Currency Challenges for Digital/Creative Agencies

published on 18 January 2022

4-minute read

The last two years presented incredible challenges for all businesses. Lockdowns caused retail footfall to flatline, worker sickness incurred broad staffing shortages, and squeezed global supply-chains have pushed prices higher.

But it's not all bad: companies have been forced to embrace digital transformation at a greatly accelerated speed, customers are spending more time and money online, and brands are increasingly aware of the benefits of a robust and well-designed digital presence.

2022 will bring major challenges in client acquisition, evolving privacy regulations, creating engaging content in a saturated space, and global inflation which affects your business directly and possibly the budgets of your clients and prospects. 

With this backdrop you could probably do without adding currency risk to the mix, but it's there and it could cause you more than a headache.

How might currency risk occur in my business?

It's likely that you're a growing business with large, international clients, and you deliver high quality projects over a series of long-term milestones. Maybe you have overseas offices, and probably your payments in- and out of your business aren't all in pounds... 

Do you recognise your business in any of the following six statements?

1. Your clients are big, global brands...

  • Big brands dictate payment terms and may want to pay in their home currency
  • Ensuring you realise your target margin in sterling is imperative

2. You win significant, long-term projects 

  • With staged payments, often in a foreign currency
  • The pound's value against this currency will change over time, impacting your profit

3. You've opened offices overseas

  • Offices require funding, usually in their local currency
  • Once they start to generate revenue, your currency exposure changes

4. You're growing quickly

  • Cash liquidity is critical; you can't afford hits to cash-flow
  • Managing your margin across new clients, geographies, and currencies is difficult

5. You have a few major clients

  • Creating concentration risk, placing greater significance on protecting profits
  • Meaning losing one client would materially impact the business

6. You're busy doing amazing work

  • You don't have your eye on the currency market (which is fair enough!)
  • You might not be aware of the potential risk of foreign exchange rate volatility
  • You may not know the pros and cons of different currency hedging products

Should I be worried about exchange rate risk?

In short, yes. Currency volatility has been relatively low in the past few years (don't mention the Turkish Lira), mainly due to low inflation and interest rates, and an enormous provision of liquidity from central banks.

The market for treasuries has exhibited higher volatility recently, but currency markets have yet to wake up. This might not last forever!

The JP Morgan Global FX Volatility Index is still snoozing (Bloomberg)
The JP Morgan Global FX Volatility Index is still snoozing (Bloomberg)

As we move out of the pandemic period and central banks begin to raise interest rates, we may see greater swings in exchange rates. Businesses trading internationally should prepare for currency volatility to lift from historic lows and ensure their business is properly protected

Harry Mills, Founder & CEO Oku Markets

The pound swung 10-cents, or 7%, vs the US dollar last year. That's not a huge trading range for FX, but it's still fairly alarming to consider how the sterling-equivalent of a project billed in dollars, or the cost of running an office abroad, could have changed across the 12 months.

GBPUSD 2021 trading range
GBPUSD 2021 trading range

What can I do about it?

There are very simple measures you can take to protect your business, but they will be unique to your particular situation and objectives. You can start the work yourself by following this checklist:

  1. Business goals: understand your objectives
  2. Determine risks: your main sources and causes of risk
  3. Quantify impact: the consequences, within reasonable accuracy
  4. Decide next steps: if, when, and how to take action to reduce risk
A simplified goal>risk>impact>action example
A simplified goal>risk>impact>action example

Oku Markets can help...

If you'd like expert assistance from qualified professionals, then contact Oku Markets by writing to [email protected] or calling 0203 838 0250

We offer a full suite of currency risk management tools and services, our pricing is transparent and fair, and we value long-term relationships built on trust and honesty. 

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