I’m here at RabbitHole, Inc., talking with the company’s Manager of Money in his office, which is buried in the Facilities Department, down in the building’s basement. I’m interviewing him to get a better sense of how RabbitHole manages money as a corporate asset.

Pardon my asking, but how much money does RabbitHole have?

“Frankly, no one knows – we don’t really keep track of that. We have boxes of paper currency stored off-site, but as for ‘active’ money, our employees keep that pretty much wherever they choose – in the network money systems, in their individual offices, in mobile wallets, and probably some stashed at home.”

But isn’t that your job? I mean, your title is “Manager of Money,” right? 

“Nope – that’s indeed my title, but I don’t have the authority to manage all of RabbitHole’s money. My focus is just on the paper money, not electronic accounts and transfers. And I only keep track of the paper currency that is boxed up and kept off-site – what employees do with money day-to-day is up to them, their business units, and the company’s Money Policy.”

What does the Money Policy say?

“Basically, it says that RabbitHole’s money belongs to the company, not to our employees, and that employees should keep track of the company money they use. Oh, and also, there’s a Chart of Accounts attached to the Money Policy – a schedule of the different accounts for RabbitHole’s money, which employees are supposed to follow when they do business transactions or store money. We’ve also posted these on RabbitHole’s Intranet, as general guidance for employees.”

The Chart of Accounts sounds important – is it kept up to date and verified?

“Not really. Every few years the Legal Department is supposed to look it over, but they usually just ask the business units if they have any changes, and it tends to stay the same. We’ve talked about ways to tie the Chart of Accounts directly into how money is actually used and stored, sort of a ‘General Ledger.’ But that’s hard to do, so we haven’t made much headway there. I do use the Chart of Accounts when boxing and shipping paper currency off-site, but I can’t say whether anyone else really follows it.

Really?

“Well sure – keeping track of company money of course sounds good, but that takes a lot of effort, and for most here it’s too much of a distraction from getting their work done each day.” 

You mention “paper” money a lot – what about electronic accounts?

“The IT Department deals with that. Remember, the Money Policy and Chart of Accounts were set up long ago for paper currency, and we haven’t fully worked through applying that stuff to electronic transactions – there’s just too much of that going on, with huge amounts of dollars moving around every which way – it’s overwhelming.”

So, is there a Manager of Electronic Money at RabbitHole?

“The IT Department does that, but most of their focus is on maintaining the repositories for electronic money and the systems for electronic transactions. If you asked them, I expect they’d say they’re responsible for the computer infrastructure for electronic transactions and accounts, but not the electronic money itself.”

Is there concern about the security of RabbitHole’s money?

“You bet – that’s become a big deal here, with our board and senior management. IT has been charged with protecting the perimeter of our systems, to keep the bad guys out of our electronic accounts. But the thing is, with all of the paper and electronic money scattered about, security is a real challenge. On top of that, since our employees keep lots of the money in locations they choose, there are lots of vulnerabilities. I’m sure glad that’s not my responsibility.”

How about keeping track of money with RabbitHole’s contract partners?

“That’s not my job either, nor really the focus of IT. We have lots of service providers, and sometimes we serve other companies, and yes, the money does tend to all get commingled. It’s not always clear which of the dollars here belong to RabbitHole and which to our business partners, and beats me how our service providers treat our money in their hands. Hopefully our contracts say something about that, but as to due diligence on money management when selecting contractors, or any follow-up to make sure they’re actually managing our money per our contracts, I don’t know what we do.”

Is there anyone at RabbitHole who’s looking at the big picture of governing its money?

“Well, we’ve put together a group of folks to start talking about that. We call it our ‘Money Governance Committee.’ Honestly, we’re light years away from having a formal control system for our money, but at least we’re beginning to talk through what money we have, where it’s located, how we use it, how long we keep it, how we protect it, and who should be responsible for it as custodians. This is a big change for us – in the past, we’ve just hoped for the best on our money, and then swung into action whenever we noticed that a bunch of it has gone missing.”

“We’re now even thinking about ways to maybe monetize our money – you know, using it to earn even more money. We’ll see how that goes.”

OK, the above is absurd. It’s ridiculous to think that any company would be so cavalier, so out of control, in managing its money. After all, we’re talking about a valuable company asset, right?