According to data released by the Association for Financial Professionals (AFP) and underwritten by RBS and RBS Citizens, short-term corporate cash is increasingly moving towards banks, with bank deposits now accounting for 51 percent of short-term corporate investment balances. Findings from the 2012 AFP Liquidity Survey show the highest level in the survey’s seven-year lifespan, nine percentage points above last year’s findings. As recently as 2006, the average allocation was 23 percent.
This significant jump reflects elevated corporate investment in ultra-safe vehicles since 2007, with company investment policies reducing the types of permitted short-term investments. The survey showed that 74 percent of corporate cash balances are now held in one of three traditional investment vehicles: bank deposits, money market funds and U.S. Treasury securities.
“Today, companies are clearly seeking safety and soundness,” said Jim Gifas, Head of Treasury Solutions, RBS Citizens. “Across the board, we see that the primary focus is on preservation of capital, and treasurers and CFOs are eager to see how this is being managed on a global scale.”
“Many of the themes emerging from the survey re-affirm what we are hearing from our clients every day," said Julian Oldale, Head of International Cash Management, North America at RBS.
“Companies are increasingly seeking market insights and guidance on how to navigate today's challenging environment. We sponsored this survey to help provide timely and relevant information that treasury decision-makers need to do their jobs. ”
Companies are continuing to increase cash balances, with 41 percent of survey respondents reporting that their organizations held greater cash balances during the first quarter of 2012 than in the first quarter of 2011. Fewer than three in ten indicate their organizations reduced cash and short-term investment balances during that same period.
“In these uncertain times, it is clear that protecting principal is the main concern of corporate treasurers,” said Jim Kaitz, AFP’s president and CEO. “This is creating a virtuous/vicious cycle of increasing cash balances and also flows to banks.”
Additional survey highlights include:
· Safety is the driving principle of investment strategies. More than three quarters (76 percent) of respondents indicate that safety is the most important short-term investment objective for their organizations versus 21 percent that indicate their most important cash investment policy objective is liquidity.
· The ongoing Euro Zone crisis is having serious reverberations throughout the world. With more than half the survey respondents reporting that their organizations hold cash balances outside the U.S., global economic events hit close to home for many U.S. businesses.
· Rather than exclusively building cash balances as a buffer, some companies have deployed cash to make opportunistic investments in operations or acquisitions, respondents said. Of companies that increased cash balances, 61 percent had more cash because they generated higher operating cash flows while 22 percent increased cash by accessing debt markets.
Looking ahead, respondents anticipate elevated cash levels to continue. Forty-six percent expect balances to remain about the same over the next year while 32 percent of respondents expect even larger cash balances. Only 22 percent of respondents expect balances to contract over the next year. Among respondents who anticipate their organizations will increase cash holdings, 78 percent believe this will be the direct result of increased operating cash flow. Forty-six percent of financial professionals who believe their organizations will reduce cash balances say the holdings will decrease because of greater capital spending.
About the Survey
AFP conducted the survey, underwritten by RBS and RBS Citizens, in May 2012, generating 391 responses with 28 percent of respondents from the Northeast. The survey respondents were senior finance and treasury executives from a broad range of companies—typically U.S.-based multinationals with a median of $2 billion in revenue. The typical AFP member works at an organization with complex treasury operational needs that can be met only by large regional banks and global banks.