Why Sit on All that Cash? Firms Uncertain on Cost of Capital

Harvard Business Review

Many are deeply uncertain about which initiatives they should fund — and one root of this indecision is a general lack of confidence in the cost of capital projections they are using to make the call. This is the key finding of the Current Trends in Estimating and Applying the Cost of Capital research released this week by the Association for Financial Professionals, a trade group of 16,000 corporate treasury and finance practitioners.

What If Companies Managed People as Carefully as They Manage Money?

Harvard Business

Today’s executives spend a lot of time managing the balance sheet, despite the fact that it doesn’t represent their company’s scarcest resource. Financial capital is relatively abundant and cheap. According to Bain’s Macro Trends Group, the global supply of capital stands at nearly 10 times global GDP. In contrast, today’s scarcest resource is your human capital, as measured by the time, talent and energy of your workforce.


Sign Up for our Newsletter

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Finally, Proof That Managing for the Long Term Pays Off

Harvard Business

Companies deliver superior results when executives manage for long-term value creation and resist pressure from analysts and investors to focus excessively on meeting Wall Street’s quarterly earnings expectations. And yet we have not had the comprehensive data needed to quantify the payoff from managing for the long term — until now. By our measures, companies that were managed for the long term added nearly 12,000 more jobs on average than their peers from 2001 to 2015.

The Complexity of Business Communication


We may well be overcomplicating the language of leadership and business. Poor communication leads to confusion, mixed-messages and a lack of buy-in from our employees. Gabrielle Dolan: The Future of Leadership Conference, Bris, Sept 2015 After attending the Future of Leadership – Workplace Culture conference in Brisbane last week I have been reflecting on the content from some of the speakers. One stops to put on a pair of runners.

The Rise of FinTech in Supply Chains

Harvard Business

A new type of services company could transform global supply chains: Financial technology companies that act as intermediaries in facilitating transactions between a company and its suppliers. They enable both the buyer and supplier to improve their working capital by making it possible for the former to extend its payables and at the same time accelerate payment to the latter. the supplier gets $9,959 of the $10,000).

The Case for Investing More in People

Harvard Business

“A country’s ability to improve its standard of living over time depends almost entirely on its ability to raise output per worker.” ” There is a virtuous cycle between productivity and people: Higher levels of productivity allow society to reinvest in human capital (most obviously, though not exclusively, via higher wages), and smart investments result in higher labor productivity. Productivity in most developed economies has been anemic.

The Real Reasons Companies Are So Focused on the Short Term

Harvard Business

Quarterly profits have only increased 5% since 2012 , but investors’ valuations of those profits (as measured by earnings per share) has increased 59% over the same period. Some argue that profits are stagnant because of short-termism—that decades of focusing on current profits over long-run innovativeness has resulted, now, in companies that are hollowed out. Instead of hiring outside CEOs, hire insiders—or at least CEOs with domain expertise.

What U.S. CEOs Should Do with the Money from Corporate Tax Cuts

Harvard Business

The size of this windfall is remarkable, and it comes from several sources. It permits immediate expensing of many capital investments. In a world already awash in investable capital , these changes should further widen the spread between after-tax investment returns and capital costs, driving up multiples. One option, of course, is to drive up the stock price by buying back shares, and some CEOs may choose that course. Emma Innocenti/Getty Images.

What’s Driving Superstar Companies, Industries, and Cities

Harvard Business

The debate about superstar firms and superstar effects has been intensifying, partly in response to the rapid growth of global US tech companies. We define superstar to mean a firm, sector, or city that has a substantially greater share of income than peers and is pulling away from those peers over time. We analyzed nearly 6,000 of the world’s largest public and private firms with annual revenues above $1 billion. counties, which account for 90% of GDP in that sector.

GDP 33

Why Traditional M&A Is Becoming Less Important

Harvard Business

Mr. Rockefeller’s business strategy was to vertically integrate every aspect of the oil business (exploration, development, logistics, marketing) to assure an ongoing competitive advantage. His vehicles were not just mergers and acquisitions, though there were plenty of both along the way. Rather, they were interlocking series of trusts, partnerships and alliances designed for flexibility and control. The new face of deal making will take a variety of forms.

Still Many Ways to Skin a Capital Cost

Harvard Business Review

When executives evaluate a potential investment, whether it's to build a new plant, enter a new market, or acquire a company, they weigh its cost against the future cash flows they expect will spring from it. Estimating the rate at which to discount the cash flows — the cost of equity capital — is an integral part of the exercise, and the choice of rate has a significant effect on estimates of a project's or a company's value.

DCF 12

4 Ways Leaders Can Get More from Their Company’s Innovation Efforts

Harvard Business

A recent McKinsey report found that while 84% of corporate executives think innovation is key to achieving growth objectives, only 6% are satisfied with the innovation performance of their firm. While the execution of a conventional strategy lends itself to linear progress and clear benchmarks, innovation often proceeds by S-curves , moving at a slow crawl until it explodes at an exponential rate. Other times, however, one of those elements is missing.

ROI 30

CEOs Don’t Care Enough About Capital Allocation

Harvard Business Review

In his 1987 letter to investors, Warren Buffet made the following observation: “the heads of many companies are not skilled in capital allocation, and … it is not surprising because most bosses rise to the top because they have excelled in an area such as marketing, production, engineering, administration or, sometimes, institutional politics.” This failure to even mention return on capital seems perverse. Financial analysis Financial management

How Blockchain Is Changing Finance

Harvard Business

Our global financial system moves trillions of dollars a day and serves billions of people. But the system is rife with problems, adding cost through fees and delays, creating friction through redundant and onerous paperwork, and opening up opportunities for fraud and crime. It’s no small wonder that regulatory costs continue to climb and remain a top concern for bankers. This all adds cost, with consumers ultimately bearing the burden.

The Comprehensive Business Case for Sustainability

Harvard Business

Today’s executives are dealing with a complex and unprecedented brew of social, environmental, market, and technological trends. These require sophisticated, sustainability-based management. Yet executives are often reluctant to place sustainability core to their company’s business strategy in the mistaken belief that the costs outweigh the benefits. Traditional business models aim to create value for shareholders, often at the expense of other stakeholders.

The Three Decisions You Need to Own

Harvard Business Review

When resources are allocated from the bottom up instead of from the top down, they get out of sync with what the senior team is trying to accomplish. At many companies the total cash investment in acquisitions, R&D, and fixed assets has not earned back its cost of capital after adjusting for the time lag in realizing incremental benefits. We are shifting our center of gravity.” CEOs face countless decisions.

Divestment Alone Won’t Beat Climate Change

Harvard Business Review

The fossil fuel divestment movement — an increasingly popular approach with environmentalists — primarily tries to convince pension funds, university endowments, and other asset holders that their investments in oil and coal are unethical because of impact of fossil fuel emissions on the world’s climate. Both of us have done work on sustainable development and are keen to see a transition away from fossil fuels in order to limit climate change.

Divestment Alone Won’t Beat Climate Change

Harvard Business Review

The fossil fuel divestment movement – an increasingly popular approach with environmentalists — primarily tries to convince pension funds, university endowments, and other asset holders that their investments in oil and coal are unethical because of impact of fossil fuel emissions on the world’s climate. Both of us have done work on sustainable development and are keen to see a transition away from fossil fuels in order to limit climate change.

Providing Earnings Guidance? Think Again

Harvard Business Review

As we conclude another earnings season, then, it's a good time to consider the advisability of providing earnings guidance. It's a question that has defied consensus, with valid arguments on both sides of the issue. The arguments center on the value of establishing increased transparency with investors, and include: Higher Stock Price: The advocates for guidance argue that it can result in a higher stock price.

CFO 12

Get the Strategy You Need — Now

Harvard Business Review

Two uncomfortable strategic truths face the vast majority of executives and companies – and probably you, too. Though both statements may sound extreme, they are the clear implication of new McKinsey research on how companies create value and allocate resources. The widespread absence of a powerful strategy is clear from our recent study of 3,000 of the world’s largest companies, which finds that just 20 percent in that group create 90 percent of its total economic profit.

What Private Equity Investors Think They Do for the Companies They Buy

Harvard Business Review

What have been less explored are the specific actions taken by private equity (PE) fund managers. PE firms typically buy controlling shares of private or public firms, often funded by debt, with the hope of later taking them public or selling them to another company in order to turn a profit. In particular, we are interested in how many of their responses correlate with what academic finance knows and what it teaches.

Is Your Business Biased Against Innovation?

Strategy Driven

Many people do not typically think of metrics and accounting as roadblocks to innovation, yet you call these out as potential problem areas. The logic of NPV is to project cash flows into the future and then discount those flows back into today’s dollars at a given cost of capital. Yet for the small handful of companies that have managed to drive growth consistently – even through tough times – the payoff is great.

NPV 50

Why Those Guys Won the Economics Nobels

Harvard Business Review

The Swedes had given the award to one guy, Eugene Fama , who is best known for originating something called the efficient market hypothesis, another guy, Robert Shiller , who once called the efficient market hypothesis “one of the most remarkable errors in the history of economic thought,” and a third guy, Lars Peter Hansen , whose work is so dense that even academic economists couldn’t satisfactorily explain it or its connection to Fama and Shiller. That’s kind of a deep insight.

How CMOs Can Get CFOs on Their Side

Harvard Business Review

Marketing is in the midst of an ROI revolution. The arrival of advanced analytics and plentiful data have allowed marketers to demonstrate return on investment with a degree of precision that’s never been possible before. In our experience, companies that adopt this marketing analytics approach can unlock 10–20 percent of their marketing budget to either reinvest in marketing or return to the bottom line.