Concept of Cash
“Cash, like the blood stream in the human body, gives vitality and strength to business enterprises.”
Though cash hold the smallest portion of total current assets. However, cash is both the beginning and end of working capital cycle – cash, inventories, receivables and cash. It is the cash, which keeps the business going. Hence, every enterprises has to hold necessary cash for its existence. Moreover, steady and healthy circulation of cash throughout the entire business operations is the basis of business solvency.
In the words of R.R. Bari, “Maintenance of surplus cash by a company unless there are special reasons for doing so, is regarded as a bad sigh of cash management.”
Cash may be interpreted under two concepts. In narrow sense, cash is very important business asset, but although coin and paper currency can be inspected and handled, the major part of the cash of most enterprises is in the form of bank checking accounts, which represent claims to money rather than tangible property. While in broader sense, cash consists of legal tender, cheques, bank drafts, money orders and demand deposits in banks. In general, nothing should be considered unrestricted cash unless it is available to the management for disbursement of any nature. Thus, from the above quotations we may conclude that in narrow sense cash means cash in hand and at bank but in wider sense, it is the deposit in banks, currency, cheques, bank draft etc. in addition to cash in hand and at bank.
Motives for Holding Cash
A distinguishing feature of cash as an asset, irrespective of the firm in which it is held, is that it does not earn any substantial return for the business. In spite of this fact cash is held by the firm with following motives.
- Transactions Motive – This motive refers to the holding of cash, to meet routine cash requirements in the ordinary course of business. A firm enters into a number of transactions which requires cash payment. For example, purchase of materials, payment of wages, salaries, taxes, interest etc. Similarly, a firm receives cash from cash sales, collections from debtors, return on investments etc. But the cash inflows and cash outflows do not perfectly synchronize. Sometimes, cash receipts are more than payments while at other times payments exceed receipts. The firm must have to maintain sufficient (funds) cash balance if the payments are more than receipts. Thus, the transactions motive refers to the holding of cash to meet expected obligations whose timing is not perfectly matched with cash receipts. Though, a large portion of cash held for transactions motive is in the form of cash, apart of it may be invested in marketable securities whose maturity conform to the timing of expected payments such as dividends, taxes etc.
- Precautionary Motive – Apart from the non-synchronisation of expected cash receipts and payments in the ordinary course of business, a firm may be failed to pay cash for unexpected contingencies. For example, strikes, sudden increase in cost of raw materials etc. Cash held to meet these unforeseen situations is known as precautionary cash balance and it provides a caution against them. The amount of cash balance under precautionary motive is influenced by two factors i.e. predictability of cash flows and the availability of short term credit. The more unpredictable the cash flows, the greater the need for such cash balances and vice versa. If the firm can borrow at short-notice, it will need a relatively small balance to meet contingencies and vice versa. Usually precautionary cash balances are invested in marketable securities so that they contribute something to profitability.
- Speculative Motive – Sometimes firms would like to hold cash in order to exploit, the profitable opportunities as and when they arise. This motive is called as speculative motive. For example, if the firm expects that the material prices will fall, it can delay the purchases and make purchases in future when price actually declines. Similarly, with the hope of buying securities when the interest rate is expected to decline, the firm will hold cash. By and large, firms rarely hold cash for speculative purposes.
- Compensation Motive – This motive to hold cash balances is to compensate banks and other financial institutes for providing certain services and loans. Banks provide a variety of services to business firms like clearance of cheques, drafts, transfer of funds etc. Banks charge a commission or fee for their services to the customers as indirect compensation. Customers are required to maintain a minimum cash balance at the bank. This balance cannot be used for transaction purposes. Banks can utilize the balances to earn a return to compensate their cost of services to the customers. Such balances are compensating balances. These balances are also required by some loan agreements between a bank and its customers. Banks require a chest to maintain a minimum cash balance in his account to compensate the bank when the supply of credit is restricted and interest rates are rising.
Thus cash is required to fulfill the above motives. Out of the four motives of holding cash balances, transaction motive and compensation motives are very important. Business firms usually do not speculate and need not have speculative balances. The requirement of precautionary balances can be met out of short-term borrowings.
The term cash management refers to the management of cash resource in such a way that generally accepted business objectives could be achieved. In this context, the objectives of a firm can be unified as bringing about consistency between maximum possible profitability and liquidity of a firm. Cash management may be defined as the ability of a management in recognizing the problems related with cash which may come across in future course of action, finding appropriate solution to curb such problems if they arise, and finally delegating these solutions to the competent authority for carrying them out. The choice between liquidity and profitability creates a state of confusion. It is cash management that can provide solution to this dilemma. Cash management may be regarded as an art that assists in establishing equilibrium between liquidity and profitability to ensure undisturbed functioning of a firm towards attaining its business objectives.
Cash itself is not capable of generating any sort of income on its own. It rather is the prime requirement of income generating sources and functions. Thus, a firm should go for minimum possible balance of cash, yet maintaining its adequacy for the obvious reason of firm’s solvency. Cash management deals with maintaining sufficient quantity of cash in such a way that the quantity denotes the lowest adequate cash figure to meet business obligations. Cash management involves managing cash flows (into and out of the firm), within the firm and the cash balances held by a concern at a point of time. The words, ‘managing cash and the cash balances’ as specified above does not mean optimization of cash and near cash items but also point towards providing a protective shield to the business obligations. Cash management is concerned with minimizing unproductive cash balances, investing temporarily excess cash advantageously and to make the best possible arrangement for meeting planned and unexpected demands on the firms’ cash.