Monday, October 05, 2015

Financial Management: Meaning, Nature and Scope

Meaning and Definitions of Financial Management
Financial management is management principles and practices applied to finance. General management functions include planning, execution and control. Financial decision making includes decisions as to size of investment, sources of capital, extent of use of different sources of capital and extent of retention of profit or dividend payout ratio. Financial management, is therefore, planning, execution and control of investment of money resources, raising of such resources and retention of profit/payment of dividend.
Howard and Upton define financial management as "that administrative area or set of administrative functions in an organisation which have to do with the management of the flow of cash so that the organisation will have the means to carry out its objectives as satisfactorily as possible and at the same time meets its obligations as they become due.
Bonneville and Dewey interpret that financing consists in the raising, providing and managing all the money, capital or funds of any kind to be used in connection with the business.
Osbon defines financial management as the "process of acquiring and utilizing funds by a business”.

Considering all these views, financial management may be defined as that part of management which is concerned mainly with raising funds in the most economic and suitable manner, using these funds as profitably as possible.

Nature or Features or Characteristics of Financial Management
Nature of financial management is concerned with its functions, its goals, trade-off with conflicting goals, its indispensability, its systems, its relation with other subsystems in the firm, its environment, its relationship with other disciplines, the procedural aspects and its equation with other divisions within the organisation.
1)      Financial Management is an integral part of overall management. Financial considerations are involved in all business decisions. So financial management is pervasive throughout the organisation.
2)      The central focus of financial management is valuation of the firm. That is financial decisions are directed at increasing/maximization/ optimizing the value of the firm.
3)      Financial management essentially involves risk-return trade-off Decisions on investment involve choosing of types of assets which generate returns accompanied by risks. Generally higher the risk, returns might be higher and vice versa. So, the financial manager has to decide the level of risk the firm can assume and satisfy with the accompanying return.
4)      Financial management affects the survival, growth and vitality of the firm. Finance is said to be the life blood of business. It is to business, what blood is to us. The amount, type, sources, conditions and cost of finance squarely influence the functioning of the unit.
5)      Finance functions, i.e., investment, rising of capital, distribution of profit, are performed in all firms - business or non-business, big or small, proprietary or corporate undertakings. Yes, financial management is a concern of every concern.
6)      Financial management is a sub-system of the business system which has other subsystems like production, marketing, etc. In systems arrangement financial sub-system is to be well-coordinated with others and other sub-systems well matched with the financial sub­system.
7)      Financial management of a business is influenced by the external legal and economic environment. The investor preferences, stock market conditions, legal constraint or using a particular type of funds or on investing in a particular type of activity, etc., affect financial decisions, of the business. Financial management is, therefore, highly influenced/constrained by external environment.
8)      Financial management is related to other disciplines like accounting, economics, taxation operations research, mathematics, statistics etc., It draws heavily from these disciplines.

Finance Functions (Scope of Financial Management)
The finance function encompasses the activities of raising funds, investing them in assets and distributing returns earned from assets to shareholders. While doing these activities, a firm attempts to balance cash inflow and outflow. It is evident that the finance function involves the four decisions viz., financing decision, investment decision, dividend decision and liquidity decision. Thus the finance function includes:
a)      Investment decision
b)      Financing decision
c)       Dividend decision
d)      Liquidity decision
1. Investment Decision: The investment decision, also known as capital budgeting, is concerned with the selection of an investment proposal/ proposals and the investment of funds in the selected proposal. A capital budgeting decision involves the decision of allocation of funds to long-term assets that would yield cash flows in the future. Two important aspects of investment decisions are:
(a) the evaluation of the prospective profitability of new investments, and
(b) the measurement of a cut-off rate against that the prospective return of new investments could be compared.
Future benefits of investments are difficult to measure and cannot be predicted with certainty. Risk in investment arises because of the uncertain returns. Investment proposals should, therefore, be evaluated in terms of both expected return and risk. Besides the decision to commit funds in new investment proposals, capital budgeting also involves replacement decision, that is decision of recommitting funds when an asset become less productive or non-profitable. The computation of the risk-adjusted return and the required rate of return, selection of the project on these bases, forms the subject-matter of the investment decision.
Long-term investment decisions may be both internal and external. In the former, the finance manager has to determine which capital expenditure projects have to be undertaken, the amount of funds to be committed and the ways in which the funds are to be allocated among different investment outlets. In the latter case, the finance manager is concerned with the investment of funds outside the business for merger with, or acquisition of, another firm.
2.Financing Decision: Financing decision is the second important function to be performed by the financial manager. Broadly, he or she must decide when, from where and how to acquire funds to meet the firm’s investment needs. The central issue before him or her is to determine the appropriate proportion of equity and debt. The mix of debt and equity is known as the firm’s capital structure. The financial manager must strive to obtain the best financing mix or the optimum capital structure for his or her firm. The firm’s capital structure is considered optimum when the market value of shares is maximized.
The use of debt affects the return and risk of shareholders; it may increase the return on equity funds, but it always increases risk as well. The change in the shareholders’ return caused by the change in the profit is called the financial leverage. A proper balance will have to be struck between return and risk. When the shareholders’ return is maximized with given risk, the market value per share will be maximized and the firm’s capital structure would be considered optimum. Once the financial manager is able to determine the best combination of debt and equity, he or she must raise the appropriate amount through the best available sources. In practice, a firm considers many other factors such as control, flexibility, loan covenants, legal aspects etc. in deciding its capital structure. 
3. Dividend Decision: Dividend decision is the third major financial decision. The financial manager must decide whether the firm should distribute all profits, or retain them, or distribute a portion and return the balance. The proportion of profits distributed as dividends is called the dividend-payout ratio and the retained portion of profits is known as the retention ratio. Like the debt policy, the dividend policy should be determined in terms of its impact on the shareholders’ value. The optimum dividend policy is one that maximizes the market value of the firm’s shares. Thus, if shareholders are not indifferent to the firm’s dividend policy, the financial manager must determine the optimum dividend-payout ratio. Dividends are generally paid in cash. But a firm may issue bonus shares. Bonus shares are shares issued to the existing shareholders without any charge. The financial manager should consider the questions of dividend stability, bonus shares and cash dividends in practice. 

4. Liquidity Decision: Investment in current assets affects the firm’s profitability and liquidity. Current assets should be managed efficiently for safeguarding the firm against the risk of illiquidity. Lack of liquidity in extreme situations can lead to the firm’s insolvency. A conflict exists between profitability and liquidity while managing current assets. If the firm does not invest sufficient funds in current assets, it may become illiquid and therefore, risky. But if the firm invests heavily in the current assets, then it would loose interest as idle current assets would not earn anything. Thus, a proper trade-off must be achieved between profitability and liquidity. The profitability-liquidity trade-off requires that the financial manager should develop sound techniques of managing current assets and make sure that funds would be made available when needed. 

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