Expert Insight Series: Optimizing Financing Heading Into 2024
EXPERT INSIGHTS SERIES: OPTIMIZING FINANCING HEADING INTO 2024
In October, The CFO Alliance welcomed Chris Vargo and Bryan Flory of PNC Bank to its monthly member "Expert Insights Series" event. Hosted by CFO Alliance founder Nick Araco and First Water Finance CEO Ben Lehrer, the group engaged in an interactive discussion highlighting current market trends and a look inside the decision-making process at banks for critical financing initiatives for 2024. The Expert Insights Series is a recurring virtual event for CFO Alliance members to gain access to subject matter experts and vetted partners in areas relevant to their roles and professional development. Whether it is new knowledge or targeted Q&A specific to individual circumstances, the goal of the series is to bring relevant, timely, and actionable takeaways directly to the community where time constraints or a lack of similar access hinder growth and confident decision-making.
Below, please find the summary takeaways from this month's Expert Insights Series with PNC Bank.
Current State of Financing Markets
Where did discussion participants stand regarding securing needed financing for 2024? Over half stated that they hadn't yet started or finalized financing needs for the coming year. While it is well known that interest rates are up and leverage appetite is down, banks are still eager to lend to trustworthy credits. Chris and Bryan highlighted an increasing emphasis on the 'whole bank relationship,' implying that borrowers who were 'loan-only' with their bank could expect a more challenging process in 2024 compared to those companies who had the entirety of the depository relationship with the bank and also leveraged other services such as treasury management.
Role of Budgets/Forecasts in Decision Making
The role of budgets and forecasts in decision making is receiving increased attention compared to 18 months ago. Rigor in the budgeting process is seen as valuable, and additional scenarios are welcomed. Banks are placing greater scrutiny on the budgeting process, seeking a realistic, or baseline, view of the outlook. Including forecasted credit metrics and highlighting the specific uses of additional financing needs are also viewed favorably, linking the presentation of the budget and related assumptions back to how it is assessed internally (while showing the bank that the business clearly understands the perspective and role of the lender in delivering on the budget). More details, a presentation of the process behind the budget build, and a cast of the outlook through the lender's perspective are surefire ways to improve upcoming financing processes.
Other Tips to Strengthen the Relationship
During our discussion, participants, on average, expressed a confidence level of 6 out of 10 in obtaining what they needed from their banks in 2024. To improve this, we asked Chris and Bryan to highlight additional ways to strengthen company relationships within the bank. One was to establish and nurture additional contacts within the bank beyond your primary relationship manager, building more familiarity with your business and future potential engagement with banking services. Another suggestion was to go beyond the bare minimum in information provision. Chris stated, "When working with your bank, transparency is key. By providing additional commentary on financials and engaging with your bank on future needs, even if not finalized, helps us keep our finger on the pulse and what might be coming down the pipe." While more communication and more advance warning aren't revolutionary realizations, banks are hungry for more, and it never hurts to reach out and ask what would move the needle.
Start earlier, provide more details, tailor the presentation, engage more often. These principles aren't new but are more pressing in the current market environment, and negative surprises (versus expectations) are anticipated in financing processes moving forward.
Interested in gaining access to peers, subject matter experts and partners, relevant market information, and actionable insights? We invite you to explore The CFO Alliance membership community and network. Replays of Expert Insights Series discussions are available to our members, and further CFO resources continue on our community platform. Learn more.