Motives or desires for holding cash refer to various purposes. The purpose may be different from person to person and situation to situation. There are four important motives to hold cash:
1. Transactions Motive
This motive refers to the holding of cash, to meet routine cash requirements in the ordinary course of business. A firm enters into a number of transactions which requires cash payment. For example, purchase of materials, payment of wages, salaries, taxes, interest etc. Similarly, a firm receives cash from cash sales, collections from debtors, return on investments etc. But the cash inflows and cash outflows do not perfectly synchronise. Sometimes, cash receipts are more than payments while at other times payments exceed receipts. The firm must have to maintain sufficient (funds) cash balance if the payments are more than receipts. Thus, the transactions motive refers to the holding of cash to meet expected obligations whose timing is not perfectly matched with cash receipts. Though, a large portion of cash held for transactions motive is in the form of cash, a part of it may be invested in marketable securities whose maturity conform to the timing of expected payments such as dividends, taxes etc.
2. Precautionary Motive
Apart from the non-synchronisation of expected cash receipts and payments in the ordinary course of business, a firm may be failed to pay cash for unexpected contingencies. For example, strikes, sudden increase in cost of raw materials etc. Cash held to meet these unforeseen situations is known as precautionary cash balance and it provides a caution against them. The amount of cash balance under precautionary motive is influenced by two factors i.e. predictability of cash flows and the availability of short term credit. The more unpredictable the cash flows, the greater the need for such cash balances and vice versa. If the firm can borrow at short-notice, it will need a relatively small balance to meet contingencies and vice versa. Usually precautionary cash balances are invested in marketable securities so that they contribute something to profitability.
3. Speculative Motive
Sometimes firms would like to hold cash in order to exploit, the profitable opportunities as and when they arise. This motive is called as speculative motive. For example, if the firm expects that the material prices will fall, it can delay the purchases and make purchases in future when price actually declines. Similarly, with the hope of buying securities when the interest rate is expected to decline, the firm will hold cash. By and large, firms rarely hold cash for speculative purposes.
4. Compensation Motive
This motive to hold cash balances is to compensate banks and other financial institutes for providing certain services and loans. Banks provide variety of services to business firms like clearance of cheques, drafts, transfer of funds etc. Banks charge a commission or fee for their services to the customers as indirect compensation. Customers are required to maintain a minimum cash balance at the bank. This balance cannot Be used for transaction purposes. Banks can utilise the balances to earn a return to compensate their cost of services to the customers. Such balances are compensating balances. These balances are also required by some loan agreements between a bank and its customers. Banks require a chest to maintain a minimum cash balance in his account to compensate the bank when the supply of credit is restricted and interest rates are rising.
Thus cash is required to fulfill the above motives. Out of the four motives of holding cash balances, transaction motive and compensation motives are very important. Business firms usually do not speculate and need not have speculative balances. The requirement of precautionary balances can be met out of short-term borrowings.