic Investment Bubble” – a common equity tax credit to encourage investment across the region. Too often, businesses in Atlantic Canada struggle to find the investment needed to fuel growth compared to the rest of Canada. In fact, there is only $3 of Angel investment per capita in Atlantic Canada for every $28 invested nationally, according to the most recent figures.

That’s a huge gap, one that penalizes businesses in our region.

The challenge of finding investment affects all kinds of businesses – food producers like our company, Mrs. Dunster’s, as well as technology companies, manufacturers, tourism operators and more. We all face the same challenge – finding the capital needed to help our business grow.

Each province has its own equity tax credit aimed at encouraging local investment in local businesses. These work pretty well, as far as they go. They have different amounts of credit available and some outline support for only specific sectors. Yet the fundamental problem with this well-intentioned approach is that it ignores the regional nature of our business community.

As a region, we are simply just too small to operate only within our home provinces – we need to go to other provinces to find customers, vendors, employees, mentors and investors.

The provincial equity tax credits support investors who invest in a company in their home province. But if I wanted to encourage an investor in Nova Scotia, PEI or Newfoundland and Labrador to invest in Mrs. Dunster’s, they wouldn’t receive a tax credit. That becomes a disincentive to invest. A regional equity tax credit will address this problem and create a more robust investment environment within Atlantic Canada by promoting more interprovincial investment. That will help us close the gap with the national investment average.

How It Works

We propose a regional equity tax credit of 35 percent overlayed on the existing provincial programs and focused on sectors that will yield the most benefit to our region, including manufacturing, renewable energy, tourism, food and beverage, IT, aerospace, and cultural industries.

This approach will minimize the amount of legislative and regulatory changes required to implement the program. That’s important because speed matters here – one of the outcomes of the pandemic is there are billions of dollars on the sidelines looking for opportunities to be invested, including large amounts here in Atlantic Canada. By implementing a regional equity tax credit, we can repatriate our own money that too often gets invested in the public markets in Toronto or New York.

It means we can invest in our own potential.

We recognize, of course, that every dollar counts for provincial governments, and that they can’t spend scarce dollars on new programs without consequences. However, we believe that the Atlantic Investment Bubble will be self-sustaining, creating more new tax revenues than it costs.

We propose a four-year pilot program that is backstopped by the federal government, meaning it will have zero cost to the provincial governments. Based on our projections, this incentive would support nearly 50 companies in the first year. By year four after the first year of investment, this equity tax credit will have created over $50-million in labour income and added nearly $80-million to the region’s GDP.

Beyond the numbers, it will make our region more competitive and entrepreneurial. It will give Atlantic Canadian businesses the resources they need to grow, creating new jobs and new tax revenues.

Why You Should Care

Admittedly, a regional equity tax credit can seem like a niche idea. Why should you care about it?

I believe that Atlantic Canadians should be angry that our economy continues to lag behind the national average. It means our unemployment levels remain higher and our average incomes are lower.

It doesn’t have to be this way. We have the talent needed to grow our economy – we just need the fuel in the form of access to more capital.

The Atlantic Investment Bubble will make our business community stronger, creating access to more private sector investment that will help small- and medium-sized businesses grow and create more jobs for Atlantic Canadians, people just like you. It will make our region stronger, keeping your kids at home by providing them with meaningful opportunities.

The Government of Canada spends hundreds of billions each year providing services to Canadians. The modest expenditure to support the Atlantic Investment Bubble is a smart investment in the potential of Atlantic Canada. It is a short-term, not a long-term, expense that will deliver a strong Return On Investment by driving more private sector investment throughout Atlantic Canada.

The provincial governments in Atlantic Canada proved that they could work together in common cause during the height of the pandemic. They did a great job managing the crisis and have positioned the region strongly for the post-pandemic reality. We can build on that momentum with the Atlantic Investment Bubble.

There is already considerable support for the Atlantic Investment Bubble, including the Atlantic Canada Chamber of Commerce, Conseil économique du Nouveau-Brunswick, New Brunswick Business Council, the Order of the Wallace McCain Institute and TechImpact. They understand that this change will open investment in our region and help us achieve our true potential.

If you would like to learn more about this initiative, or to show your support, visit our website: www.atlanticinvestmentbubble.ca. If you are already sold on the benefits, speak to your MLA and MP and ask them to support this smart, cost-effective policy change.

Huddle publishes commentaries from groups and individuals on important business issues facing the Maritimes. These commentaries do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Huddle. To submit a commentary for consideration, contact editor Mark Leger: [email protected]

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