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The simplest questions are often the most difficult to answer. Not too long ago, when Microsoft CFO Peter Klein asked, “How much cash do we have this morning, and where is it?” it would precipitate a fire-drill response within treasury to come up with the answer. To make matters worse, there often would be discrepancies in the answer because different treasury groups had their own definitions for “cash.” Those responsible for bank balances would produce a different number than portfolio managers, whose answer would differ from the tax team’s.

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