The focus of this reading is on the short-term aspects of corporate finance activities collectively referred to as working capital management . The goal of effective working capital management is to ensure that a company has adequate ready access to the funds necessary for day-to-day operating expenses, while at the same time making sure that the company’s assets are invested in the most productive way. Achieving this goal requires a balancing of concerns. Insufficient access to cash could ultimately lead to severe restructuring of a company by selling off assets, reorganization via bankruptcy proceedings, or final liquidation of the company. On the other hand, excessive investment in cash and liquid assets may not be the best use of company resources.
Effective working capital management encompasses several aspects of short-term finance: maintaining adequate levels of cash, converting short-term assets (i.e., accounts receivable and inventory) into cash, and controlling outgoing payments to vendors, employees, and others. To do this successfully, companies invest short-term funds in working capital portfolios of short-dated, highly liquid securities, or they maintain credit reserves in the form of bank lines of credit or access to financing by issuing commercial paper or other money market instruments.
Working capital management is a broad-based function. Effective execution requires managing and coordinating several tasks within the company, including managing short-term investments, granting credit to customers and collecting on this credit, managing inventory, and managing payables. Effective working capital management also requires reliable cash forecasts, as well as current and accurate information on transactions and bank balances.