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World Bank: prizing speed and flexibility

Sovereign borrowers

The World Bank has always resisted setting up rigid issuance commitments, priding itself instead on speed and flexibility. "We try to keep as alert as possible to changing investor asset preferences," says Kenneth Lay, deputy treasurer and head of capital markets. The bank's precise funding requirements fluctuate with its lending but with a predicted need of between $15 billion and $20 billion this fiscal year it can afford to leave itself more room for manoeuvre than other supranationals and agencies.

Lay explains: "We've had the luxury of having a borrowing programme that has grown arithmetically when the rest of the market has grown exponentially, and this allows us to be very flexible in size and term."

Alongside the dollar benchmark programme, small tailored deals to meet specifically local investor concerns are an important source of World Bank funding. "Over the years we've developed a very efficient middle and back office, which has driven down our transaction costs. You have to be somewhat fleet of foot, but structured deals have proved a very cost-effective and stable source of funding."

These deals can be as small as $10 million or the equivalent, and Lay says the bank's treasury team can turn them around in as little as an hour.

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