Visa’s Koenigsberg: New Benchmarking Tool Helps Middle Market CFOs Compare Working Capital Efficiency With Peers

“If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it,” British mathematician and scientist Lord Kelvin said long ago.  

The 19th-century statement is especially relevant for corporate executives in 2024 — particularly when it comes to working capital. 

At a high level, working capital is defined as current assets minus current liabilities — a balance sheet-dependent formula that can serve as a proxy for a company’s financial health, a yardstick of its ability to take advantage of growth opportunities, or to weather macroeconomic challenges.

There’s no hard and fast rule governing how much working capital a company should have on hand. But by triangulating various data points, executives can gain insight into how they perform as a standalone entity and against their competition.

“There’s so much clutter of data that’s out there, and a lot of it’s not specifically meaningful,” Visa Senior Vice President and Global Head of Large, Middle Market, Industry Verticals and Working Capital Solutions Alan Koenigsberg told Karen Webster. Inflation is still a force to be reckoned with; different regions demand different approaches to growth, and nothing is homogenous or static. CFOs and treasurers, as they always have, must measure the day-to-day, week-to-week — and longer-term — strategies governing how and when they use working capital.

Moving Beyond the Calculators 

Decades ago, the key tool used to quantify working capital, examine cash flows and benchmark performance had traditionally been Hewlett Packard’s HP 12c Financial Calculator — laden with 120 functions tied to corporate finance. 

But 2024 is fully entrenched in the digital age, and punching in numbers by hand on a calculator feels a bit like the 20th century. 

In the meantime, Koenigsberg said, middle market firms, occupying the space between small and large corporates — firms that are growing quickly, generating between $50 million to $1 billion in revenue depending on how their banks measure the segment — often do not have solutions that completely meet their” age and stage” requirements.  

“This particular part of the corporate market,” Koenigsberg said, “experiences significant change, but is often subject to products that are either developed for small businesses or are developed for larger markets and ‘adapted’ downward, but these are the companies that are going to represent the Fortune 50 and Fortune 500 years from now.”  

Six months to the day after PYMNTS Intelligence and Visa released the Middle Market Growth Corporates Working Capital Index, the two firms on Wednesday (Feb. 28) launched Middle Market Growth Corporates Interactive Report and Benchmarking Calculator, both available at and the Visa Knowledge Hub. 

Quantifying Efficiencies

The two initiatives will help companies quantify their operating efficiencies and uncover aspects of back-office operations that are ripe for improvement. The calculator itself is underpinned by a data set of 275,000 unique observations taken from a double-blind study of nearly 900 CFOs across five industry sectors and 23 countries conducted by the PYMNTS Intelligence team.  

The interactive report, a flexible, immersive adjunct to the index launched in the fall, allows users to see the results of the Working Capital Index for their region or industry — a five-minute exercise that offers up tailored reports that drill down into company-specific regions and even types of working capital solutions. 

Koenigsberg noted the tailored reports have as their foundation “a scientific study that’s never been done before on this scale … and it was work worth doing, in terms of listening to the unbiased feedback from the representatives of these companies.”

The calculator and the reports offer growth corporates in verticals as diverse as fleet management and agriculture data points that can help guide decision-making as treasurers and CFOs mull investments and new instruments offered by providers, including banks (and Visa) such as virtual cards and back-office automation systems (that can improve DPO and DSO metrics).  

The timing for the dual-pronged launch is ideal, said Koenigsberg, who remarked to Webster that “working capital is a broader ecosystem — it really does affect everything. It’s thematic as well as a product.”  

The treasurer’s role has been elevated, he said, in the wake of COVID-19, and now has become strategic in how a company is managed, from the ways bills are paid all the way down to how leveraged the balance sheet might, or should, be.

There’s a growing awareness of the benefits of using embedded, digital, external working capital solutions, Koenigsberg said. The data shows that most of all respondents to the fall survey reported that they’d broadened and enhanced their use of working capital solutions — and they expect financial conditions to continue to shift through 2024 (and interest rates, of course, are always top of mind). The firms that have used working capital solutions for strategic growth purposes have performed better, financially, than those firms that have not done so.

Looking ahead, Koenigsberg noted that the interactive reports and the calculator will help inform future editions of the Growth Corporates Working Capital Index and may also help Visa target new initiatives to serve corporate clients and even find firms worthy of investment.

“Adding tools like this into the ecosystem adds value overall to how these companies look at themselves and how they’ll actually perform in the future,” he told Webster. For growth corporates, he said, “The journey is changing, and it’s exciting to see.”