Foreign exchange operations involve complex economic. political, technical and financial factors. Due to these complexities and the rapid deregulation of the New Zealand financial markets in recent years, there is a real danger that foreign exchange operations maybe mismanaged leading to major losses. A recent New Zealand survey by Deloitte Haskins and Sells on treasury operations, which include foreign exchange activities, as reported by the National Business Review stated: ... many organisations which had moved to manage financial risks by establishing treasury functions had done so without fully understanding the implications of mismanaging that function. This had led to spectacular and well publicised losses such as the 483 million marks Volkswagon lost through unauthorised dealing. (MacLennan, 1989, p.14) This illustrates the magnitude of financial loss that can occur through mismanagement of treasury and, similarly, foreign exchange operations. A specific dollar amount for the total value of foreign exchange operations in New Zealand is not available1, 1. (Discussions with the Department of Statistics,
Massey University's Economics Department and Mr B.H. Doyle from the Rural Bank determined that no actual figure was available due to the difficulties in establishing a basis for measurement.)
but it runs into many billions of dollars. The research described in this paper addressed issues relating to the internal auditing of Foreign Exchange (FX) operations. As indicated above, foreign exchange operations carry high risk of loss due to the complexity of the factors involved. The primary objective of this research was to identify the seriousness of risks and appropriate management controls to deal with those risks. To achieve this two subobjectives were formulated. Firstly, all possible risks had to be identified, both from a normative and practical perspective. Secondly, the identification of all types of management controls theoretically appropriate and/or actually used to eliminate or reduce risk. This research is likely to be particularly relevant in an Australasian context because of the high dependency of local economies on the export and import of goods and services invoking millions of dollars of foreign exchange being handled each working day. Within New Zealand the deregulation of the financial markets, since 1984, has led to greater exposure to currency fluctuations, with the management controls to eliminate or reduce risk consequently becoming of greater importance.