financial statement

Secrets of Bonding #37: Counting Counts!

One for you, one for me.

Two for you; one, two for me.

Three for you; one, two, three for me!

What fun, unless you are a surety underwriter and you’re incorrectly evaluating a financial picture.

When we review a new applicant for bonding, a range of factors are considered and the financial aspect is always one of them.  Sureties want to be confident that the company is stable and will be able to perform the bonded contract.  This includes the financial capability to finance the start of the work and deal with any issues that arise.  Such problems, if left unresolved, are the things bond claims are made of.

Who is the typical applicant for performance bonds?  Most often it is a privately owned company.  The focus of the financial evaluation is the fiscal year-end (FYE) of the company, which frequently is December 31st.

A range of elements are reviewed to determine the health of the company and its ability to survive the issues that often arise on construction projects.  One element is Cash.  Always the first (most liquid) asset listed on the Balance Sheet, you’ve heard the expressions: Cash is king, Cold hard cash, A cash cow!  A strong cash position is universally recognized as a sign of health.

As part of the primary financial evaluation, underwriters calculate the company’s FYE cash position.  Secondarily, the finances and cash position of the company owners will be reviewed.  These parties are indemnitors to the surety even though they are not direct bond applicants (bond “Principals”).  In the event of loss, the surety is entitled to look to these parties for salvage and subrogation (financial recovery) – so the financial strength they add to the picture is relevant.

Trick Question: If financial statements show that the company has $100,000 cash at the 12/31 FYE and the owners personally have $100,000 on 1/31, do you have $200,000 for underwriting purposes?

Answer: You do unless that’s the same $100,000 that you’re counting twice.

Company owners may loan money to the firm and later pay it back. Money gets moved around, sometimes quickly.  There should be corresponding debt entries on the financials.  But if people “forget” to show them, readers can be tricked into counting the same asset twice.  How can underwriters prevent being fooled into double counting dollars?

The solution is to always require concurrent financial statement dates.  We will always request personal financial statements as of the fiscal year-end date of the company. Personal year-ends are automatically 12/31.  But if the company has chosen a different date, that will be the personal FS date we want.

It is also typical, when reviewing unaudited (unverified by an independent third party) financial reports, to ask for proof of the cash assets – such as bank or brokerage statements.

So there you have it.  When bond underwriters count the cash, they prevent counting the same dollars twice by requiring business and personal financials as of the same date, because Counting Counts!

Call us with you next Contract, Site or Subdivision Bond.

FIA Surety / First Indemnity of America Insurance Company
2740 Rt. 10 West, Suite 205
Morris Plains, NJ 07950
Office: 973-541-3417

An “A Rated” Carrier

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Secrets of Bonding #25: World’s Cheapest Audit

When it comes to financial statements prepared by a CPA (Certified Public Accountant), there are three levels of presentation:

Compilation – This is the lowest level and does not include any checking or verification of the numbers by the accounting firm. The numbers are merely “compiled” by the CPA.

Review – Some checking and “review” by the CPA.

Audit – The CPA performs analysis and verifications to authenticate the numbers.

Bond underwriters expect better prepared financials for higher amounts of surety credit.  This means contractors that have large bonding lines must provide Audited company financial statements (FSs).  Sureties and bankers are more confident when analyzing an audited FS – we assume everyone would have these high quality financial reports if it wasn’t for the cost.

Because of the time and human resources involved, a Review is less expensive than an Audit, and a Compilation is the least expensive of the three.

So in comes your contractor client who, for a number of reasons, decided to have a Compilation at the last fiscal year-end.  Now a large project needs to be bonded, and from a size standpoint, the underwriter normally expects a Reviewed FS.  If it is not practical to go back and upgrade the Compilation to a Review, what are your options?

The underwriter may be willing to work with the Compilation FS if some key elements are documented and / or verified.  Such an analysis is the heart of the difference between a Compilation and a Review.

At the minimum the underwriter is likely to ask for proof of cash, aged receivables (A/R) and payables (A/P), and a Work in Process (WIP) Schedule.  Let’s go over each one briefly.

Cash: If the FS date is 12/31, the idea would be to provide proof of the cash amount shown on the FS on that date.  If the FS shows $52,125 cash, you need bank or brokerage statements adding up to that figure for 12/31.

A/R & A/P: These reports should be as of the FS date and add up to the receivable and payables listed on the FS.  The A/R should be broken down by age showing how much is current, 60, 90, and over 90 days old. Retainages should be identified since they are not regular “trade receivables.” It is also beneficial to indicate which receivables were subsequently collected after the fiscal date. Payables should also be aged.

WIP Schedule: Needed as of the fiscal date to support the analysis of the company balance sheet.

This strategy is not as good as actually having a CPA Review, but the analysis performed by the underwriter could substitute for a Review and justify issuance of a bond. Plus, such services performed by the underwriter are free!  So, even though this is not really an Audit or Review, you can think of it as the “World’s Cheapest Audit.”  It can be just what you need to get a bond and keep moving forward with the file.

For the future, if similar sized bonds are likely, the client should plan on having a Review performed at the next fiscal year-end – it will help with surety and bank credit.  Added bonus: The company will have better documents for management review and the accountants will provide professional guidance that is not included with a Compilation.

FIA Surety is a NJ based bonding company (carrier) that has specialized in Site, Subdivision, Bid and Performance Bonds since 1979 – we’re good at it!  Call us with your next one.

Steve Golia, Marketing Mgr.: 856-304-7348

First Indemnity of America Ins. Co.

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