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What is a working capital manager?
Working capital managers should ensure that a company is able to meet its short-term payment obligations at all times. Above all, companies with great complexity and many interfaces occupy this position. As a rule, working capital managers are used in corporations with around 1,000 employees or more or sales of several 100 million euros.
Your goal is to reduce the tied-up capital as much as possible. The orientation and area of responsibility of the working capital manager depend on the structure of the respective company. In principle, three possible focal points — and the associated backgrounds of the applicants — can be identified:
- Receivables (DSO): If a company has tied up a lot of capital in customer receivables, fast incoming payments help to reduce the tied-up capital. Therefore, receivables management is of great importance for the working capital manager. This includes all measures that contribute to minimizing the time between the order date and receipt of payment. Accounting know-how is particularly important for this.
- Accounts Payable (DPO): If a company has high accounts payable – this is primarily about outstanding payments – working capital managers try to optimize the payment terms: They take measures to maximize the time between the invoice date and payment so that the money stays with the company longer remains.
- Inventories or supply chain management (DIO): If a company has high inventories, the supply chain is the focus of the working capital manager: His task is then to minimize the period between goods receipt and withdrawal and to optimize finished goods inventories. This includes, for example, optimizing the delivery process and agreeing good Incoterms with suppliers. Someone with detailed knowledge of the supply chain can identify valuable potential for optimization here.
- Controlling: Working capital managers can also be used to optimize the entire process chain. They then set targets for the individual areas and check and analyze the numbers. In this case, they themselves work less operationally. At the same time, they need to understand how a company’s operational business works.
Process improvers beyond day-to-day business
In all four variants, the responsibility of the working capital manager can also vary: Should they control operational processes independently? Or do they act more as an interface between the operating units and top management or the board of directors? Either way, working capital managers work largely independently of day-to-day business. While they need to know and understand the day-to-day processes, they focus on improving individual process steps or conditions to increase liquidity.
In general, one of the tasks of the working capital manager is to introduce measurable key figures and set up a reporting system. This is the only way that meaningful goals can be defined and measured or controlled. While some companies already have an IT infrastructure for this, other groups have to set it up first.
In addition, working capital managers repeatedly receive ad hoc inquiries in their area of responsibility. These can be questions from the IR department about published figures as well as detailed questions from the CFO. Even in times of crisis, working capital managers are often in demand: Because companies usually struggle with liquidity bottlenecks, especially in (impending) insolvency. In restructuring, it is therefore important to release as much capital as possible relatively quickly and reduce tied-up capital — a classic case for working capital managers.
Working capital management and digitization
Digitization as an omnipresent driver of the industry not only influences the job of the working capital manager, it also separates the wheat from the chaff. Because it not only enables quick reactions to changes, which is very important in the area of working capital management, but it is also an absolute success factor. Because for companies of all sizes, the better they are digitized, the better they can be managed.
In addition to digitization, the job of the working capital manager is driven by other developments. This is how new financing models or innovative ideas on how companies can improve their cash reserves are constantly emerging. One of the more recent developments here, for example, is supply chain finance or reverse factoring.
The most important things in 5 seconds
- Education: Completed degree in economics, industrial engineering or comparable education
- Starting salary: €60,000
- Top salary: €100,000
- Opportunities for advancement: top management.
What does a working capital manager do?
- Definition of goals and measures to achieve the budget
- Creation of cash forecasts and monthly cash reports as well as definition of measures to achieve the cash budget
- Implementation of all cash management activities (payment transactions, cash pooling, cash forecasting, bank account management) as well as task-related networking with all internal interfaces such as legal, accounting, controlling and tax
- Optimization of existing processes to reduce capital commitment
- Planning and implementation of measures to optimize costs and release liquidity in the operational area
- Optimization of inventories, receivables and liabilities
- Processing and administration of sureties and bank guarantees
- Control of incoming and outgoing payments as well as adhering to and enforcing complianceguidelines
- Contact with external and internal auditors
- Definition and support of (special) projects
- Processing of ad hoc requests
How do you become a working capital manager?
You rarely become a working capital manager right after you graduate. Rather, the applicants first gain professional experience in relevant (financial) areas. Suitable applicants have the following skills:
- Completed studies in the field of economics, industrial engineering or comparable training
- Relevant professional experience in the areas of working capital, supply chain, accountingor controlling
- Understanding of business processes (order-to-cash, purchase-to-pay, supply chain management/ forecast-to-fulfill)
- Experience in e-banking and treasury systems, on-behalf-of payment methods and cash pooling
- very good user knowledge in MS Office (Excel) as well as good knowledge of SAP
- possibly knowledge of HGB and IFRS
- very good knowledge of German and English
What does a working capital manager earn?
up to €100,000
On average, working capital managers earn between € 60,000 and €100,000 gross per year. The salary level is largely dependent on how the employee’s range of tasks – and thus his responsibility and proximity to management – is defined. Other factors that influence the salary are the size of the company, the number of locations and whether the working capital manager has personnel responsibility.
What do you expect from the working capital manager?
Working capital managers are »smart penny pinchers«: They examine the processes and key figures in their area of responsibility very closely. Driven by the joy of dealing with numbers, her goal is to discover every little optimization potential. However, they are not looking for problems, but for solutions. Working capital managers are characterized by a very structured and service-oriented way of working and have organizational skills. They can communicate necessary changes in a targeted manner and implement them constructively even in the face of headwinds. Although you usually work alone, you always think in a team and keep an eye on the big picture.
Opportunities for advancement as a working capital manager
A working capital manager is very well connected in the company and knows a lot of numbers and structures. For this reason, the position is in some cases a good stepping stone to top management. However, the area of responsibility is also very specific: there are not too many working capital managers in Germany, so the career path is very narrow if you want to develop further within this area of responsibility. However, branches into related subject areas such as supply chain or controlling are very possible.
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