If you think your cash management bank is never there when you need it, try being a treasurer in a place like Iraq, where private security firms stand in for bankers and cash moves via scruffy unmarked cars rather than linked accounts or wire transfers. David Claridge, managing director of London-based security consultant Janusian, explains that the lack of a mature banking system means that companies who need to move cash typically do so by moving paper money from one location to another under the watchful eye of hired guns. Then there are, broadly speaking, two options: "You either do it overtly, in an armored car, or you do it covertly, which basically means putting it in the back of a nondescript car." The overt method was used most notably at the start of 2004, when a fleet of armored cars was pressed into service for the introduction of the new Iraqi dinar. But many companies opt for the covert approach. "It's just a guy in a car and you hope the car doesn't get hit," says Claridge, who adds that Janusian has resorted to this approach. "Some companies–Bechtel, for example–were moving several million dollars a month around Iraq to cover payroll." Bechtel did not return calls for the article.

And it's not only in Iraq that companies have to practice extreme cash management. West Africa and post-Soviet states like Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan also lack mature banking systems, and natural resource companies with local operations must often rely on cash-filled suitcases.

Early in 2004, Iraq's central bank tried to remedy the situation by extending licenses to three banks: HSBC, Standard Chartered and the National Bank of Kuwait. "Although cash remains the mode of choice, companies are now increasingly using the banking system," says Tareq Muhmood, a Baghdad-based representative of HSBC.

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