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Charlie Merrill and the Financial Supermarket Strategy Net Present Value (NPV) / MBA Resources

Introduction to Net Present Value (NPV) - What is Net Present Value (NPV) ? How it impacts financial decisions regarding project management?

NPV solution for Charlie Merrill and the Financial Supermarket Strategy case study


At Oak Spring University, we provide corporate level professional Net Present Value (NPV) case study solution. Charlie Merrill and the Financial Supermarket Strategy case study is a Harvard Business School (HBR) case study written by Giovanni Gavetti, Anoop Ramachandran Menon, Katherine Dowd. The Charlie Merrill and the Financial Supermarket Strategy (referred as “Merrill Charlie” from here on) case study provides evaluation & decision scenario in field of Strategy & Execution. It also touches upon business topics such as - Value proposition, Creativity, Financial management, Financial markets, Strategy execution.

The net present value (NPV) of an investment proposal is the present value of the proposal’s net cash flows less the proposal’s initial cash outflow. If a project’s NPV is greater than or equal to zero, the project should be accepted.

NPV = Present Value of Future Cash Flows LESS Project’s Initial Investment




Case Description of Charlie Merrill and the Financial Supermarket Strategy Case Study


Charles "Charlie" E. Merrill was a visionary who opened the door to investing for the masses in America. The "financial supermarket" strategy, which Merrill conceived in the late thirties, revolutionized the brokerage and financial services of his time and is widely recognized as one of the most important strategic innovations in the history of the financial sector. This case opens a window on the genesis of Merrill's strategic insight. It focuses especially on how Merrill came to identify the analogy (banking as supermarkets) that led him to see his industry through a very different lens than most of strategic leaders at competing firms.


Case Authors : Giovanni Gavetti, Anoop Ramachandran Menon, Katherine Dowd

Topic : Strategy & Execution

Related Areas : Creativity, Financial management, Financial markets, Strategy execution




Calculating Net Present Value (NPV) at 6% for Charlie Merrill and the Financial Supermarket Strategy Case Study


Years              Cash Flow     Net Cash Flow     Cumulative    
Cash Flow
Discount Rate
@ 6 %
Discounted
Cash Flows
Year 0 (10022831) -10022831 - -
Year 1 3463635 -6559196 3463635 0.9434 3267580
Year 2 3969794 -2589402 7433429 0.89 3533103
Year 3 3962726 1373324 11396155 0.8396 3327181
Year 4 3226142 4599466 14622297 0.7921 2555407
TOTAL 14622297 12683271


The Net Present Value at 6% discount rate is 2660440

In isolation the NPV number doesn't mean much but put in right context then it is one of the best method to evaluate project returns. In this article we will cover -

Different methods of capital budgeting


What is NPV & Formula of NPV,
How it is calculated,
How to use NPV number for project evaluation, and
Scenario Planning given risks and management priorities.




Capital Budgeting Approaches

Methods of Capital Budgeting


There are four types of capital budgeting techniques that are widely used in the corporate world –

1. Profitability Index
2. Net Present Value
3. Internal Rate of Return
4. Payback Period

Apart from the Payback period method which is an additive method, rest of the methods are based on Discounted Cash Flow technique. Even though cash flow can be calculated based on the nature of the project, for the simplicity of the article we are assuming that all the expected cash flows are realized at the end of the year.

Discounted Cash Flow approaches provide a more objective basis for evaluating and selecting investment projects. They take into consideration both –

1. Magnitude of both incoming and outgoing cash flows – Projects can be capital intensive, time intensive, or both. Merrill Charlie shareholders have preference for diversified projects investment rather than prospective high income from a single capital intensive project.
2. Timing of the expected cash flows – stockholders of Merrill Charlie have higher preference for cash returns over 4-5 years rather than 10-15 years given the nature of the volatility in the industry.




Formula and Steps to Calculate Net Present Value (NPV) of Charlie Merrill and the Financial Supermarket Strategy

NPV = Net Cash In Flowt1 / (1+r)t1 + Net Cash In Flowt2 / (1+r)t2 + … Net Cash In Flowtn / (1+r)tn
Less Net Cash Out Flowt0 / (1+r)t0

Where t = time period, in this case year 1, year 2 and so on.
r = discount rate or return that could be earned using other safe proposition such as fixed deposit or treasury bond rate. Net Cash In Flow – What the firm will get each year.
Net Cash Out Flow – What the firm needs to invest initially in the project.

Step 1 – Understand the nature of the project and calculate cash flow for each year.
Step 2 – Discount those cash flow based on the discount rate.
Step 3 – Add all the discounted cash flow.
Step 4 – Selection of the project

Why Strategy & Execution Managers need to know Financial Tools such as Net Present Value (NPV)?

In our daily workplace we often come across people and colleagues who are just focused on their core competency and targets they have to deliver. For example marketing managers at Merrill Charlie often design programs whose objective is to drive brand awareness and customer reach. But how that 30 point increase in brand awareness or 10 point increase in customer touch points will result into shareholders’ value is not specified.

To overcome such scenarios managers at Merrill Charlie needs to not only know the financial aspect of project management but also needs to have tools to integrate them into part of the project development and monitoring plan.

Calculating Net Present Value (NPV) at 15%

After working through various assumptions we reached a conclusion that risk is far higher than 6%. In a reasonably stable industry with weak competition - 15% discount rate can be a good benchmark.

Years              Cash Flow     Net Cash Flow     Cumulative    
Cash Flow
Discount Rate
@ 15 %
Discounted
Cash Flows
Year 0 (10022831) -10022831 - -
Year 1 3463635 -6559196 3463635 0.8696 3011857
Year 2 3969794 -2589402 7433429 0.7561 3001735
Year 3 3962726 1373324 11396155 0.6575 2605557
Year 4 3226142 4599466 14622297 0.5718 1844557
TOTAL 10463705


The Net NPV after 4 years is 440874

(10463705 - 10022831 )






Calculating Net Present Value (NPV) at 20%


If the risk component is high in the industry then we should go for a higher hurdle rate / discount rate of 20%.

Years              Cash Flow     Net Cash Flow     Cumulative    
Cash Flow
Discount Rate
@ 20 %
Discounted
Cash Flows
Year 0 (10022831) -10022831 - -
Year 1 3463635 -6559196 3463635 0.8333 2886363
Year 2 3969794 -2589402 7433429 0.6944 2756801
Year 3 3962726 1373324 11396155 0.5787 2293244
Year 4 3226142 4599466 14622297 0.4823 1555817
TOTAL 9492225


The Net NPV after 4 years is -530606

At 20% discount rate the NPV is negative (9492225 - 10022831 ) so ideally we can't select the project if macro and micro factors don't allow financial managers of Merrill Charlie to discount cash flow at lower discount rates such as 15%.



Acceptance Criteria of a Project based on NPV

Simplest Approach – If the investment project of Merrill Charlie has a NPV value higher than Zero then finance managers at Merrill Charlie can ACCEPT the project, otherwise they can reject the project. This means that project will deliver higher returns over the period of time than any alternate investment strategy.

In theory if the required rate of return or discount rate is chosen correctly by finance managers at Merrill Charlie, then the stock price of the Merrill Charlie should change by same amount of the NPV. In real world we know that share price also reflects various other factors that can be related to both macro and micro environment.

In the same vein – accepting the project with zero NPV should result in stagnant share price. Finance managers use discount rates as a measure of risk components in the project execution process.

Sensitivity Analysis

Project selection is often a far more complex decision than just choosing it based on the NPV number. Finance managers at Merrill Charlie should conduct a sensitivity analysis to better understand not only the inherent risk of the projects but also how those risks can be either factored in or mitigated during the project execution. Sensitivity analysis helps in –

What will be a multi year spillover effect of various taxation regulations.

What are the uncertainties surrounding the project Initial Cash Outlay (ICO’s). ICO’s often have several different components such as land, machinery, building, and other equipment.

What can impact the cash flow of the project.

Understanding of risks involved in the project.

What are the key aspects of the projects that need to be monitored, refined, and retuned for continuous delivery of projected cash flows.

Some of the assumptions while using the Discounted Cash Flow Methods –

Projects are assumed to be Mutually Exclusive – This is seldom the came in modern day giant organizations where projects are often inter-related and rejecting a project solely based on NPV can result in sunk cost from a related project.

Independent projects have independent cash flows – As explained in the marketing project – though the project may look independent but in reality it is not as the brand awareness project can be closely associated with the spending on sales promotions and product specific advertising.




References & Further Readings

Giovanni Gavetti, Anoop Ramachandran Menon, Katherine Dowd (2018), "Charlie Merrill and the Financial Supermarket Strategy Harvard Business Review Case Study. Published by HBR Publications.