Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, we have witnessed significant volatility and dislocations that have roiled cross-border supply chains, financial and commodity markets, and the cost and availability of funding. While governments and central banks have unleashed significant firepower to ease the supply of credit, the operating environment remains fragile and prone to ongoing uncertainty.

These headwinds are of particular concern to companies that fall into sectors that are most impacted by the ongoing dislocations – such as energy, transport and hospitality. Within those and other impacted sectors, companies with high debt-to-earnings ratios that are simultaneously grappling with material revenue pressures will continue to feel the most stress as they seek to stabilize their balance sheets.

Drawing on lessons learned from the global financial crisis, we have seen a strong correlation between proactive working capital strategies and earnings per share (EPS) growth over the cycle, as companies with the most efficient cash conversion cycles registered EPS growth rates 1.5x compared with their peers between 2008 and 2011.

Taken together, this suggests that effective working capital optimization techniques can help ease liquidity and funding pressures in the immediate term. Whenever the recovery begins, companies with optimized working capital management should be better positioned to shift their focus towards growth.

When it comes to setting out your short-term and long-term working capital strategy, here are some points to consider: 

1.  Digitize, digitize, digitize

The acceleration of digitization is emerging as one of the dominant themes since the start of the crisis. In this context, you could explore the following:

  • Use bank platforms or industry tools
  • Migrate to direct presentment
  • Utilize e-invoicing and e-bills of lading
  • Use online receivables management tools
  • Shift from check to electronic payments

2. Mobilize for quick-wins

There are likely solutions you have in place today that could help drive incremental working capital improvements. Examples of these include:

  • Explore discounting Letters of Credit (LCs) or Bills
  • Re-launch dormant Single Use Account (SUA) or card programs
  • Ramp up enrolment in Supply Chain Finance (SCF) programs
  • Expand existing Accounts Receivable (AR) programs

3. Build for the future

You could also start an analysis to prioritize opportunities that can potentially deliver the greatest benefit for your organization, such as:

  • Investigate Export Credit Agency (ECA) support options
  • Review entire receivables portfolio
  • Implement integrated payables solutions
  • Explore off-balance sheet inventory financing

Helping clients optimize working capital is a key strategic priority for J.P. Morgan. Wherever you are on your digital journey, we stand ready to support you in crafting tailored and efficient solutions.

Be bold. Challenge yourself. Challenge your bank partners.

In these uncertain times, we thank you again for your continued trust in J.P. Morgan. Please contact your J.P. Morgan representative for further information.

Webcast Series:

How treasury and payments can lead in a dynamic environment

Enjoyed this article? Listen to our full webcast replay on this topic with subject experts from across J.P. Morgan discussing real-life examples. Registration is required.

Optimizing Working Capital for Today’s Challenges

Listen to our other webcast replays:

Maintaining Continuity with Treasury Operations in Turbulent Times

How has the triggering of business contingency plans impacted treasury, business and operations as staff shift to back-up or remote locations?

Harnessing the Power of Digital to Manage Uncertainty

What are the strategic challenges triggered by COVID-19 and what are the implications for treasury? Hear real-life case studies about how you can deploy digital capabilities to turn crisis into further opportunity.

Staying Focused on Cybersecurity and Fraud Prevention

What are the immediate risks around cybersecurity and fraud? What are the best practices to safeguard treasury and payments flows?

Registration is required for all webcasts.