Navigating a Data Maze: Performance Metrics for FX Hedges

By March 20, 2024No Comments

NeuGroup members debate the best methods to measure performance of foreign exchange hedges.

Amid the surge of finance teams embracing data and analytics to enhance decision-making, FX managers are harnessing data to measure their hedging programs’ abilities to mitigate risk for scores of currencies, identify strategies to manage exposures, and effectively communicate pre- and post-trade results to internal and external stakeholders.

  • At a recent summit meeting for members of NeuGroup for Foreign Exchange sponsored by Chatham Financial, a majority of members identified finding the best metrics and KPIs for their hedging programs as a top priority—vital for demonstrating the program’s value to the company.
  • One member said that metrics which effectively tell the story of an FX hedging program provide our “testament to bringing value and reducing earnings volatility.”
    • “Everything we are doing is a value-add, and there’s an appreciation when management can [actually] see the value-add,” another member responded.

Floors and forwards. One member said his company adopts a multi-pronged approach to assessing the performance of hedges involving meticulous measurement against expected outcomes set by an FX floor strategy, which sets predefined levels or thresholds below which FX rates are not expected to fall.

  • The strategy requires detailed calculations to compare hypothetical hedges the company could have made. Measuring performance against a FX floor strategy assesses whether their risk mitigation efforts effectively prevented losses when FX rates approached or dropped below these predetermined levels.
  • Because this company uses a combination of forward and option trades in their program, “we also measure against a hypothetical purely FX forward strategy,” he said. “And then, on a monthly basis, we meticulously analyze our FX P&L. If we’re effective, it shouldn’t exhibit significant fluctuations.”

Mid-hedge evaluation. Another member’s team analyzes hedge performance monthly, using metrics like the average hedged rate compared to spot rates over time, and considers whether to restructure hedges for larger and more significant exposures. “Though we probably only have a half dozen materially exposed currency pairs at most at any point.”

  • He starts by measuring the percentage of the currency that remains exposed to market fluctuations after a hedge. The team then analyzes where this protection lies in relation to the current spot rate and assesses potential losses.
  • He said this helps to evaluate whether the team has adequately protected against adverse outcomes, balanced against what level of risk exposure remains, before it’s too late.

On target. One member whose FP&A team helps set targets for the FX program, said goals for KPIs are critical, because a clear objective is necessary to gauge performance successfully. “But I’m glad to not be included in that process; we’re not in the business of giving targets,” he said. For multiple other members, benchmarks are set by leadership, or for one member, a quarterly capital risk committee comprising the CFO, chief risk officer, compliance team members and more.

  • A member, who only hedges external cash flows, has a KPI mandate set directly by the CFO: to offset any gain or loss by at least two-thirds. Gains and losses related to hedging activities are calculated by comparing effective hedge rates to budgeted FX rates that were set at the start of the fiscal year. Each month, the team examines where their gains and losses fall within the two-thirds threshold and make decisions as to how to hedge their remaining exposures accordingly.
  • Another member at a tech company responded that he uses option collars to manage risks, with an aim to offset approximately 40-50% of downside risk while still allowing some natural upside potential.

The balance of effective and efficient. For one member, the directive from senior management is to remain conservative on hedge ratios—or the percentage of potential currency volatility the company actually hedges—but aim for net-zero impact of currency fluctuations. “That obviously doesn’t happen,” he said, leaving the team responsible for communicating why any currency fluctuations remain.

  • “Where we look at it, from a KPI reporting perspective, is to try and attribute back the causes, which can be multifaceted,” he said. “From carry levels being very different, to hedges becoming very expensive to put on, to a view of exposures that is out of date, to a forecast being incorrect. So we need to pull and track all of these ahead of time.”
  • He added that, on the cash flow side, his team is responsible for investigating reasons for asymmetry between actuals and forecasts, considering factors like layering hedges and movements in forward rates. He said that potential obstacles include changes in market values, forward points or long-dated exposures.
  • The member also said that having data on hand before hedging can be equally useful. “Sometimes you can show management that a portion of exposure is de minimis, he said. “And it doesn’t make sense to hedge currency that’s not a significant portion of the balance sheet.”

People management: engaging stakeholders. One member discussed the role of comprehensive dashboards in facilitating engagement with management. “You need to be able to stand behind what you are doing, and show that you are adding value,” he said. “It’s helpful to get ahead of them and have dashboards with the metrics they care about—once they can see it and slice and dice, management gets more involved.”

  • Another challenge highlighted by a member is the need to communicate effectively with investors, who often focus solely on the bottom-line impact of currency fluctuations.
  • “The reality is, investors see a number, an impact related to currency, and they don’t understand nuances of accounting and legal entity structure—currency can be a driver of stock price perception,” he said. “Educating investors on the intricacies of FX risk management has to be an ongoing process.”
  • Similarly, effective education across finance doesn’t stop with quarter-end or year-end results. “Even when you think you are over-communicating, you should probably communicate more,” a member said.
Justin Jones

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