Forecasting during a pandemic
The path to better forecasting
Building a map of cash flows
Pearson’s functional currency is GBP, so with considerable variability in the company’s US profits another question was how to use the forecasting information to hedge currency risk. Again, this drew upon the low, medium and high scenarios: forward contracts were used to hedge committed or highly probable foreign currency flows for the low scenario, with collars and options used to provide protection for the medium and high scenarios.
Benefits of the project
Pearson has seen numerous benefits as a result of its enhanced forecasting process. Preparing forecasts centrally has freed up significant time for the operating companies, as well as enabling forecasts to be updated daily, instead of weekly or monthly. And Kelly notes that forecasts are now significantly more accurate than they were in 2019, despite uncertainty relating to the pandemic.
Further, Pearson has been able to use insights from the forecasting process to drive better performance in its working capital metrics – in particular, lower DSO, lower variability in DSO, and faster invoicing speed. These initiatives accelerated over £60m of cash flow in 2020, enabling Pearson to achieve its objective of delivering operating cash flow of over £300m, despite the pandemic.
Above all, the crisis has acted as a catalyst for Pearson to rethink the nature and purpose of forecasting. As Kelly concludes: “Whether the forecast is right or wrong becomes less important than understanding why it’s right or wrong. So the game we were playing wasn’t to get the forecast right on any particular day, but to have a good understanding of the business over time – which then enables you to get it right.”
This article was originally published on Eurofinance.com on August 17, 2021.