Pathway to Recovery® Series
Sometimes, You Have to Reevaluate Your Baskets

We all know the old adage cautioning us not to put all of our eggs in one basket. That saying has survived all these years because it imparts a great deal of financial wisdom in just a few brief words. We can all appreciate that simple logic, yet there still may be times when we become a bit too comfortable or complacent with the assortment of baskets that are available to us.

If you serve as the CFO of a county, town, city, public education institution, or public authority, then you are responsible for a lot of “eggs.” In order to protect and effectively manage the assets that are in your care, you need to have at your disposal a diverse and strategic selection of “baskets” in which to deposit the funds for which you are responsible.

Though protection of principal is certainly the primary goal, earning the highest-available interest on those dollars is also a very important consideration. One size definitely does NOT fit all when it comes to banks, money-market accounts, CDs, municipal pools. and the range of interest rates they offer on any given day. The most successful public sector CFOs are being proactive by seeking out the most advantageous interest rates for the funds in their care. That can mean earning an additional 25 or 50 basis points on their available cash. Higher interest earnings directly equate to increased revenues for your public institution.

As municipalities struggle to deal with new economic challenges, we are seeing more and more public-sector CFOs being asked to find additional non-tax revenue streams. One way to do that may be to add more banking options and more investment choices to your portfolio. That simple strategy will provide you with two direct benefits: first, it adds more baskets in which to diversify (and thus safeguard) your eggs. And second, having more baskets to choose from will give you a wider variety of options when selecting the one that offers the highest-possible return for the specific timeline that you expect to have those funds on deposit.

You may also be aware that, in some states, financial-oversight agencies are looking more closely at whether the municipalities under their jurisdiction are being too passive when it comes to cash management. Even in this low-rate interest environment, some CFOs and their legislative boards are being criticized for not proactively soliciting interest rate quotes in order to maximize the value of their cash. It’s no longer good enough to just park most of your cash in a money-market account or pool and then stop looking for other (perhaps better) options. Public entities are also being required to prepare cash-flow forecasts in order to determine the optimum amount of funds that they have available for investment right now as well as in future months.

Having access to precise liquidity data allows CFOs to know how much total cash they have on deposit. By using forecasting models, they can also determine when that cash will be needed.  This creates a clear window of opportunity that can be used to maximize the interest earnings on that cash, and to deposit it over the longest possible timeline. Reliable forecasting opens up the possibility of using 6-month, 12-month, or even 18-month fixed-rate CDs and US Treasuries to lock in higher earnings for longer time frames. In this era of extreme scrutiny of all taxpayer-funded organizations and government agencies, employing proactive cash-management techniques and liquidity-analysis practices is simply good policy.

We already know not to put all of our eggs in one basket. Now we have reliable, accurate fintech tools to help us evaluate all of the available baskets, and to then select the ones that best serve our particular public entity’s needs.

The author served for a total of 38 years in local government at the village, town, and county levels, including 24 years as a County Treasurer/CFO responsible for investing public funds. He can be reached by phone at 585-484-0311 or through our website at https://threeplusone.us. Fintech tools from three+one® include cashvest®, MC Forecast®, and rfpPrep®, all of which provide public entities with the kind of accurate, reliable cash-management data that they need in order to make the best financial decisions for the funds in their care.