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How to manage spreadsheet risk

Discover essential FX hedging strategies and currency management best practices from our foreign exchange experts.

How to manage spreadsheet risk

19 September 2022
3 min read
Agustin Mackinlay

Avoid those dreadful fat finger mistakes! In this article, we will discuss spreadsheet risk in the context of FX risk management. According to a recent survey by Citi Bank, 80% of corporate treasurers remain reliant on Microsoft Excel in the forecasting process.

Why you should worry about spreadsheet risk

Spreadsheet risk comprises a series of errors stemming from the requirement for data to be manually inputted into each cell. Manual execution not only takes up valuable treasury resources — it makes human error inevitable. The most common errors and risks comprise:

  • Data input error, including ‘fat finger mistakes’
  • Copy & paste error
  • Formatting errors
  • Formula errors
  • Multiple versions across the enterprise
  • Lack of backups
  • Users’ lack of skills
  • Insufficient guidelines

Despite all the efforts in spreadsheet risk management, the problem is not going away. In fact, as economies grow and businesses become more complex, more risk is being created. The world’s most famous business spreadsheet saw the light of day before the World Wide Web and the internet browser — that is, before the explosion of interconnectedness.And interconnectedness lies at the heart of modern FX hedging programs.

Spreadsheets and FX management

Imagine a perfectly designed currency hedging program for a company that seeks to protect the annual FX budget rate. Given the specific features of that company —especially its pricing characteristics— such a program would allow the finance team to systematically outperform the budget rate, avoiding under- and over-hedging all the while.Now imagine that this apparently very effective FX hedging program was implemented on perfectly designed spreadsheets. A treasurer’s dream come true? Not so fast. Spreadsheet risk would sneak in throughout the three phases of the FX workflow —the pre-trade phase, the trade phase and the post-trade phase— with potentially serious consequences.

Spreadsheets travelling back and forth

The most basic element in currency management is the process of sourcing currency rates for pricing purposes. Apart from the fact that many firms undertake it with irrelevant time-based criteria, the reality is that once currency rates are sourced —for example, from the European Central Bank’s website— the commercial team receives the information on a spreadsheet.Next, the FX exposure needs to be collected and processed. Budgeting, as we know, is a process that involves the controlling, commercial and production teams, purchasing managers, economists and members of the finance team. In other words: the cornerstone of the hedging program is the result of dozens, or more likely, hundreds of spreadsheets travelling back and forth across the enterprise. At this point, spreadsheet risk is only in its infancy.Let us skip the trade phase and focus on the post-trade phase. What about accounting and performance analytics? And all the required FX swapping? You guessed it: critically important information is subject, once more, to data input errors, copy & paste errors, formula errors and formatting errors.

FX Automation: how to manage spreadsheet risk

It’s high time for risk managers to tame spreadsheet risk. Here, Currency Management Automation is your company’s best antidote. These software solutions use Application Programming Interfaces to ensure that data can flow seamlessly between different systems (ERP, TMS, others) without any need for spreadsheets.And remember: avoid those fat finger mistakes!

Want to prevent spreadsheet risk from sneaking into your currency management? Get in touch, and we’ll show you how you can effectively manage FX without any need for spreadsheets.
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Agustin Mackinlay
Agustin Mackinlay is a Financial Writer at Kantox. He has previously worked at an investment bank specialising in Emerging Markets. Agustin teaches several courses in Finance at LaSalle University and EAE Business School in Barcelona. He holds degrees from the University of Amsterdam and from the Kiel Institute of World Economics in Germany.
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