Elements of Corporate Risk (Fourth of a Series)

In astronomical terms, it was a close call. Last Wednesday an asteroid almost a mile long passed within 1.1 million miles from Earth. The object, known as JO25 and nicknamed “The Rock,” was visible in small telescopes. “We’re safe,” remarked NASA plantetary defense officer Lindley Johson. ”From this one.”

Keeping a sharp eye out for close encounters of the credit kind are always on the mind of portfolio defense officers, otherwise known as credit risk officers. Leverage loans provide greater yields to investors than lending to investment grade corporate borrowers, but also entail higher risk. More leverage means less cushion in event of operational or systemic problems impacting revenues and cash flows.

Technology risk – While advances in technology have always created winners and losers, the pace of disruptive innovation has accelerated dramatically in the past decade. In particular, the advent of on-line marketing has altered the retailing landscape forever. This year alone HH Gregg, Gander Mountain, Bebe Stores, The Limited, and Wet Seal either filed for bankruptcy or closed all their stores. The Amazon effect has caused even premier chains like Walmart and Neiman Marcus to struggle.

Tectonic shifts in software and search engines – let’s call it the Google effect – are also impacting the way businesses track consumer buying patterns and preferences.