What are SPVs?
Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) – sometimes known as a Special Purpose Entities (SPEs) – are subsidiaries created by a parent company. They are separate legal entities with their own assets, liabilities and accounting and audit requirements.
They’re often referred to as “bankruptcy-remote entities”. That’s because the entity is formed to develop, own and operate a special business, project or asset while isolating financial risk and minimizing bankruptcy risk. So, if the activity of the SPV goes south it will not bring down the group into bankruptcy.
Setting up SPVs as part of a structured accounting process
There are many commercial reasons for establishing an SPV, including:
- Managing investment portfolios, such as private equity or other investment funds, property, aircraft, retail units with bank borrowing or leases, and crypto-currencies.
- With global climate change initiatives, they are increasingly being used for managing assets in the renewable energy sector (such as wind or solar farms).
The SPV Past
In the past, the flexibility of SPVs has meant they were vulnerable to misuse. There were some particularly infamous cases around the time of the financial crisis. However, with effective risk management and appropriate transparency, they can be highly beneficial investment tools. In fact, according to PwC:
The future of SPVs depends on their ability to offer clarity to investors and constantly balance risk.”
How can CFOs manage the risks of SPVs?
The responsibility for building the capability to assess, monitor and report on risk factors generally falls to the finance team. And, with a complex SPV structure, that’s a major accounting headache.
How finance leaders are more effectively managing SPV accounting:
1. Automating up to 90% of manual SPV accounting tasks
Let’s take a private equity firm as an example. Each fund you manage could be an SPV, or a series of funds could be managed in a single SPV. Each year, the finance team has to revalue every fund, taking into account management fees, overheads and other expenses. In addition, throughout the year, they have to handle currency recharges and allocate spend against each fund or series of funds.
The manual data entry involved can be huge. Even simply capturing the invoice data from third-party suppliers can be a time-consuming headache, when those invoices are scattered across various email inboxes. There’s also the added complication of co-ordinating multiple bank accounts.
These tasks are ripe for automation. A SaaS accounting platform with OCR (Optical Character Recognition) technology can digitise invoice processing, automate a tiered approval system and store all the data securely on one central platform, with full banking integration for auto-reconciliation. We’d estimate that around 90% (at least!) of manual day-to-day SPV accounting tasks can be fully automated.
Here’s what Rob Shaw, CFO of Apera Asset Management (an AccountsIQ customer) has to say about automating day-to-day accounting tasks:
Everyone can photograph, upload and record their own expenses, which feed directly into the accounting system, everything is electronic and it is zero paper. It is much easier for me to review from anywhere and, although I still want to manually review line-by-line, the admin-heavy part of the process is automated, making it easier for everyone.”
2. Consolidating reporting across multiple SPVs
Consolidated reporting is an absolute must for any CFO managing multiple SPVs. If you’re having to go off-system to manipulate data in Excel it could be taking up to a week of your time every month. One-click consolidation alongside quick and accurate FX re-evaluations, multi-dimensional reporting, inter-company management, budgeting and forecasting is a major time-saver.
With AccountsIQ, your finance teams can securely view the accounts of all your SPVs (including calculating minority interests) in real-time, on one platform. Finance Directors can consolidate reporting for all SPVs in real-time and in multiple currencies across multiple jurisdictions. It’s also specifically designed to meet the accounting needs of many businesses from start-up to maturity, enabling quick and easy set-up of new SPVs or other entities in just a few minutes.
Previously, Apera’s group consolidation was done in spreadsheets: data was exported from various systems and in different currencies, then brought together in Excel. AccountsIQ’s consolidation software means there is no fiddling around in spreadsheets trying to get things to tie. Working in Excel was not sustainable; before AccountsIQ, we had instances where we were struggling to get these reports right, sometimes until 2 a.m.”
Rob Shaw, CFO of Apera Asset Management
Watch our video for a 2-minute overview of how consolidated accounting software can help CFOs and their teams save time
3. Creating extensive and accurate Business Intelligence reports to enable confident, informed decisions
Finance Directors also need to deliver timely and accurate financial reports to the Board and other stakeholders. These could take the form of a management pack, dashboard reports or PowerBI reports. To feel confident that you’re reporting ‘one version of the truth’ across your portfolio of SPVs, we recommend you ensure your accounting software includes:
- Continuous consolidation to ensure the performances of all SPVs are visible at any time
- A flexible design where each SPV (or other entity) has its own individual database
- Multi-dimensional analysis
- Flexible reporting with drill down capability
- Excel Add-In and open API integration with PowerBI and other business systems (such as Salesforce or other CRM, payroll and expenses).
When you have less ‘noise’ in your finance system, you get much better visibility of financial performance. This makes it easier for CFOs of complex, multi-SPVs to monitor, assess and manage risk across their portfolio. Richer reporting also clears the way for better informed and faster decision-making.”
Darren Cran COO, AccountsIQ
Read the full Apera Asset Management case study.
Talk to one of our SPV accounting experts to arrange a demo customised to your needs.