Chairperson’s and Chief Executive Officer’s Report
The 2016/17 financial year, our thirty-first, was another successful year for the Western Australian Treasury Corporation.
A new vision for Western Australian Treasury Corporation (WATC), “To be recognised as the best at providing financial solutions for the Western Australian Public Sector”, was introduced on 1 July 2016. In order to achieve our vision, we focused on delivering our corporate objectives and the key aspects of our business.
- Provision of high-quality, cost-effective products and services to the Western Australian public sector.
- Maintain ready access to domestic and international capital markets to ensure funds are raised to finance client borrowing needs at the lowest possible cost.
- Optimise the performance of WATC in accordance with the and the risk appetite of WATC’s Board.
- Debt Funding
- Asset and Investment Management
- Risk Management
- Treasury Management Services
- Advisory Services.
Applying our EPIC values of Excellence, Partnership, Integrity and Commitment, we have effectively executed on the new vision and objectives, utilising the many specialist skills within our business.
WATC successfully achieved the State’s $5.8 billion new money borrowing program, as originally estimated in the release of the 2016/17 State Budget, with a net of $4.2 billion lent. In addition, maturing long- and short-term debt of nearly $3.9 billion was refinanced.
An important component of WATC’s debt funding strategy is the management of the balance sheet. There are two key balance sheet targets that ensure funding risk is managed adequately, while also taking interest costs into consideration. The first target requires debt maturing within 12 months to be less than 20% of total debt, including maturities of long- and short-term debt. The second target stipulates having liquid asset portfolios that exceed 100% of debt maturing within 12 months. Both of these targets were again achieved, with debt maturing within 12 months at 16.83% and the liquidity portfolios covering 120.81% of that amount at 30 June 2017. Combined, this implies that WATC could theoretically stay out of the financial markets for 12 months and rely on investment portfolios to meet refinancing needs. These results also provide positive support for State credit ratings, as well as cost-effectively managing refunding risk.
The attainment of these ratios also required the careful management of the impending maturity of the July 2017 benchmark bond, which totalled $5.5 billion at 30 June 2016. This was reduced to $2.0 billion at 30 June 2017 through early buy backs and extensions arranged during the year.
In October and December 2016, a total of $1.4 billion was received from the securitisation of a portion of the Keystart mortgage portfolio, which was comfortably absorbed into our net borrowing program.
WATC created a new 2024 benchmark bond in November 2016, raising $525 million, and added $1.0 billion to it in April 2017. In June 2017, a new 2026 benchmark bond was created, adding $1.3 billion to the debt portfolio. With this issue, WATC now has an annual fixed rate benchmark bond maturing in every year to 2027. There were also seven floating rate note issues outstanding with maturities out to 2022.
More than 50% of WATC’s paper is held by domestic bank balance sheets and 20–25% is estimated to be held by offshore investors. In order to place the growing level of debt and improve pricing, new and larger investors will be required, many of whom are offshore. Towards that end, this financial year, we have visited North Asia, Europe and South East Asia. With Asia and Europe each representing about half of WATC’s offshore holdings, Western Australia’s new Treasurer, Hon. Ben Wyatt MLA, accompanied us to investor briefings in North Asia and Sydney in April 2017.
A total of $7.4 billion ($6.9 billion in 2015/16) in short-term debt (short-term inscribed stock and euro commercial paper) was sold in varying maturities, while $12.1 billion ($11.5 billion in 2015/16) of long-term debt (benchmark bonds and floating rate notes) was issued in the 2016/17 year. At 30 June 2017, a total of $2.2 billion in short-term paper ($2.8 billion at 30 June 2016), $36.4 billion in benchmark bonds ($31.3 billion at 30 June 2016) and $9.4 billion in floating rate notes ($8.2 billion at 30 June 2016) was outstanding.
The purpose of sourcing funds from the financial markets is to fulfil the borrowing requirements of our Western Australian public sector clients. WATC, working together with clients, has facilitated clients borrowing at interest rates and maturities that are optimised to their requirements. Products used include the working capital facility, short term loans, term fixed rate loans and term floating rate loans. The recently developed interest cost projection system is now being used by the majority of the client base for interest cost budgeting and/or project planning purposes. Development of the WATC Client Portal is close to being finalised and will enable clients to access reports, receive confirmations and initiate transactions through an online platform.
Asset and Investment Management
WATC manages approximately $9.0 to $10.0 billion in five liquid asset portfolios for itself and on behalf of a number of Western Australian public sector clients. The portfolios comprise high grade, money market and fixed income assets and are managed cost-effectively according to specific individual investment objectives, providing competitive returns.
For a number of years, WATC has been active in assisting Western Australian public sector entities with measuring and managing foreign exchange risk. Often this occurs in asset or services procurement and with entities that are not regular users of foreign exchange.
This year, over 70 Western Australian government employees attended WATC’s foreign exchange related training sessions, designed to assist them in understanding foreign exchange risk and managing exposures, particularly within procurement. This involves the identification and management of foreign exchange risks in accordance with Treasurer’s Instruction 826.
With its on-going involvement with bank counterparties, WATC uses a multi-bank foreign exchange portal with feeds from a large number of domestic and foreign banks to ensure the best prices are obtained, and the most appropriate and cost-effective structures are considered, for each transaction undertaken on behalf of clients.
Treasury Management Services
WATC has in-sourced the treasury function and associated activities for a number of Western Australian public sector clients, providing a cost-effective service by leveraging off WATC’s expertise, comprehensive information and technology systems and risk management capabilities.
WATC has completed a number of client advisory engagements this year. With our centralised team of financial talent, our clients are able to access these resources to assist in unique or complex financial decisions. Asset valuations and balance sheet modelling are just two of the engagements successfully completed. In providing a comprehensive service to clients, the Advisory Services team of nine works collaboratively with other WATC staff who are available to assist with various engagements where their specialised knowledge and skills can be utilised.
Key Performance Indicators
Five of our six KPIs were achieved this year.
WATC’s Interest Rate Savings to clients estimates compared favourably to benchmarks established in previous years. In particular, for peers in the AA+ rated, 3–4 year maturity range, the analysis in June 2017 estimates that on average, savings of 55 basis points occurred. Target achieved.
As part of WATC’s quality assurance framework, feedback on completed engagements is sought from clients on a range of measures including quality, value, capability and the overall level of service. This year’s result remained very strong, with 100% of clients responding with positive satisfaction across these measures. Target achieved.
WATC’s administration cost ratio was 0.037%, a decrease from the 0.039% recorded in 2015/16 and well below our 0.060% target. The historic rate of growth in administration costs has approximated inflation, in spite of significant increases in the size of the balance sheet and the level of advisory services provided. In our estimation, this continues to remain one of the lowest cost ratios for any Australian State since 1996. Target achieved.
Profit before tax was $17.6 million, a slight increase from $16.0 million in 2015/16. This was modestly below budget of $21.1 million. WATC does not have a mandate to maximise profit, instead, our goal is to achieve an adequate profit while delivering cost-effective products and services to our Western Australian public sector clients. The result will return $14.5 million to the State in tax equivalent payments and dividends, which equates to $223,000 per WATC staff member. Acceptable target range achieved.
The Return on Capital measure was 15.49%, against a target minimum of 5.20%, and above last year’s rate of 14.30%. Target achieved.
People and Infrastructure
WATC’s fifth employee engagement survey conducted by Aon Hewitt provided some interesting results. With over 95% of staff participating in the survey, the headline number showed a decrease in staff engagement from 51% to 46% (against a target of 55% or over), reversing half of the improvement seen last year. There was a positive increase in the perception of the quality of communication, reflecting our focus to address this aspect based on previous years’ surveys.
‘Engagement’ is not simply a measure of employee satisfaction, but rather it is a measure of the number of staff willing to apply discretionary effort required to meet our goals. A strategic approach to improve staff engagement continued to be implemented this year. Building on the initiative to embed our new vision, objectives and EPIC values into the WATC culture, we continued our multi-year, modular leadership development program to support and continuously improve our culture. The program received positive feedback from staff in the engagement survey.
This financial year was WATC’s eighth year of accreditation by the Australian Financial Markets Association (AFMA). Twenty-four financial markets and client facing staff are currently certified. In addition, five WATC staff hold Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) accreditation.
Total staff numbers fell by one person this year to 65 employees, as staff turnover remained low. During the year, three staff retired and three staff resigned, with five new individuals hired.
In spite of an eventful year with respect to global events, financial markets have not moved as dramatically as one might have expected. Global equities firmed, and commodities recently softened after holding firm for most of the year. Australian dollar short-term interest rates remained close to historically low levels, driven by just one 25 basis point cut to the cash rate to 1.50%.
Long-term Australian interest rates increased by 20 to 60 basis points over the year as expectations of multiple RBA cash rate cuts were progressively priced out of the curve.
In the US, the Fed continued the ‘normalisation’ trend of the Fed Funds rate, with several 25 basis point increases over the year as the US economy strengthened and neared full employment.
The Australian dollar remained largely in the $0.68–0.78 range, being in the upper half of the range more recently.
There were no changes to credit ratings for Western Australia or WATC during the 2016/17 financial year. Standard and Poor’s retained its AA+ rating, with a Negative Outlook. Moody’s Investors Services maintained its rating at Aa2, with a Stable Outlook.
On 30 June 2017, Ms Kaylene Gulich completed her term as a WATC Director and Deputy Chair, which totalled nearly three and a half years. We want to acknowledge and thank Ms Gulich for her many contributions on the WATC Board and Audit Committee and wish her continued success in the future.
We also wish to welcome Mr Michael Court, Deputy Under Treasurer, on to our Board as Deputy Chair and Audit Committee member, commencing 1 July 2017.
We thank our employees and Board for their hard work and dedication again this year to achieve these positive outcomes for WATC and the State of Western Australia.
Chairperson and Under Treasurer
Western Australian Treasury Corporation
21 August 2017
Chief Executive Officer and Director
Western Australian Treasury Corporation
21 August 2017