How to manage foreign exchange risk
By ATB Financial 19 September 2019 3 min read
You don’t last more than a decade in Alberta’s oil and gas industry without smarts, hustle, and determination.
But when Canadian Global’s biggest customer began threatening to take their business to China if Canadian Global couldn’t match unmatchable prices, it was time for a change. The company knew there were opportunities beyond Canada’s borders—and that they came with big risks, like foreign exchange rates that change at the drop of a hat.
An Alberta business retools to join the global stage
When it launched in 2005, Canadian Global was an oil and gas fabricator, manufacturing custom equipment for other businesses in Alberta’s energy industry. With hard work and an appetite for smart, well-managed risk, the business grew from a small outfit to a steady, stable business.
That changed in 2015 when global energy prices collapsed. Customers began demanding impossible margins. Rather than tighten their belts and wait for another ride on the resources rollercoaster, the leaders of Canadian Global decided to look for opportunities outside Canada.
Using their network of contacts, the company soon identified a market opportunity. There was space in the global oil exploration industry for a Canadian supplier of top-drive drilling rig components—that’s the heart of a rig, the part that drives down into the rock—if that supplier was able to juggle international currencies with enough agility.
They decided to give it a shot, and their earlier analysis was soon vindicated by a rush of leads from businesses in Russia, Romania, Mexico, the Middle East, South America, and Australia.
Canadian Global was able to turn these prospects into customers—and open a new chapter in its own history—by making smart use of its 20,000 square-foot manufacturing facility in Calgary and outsourcing to around 80 other Alberta businesses.
That opened up a new can of worms: currency conversion.
The quest for the right rates
Though Canadian Global’s products are sold in many different countries, the business only needs access to one international currency: the American dollar, which is the “global” currency. The greenback is accepted almost everywhere.
For example, if Canadian Global is sending a drill component to, say, Russia, they don’t need to convert loonies to roubles. Instead, the Russian customer converts roubles to American dollars. It uses these to pay Canadian Global, which then converts the American dollars into Canadian ones.
The simplicity of this arrangement is its appeal. Instead of tracking many different currencies and their value against the Canadian dollar, Canadian Global’s foreign exchange team only needs to track one.
The downside of this arrangement is that an awful lot depends on the exchange rate between the loonie and the greenback. If the rate is unfavorable or unfair, it can eat a big chunk of the profit from an international sale.
Canadian Global tried a few different currency conversion services and struggled to find a conversion rate that seemed fair and a partner that cares about their success.
Then, in a meeting with their banker, they mentioned the headaches this was causing.
A powerful, simple solution
That banker was ATB—the same organization that had provided Canadian Global with its very first loan back in 2005. Now, ATB was able to provide a simple solution to Canadian Global’s foreign exchange problems: ATB FX.
ATB FX is ATB’s online foreign exchange platform. It’s powerful, simple to use, and backed up by a local team with deep expertise. Perhaps most important, there are no setup or monthly fees.
The result? A powerful tool for Alberta businesses operating beyond the borders of the province.
“With ATB FX, I don’t have to shop around for rates. I know I’m getting the best one,” says Cory Connelly, managing director of Canadian Global. “There’s no fluctuation or middlemen to be paid. Other guys might give you a good rate or they might not. With FX we get to-the-minute results of the exchange rate at that moment.
“Plus everything is just less of a hassle because it’s part of ATB.”