Tag: Financial software

Multi GAAP 2.0 – Nickname “Mickey Mouse Accounting”

Entities that are active in several countries require an enterprise-wide, uniform accounting policy. However, they face considerable challenges because every country imposes its own unique accounting regulations. Moreover, some entities that operate at national level submit financial statements, either mandatorily or voluntarily, in compliance with international accounting standards as well as national standards. They face the question, what is the optimal approach? A “super set of books” that unifies the accounting principles of all countries? Or adjustment accounting that involves a common core for individual financial statements in all countries and only posts the differences for international GAAP? Or parallel accounting that generates entirely separate entries for national and international GAAP in each country? In this blog, an alternative fourth way will be proposed: Multi GAAP 2.0 or, playfully nicknamed, “Mickey Mouse Accounting”.

In financial accounting, it is common practice to post business events at individual deal level. This ensures that financial statements are transparent and absolutely comprehensible. Moreover, it allows for a 360° analysis of the entire portfolio and lays the foundation for detailed reporting requirements such as FINREP.

However, accounting at individual deal level still does not answer the question, as to how an entity, which needs to accommodate for multiple accounting regulations because of its international commitments and/or business connections, can integrate such regulations into its financial accounting system.

Whereas only internationally active enterprises had to comply with multiple local, country-specific accounting standards in the past, nowadays entities that operate in only one country have to adhere to both national and international regulations.

In both cases, entities usually have a local set of books (e.g. UK GAAP or German HGB) and add adjustment entries for the purpose of additional GAAPs such as IFRS or US GAAP.

In the context of Adjustment Accounting, it is assumed that the local set of books is optimised and straightforward. If this prerequisite is not met, any incorrect entries unavoidably impact IFRS accounting, only increasing complexity. Obviously, transparency and traceability plummet as complexity rises. Simultaneously, process interdependence, which is not conducive to a “fast closure” or effective support for corporate management, is created.

The procedure becomes more difficult if valuations and valuation dates vary between accounting systems and such discrepancies have to be represented by incremental adjustment entries. For example, different requirements relating to the timing and measurement of risk provisions or varying interpretations of the “effectiveness” of economic hedges from a regulatory perspective may lead to such a situation.

Even for an apparently simple issue, such as the time when a charge is recognised – e.g. amortisation according to the effective interest rate method or linear distribution – problems of transparency and complexity emerge. This is because the effective interest rate method under IFRS 9 requires specific cost components to be amortised over the interest period and others over the life of the deal. This illustrates that even the seemingly simple distribution of a charge over time can bring about substantial challenges for the preparation of financial statements due to the specific regulations in each case.

These issues are currently often circumvented via assumptions and simplifications, but are rarely truly solved. Consequently, the methods applied are difficult to reconcile with the accounting guidelines and as such their acceptance by auditors and expected lifespan are limited.

Parallel accounting, as an alternative, solves these practical problems by separately posting business events in each GAAP, hence multiple times in parallel. Nevertheless this introduces new problems, as redundant journal entries bloat the overall accounting system. Notably cancellations and subsequent adjustments become time-consuming and thus costly, if this parallel approach is applied.

The approach that involves merging all accounting rules in one comprehensive set of books is also difficult. The goal of this method is to jointly cover all financial reporting requirements for all GAAPs, which apply to an enterprise, in one global accounting system. This leads to a very granular chart of accounts structure („fat ledger approach“). Nevertheless, just like adjustment accounting, this approach will fail as soon as business events need to be recognised at different points in time in the various accounting standards that need to be complied with.

The “super set of books” may be a viable solution for such plain vanilla instruments, the accounting of which does not require risk provisioning, for hedging relations that are not governed by regulatory regulations or where different amortisation methods are irrelevant. In all other cases, the “super set of books” is blurry, demanding and fragile. As such, this approach can be a short-term quick fix which will, however, not stand the test of time.

Multi GAAP 2.0 was designed to counterbalance the flaws of the above-mentioned methods. The basic idea is the segregation between GAAP-identical and GAAP-unique business events. In a central “basic” set of books, all GAAP-identical valuation components are exclusively posted in an event-based way. This builds the head of the mouse. The two ears of Mickey Mouse are then added metaphorically. One is the national GAAP, in which all GAAP-unique valuation components are calculated and posted in compliance with local regulations. The second ear depicts a separate set of books for every international GAAP applicable to the entity, in which all GAAP-unique valuation components are calculated and booked in compliance with international regulations – e.g. IFRS. If more accounting standards are required, they can be added as independent sets of books.

Below is a graphical representation of mouse accounting, which illustrates the merger of all sets of books.

The views for the balance sheet and the profit and loss account for each local and international accounting standard then consist of the basic set of books and the respective local or international set of books, for which the balance sheet, the profit and loss account or the financial report needs to be produced.

This method ensures that GAAP-identical events are consistently valued and posted only once. The generation of transaction-based, event-driven journal entries assures drilldown to individual deal level, its business events and valuation details for all GAAP-identical and GAAP-unique valuation elements in every single GAAP.

The end user does not observe that GAAP-identical valuation components are only “virtually” added to the basic accounting set of books.

In Multi GAAP 2.0, the end user is not aware of the adjustment: GAAP-specific balance sheets and profit and loss accounts consist at technical level of the basic set of books and another set of books that is based on specific regulations. Both are unified for the purpose of presentation and evaluation. Hence, at no time does an accounting standard depend on another standard, but rather it is complete in itself and can be traced for business events, single deals and the underlying valuation methods. If the set of books for GAAP-identical events requires a chart of accounts that is different from the basic set of books, it is possible to prepare the balance sheet and profit and loss statement via simple mapping at individual deal level.

Multi GAAP 2.0 can be used universally for simple and complex, small and large portfolios. As such, it constitutes the optimal solution for enterprises that operate at national and international level.

Author: Dr. Karl Kirchgesser, Director, Executive Vice President at FERNBACH

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IFRS: Challenge and opportunity for Asia’s financial sector

Asia has recently been making financial news headlines for good reasons. To the south of the continent, the Asian Development Bank is assisting Sri Lanka’s financial industry in implementing IFRS for accounting purposes. This development will, undoubtedly, strengthen the country’s position on the international capital markets.
Further afield in Maritime Southeast Asia, Singapore’s Accounting Standards Council has announced that all companies on the Singapore Stock Exchange “must apply a new financial reporting framework identical to IFRS for annual periods beginning on or after 1 January 2018.”
With almost two decades of management experience at a top IFRS software company, whose business activities stretch across three continents including Asia, I have closely followed, with interest, the events and activities related to the continent’s uptake of IFRS.

At present, roughly two-thirds of Asia’s 50 countries are either in the process of upgrading their national reporting systems, or have begun to switch over directly to IFRS-compliant financial statements that can be compared at international level. In this respect, the macroeconomic opportunities associated with these changes are highlighted while the numerous challenges at microeconomic level are the subject of controversial debate.

It goes without saying that the introduction of IFRS poses a serious challenge to the banking industry. New valuation methods, which, in general, are neither automated nor integrated in current procedure, have to be introduced. Besides the technical integration of these methods, the organisational impacts also need to be considered because in the future, financial departments and risk management teams will need to ensure that consistent results and a sound basis for integrated reporting are made available. In this case, the focus should not only centre on the impacts of external requirements imposed by central banks. In doing so, the opportunities that the implementation of IFRS can bring for financial institutions could be overlooked. Depending on how IFRS is embedded in an organisation, the financial statements, which ensue, can better reflect the economic truth, business value and risk involved in business operations. These statements not only provide salient facts to external stakeholders but also valuable information to decision makers within an organisation.

Furthermore, the introduction of IFRS presents a good opportunity to review current accounting practices. Additional valuation elements in financial reporting procedure allow new perspectives for the analysis and valuation of business operations to develop. Hence, risks are identified more easily, while the effects on liquidity are made more transparent. All in all, a solid decision-making framework based on an integrated reporting approach is formed. Ultimately, this leads to an increase in profitability which is, of course, the driving force behind any thriving financial industry.

To facilitate this, IT departments need to adopt a pivotal role due to the complexity of requirements and the need for multi-dimensional breakdowns and traceability of results (drilldowns), a comprehensive data set is required. The fact that artificial intelligence is most effective when combined with a competent user interface is also true for IFRS implementation.
Developments in other countries have shown that the capabilities of IT departments are instrumental in enabling organisations to reap the benefits of IFRS. In the long term however, companies that are able to overcome the initial challenges benefit from consistency of financial data across their organisations as well as a decision-making basis that has been improved considerably in terms of quantity and quality.

The IFRSs have been advancing at global level for many years now. Asian countries can now profit from the international best practices that have resulted from the experience of early adopters who are long-term users of IFRS.
Nowadays, ready-to-use, fully developed solutions are available which ensure compliance with IFRS requirements and help improve business decisions at the same time. These solutions do not necessarily need to be installed locally in a bank but rather can be provided as “software as a service” (SaaS). This approach ensures that all market players can participate in development and even cost-conscious banks can immediately promote their products as fully IFRS-compliant in a fast moving financial industry.

Good teamwork between product managers as well as financial, risk management and IT departments, which are responsible for providing the necessary data basis and the technical support for the processes, is essential for a successful transition to IFRS. A study of first adopters shows that integration was initially planned as a type of “patchwork” in existing heterogeneous organisational structures. Instead of being a uniform and transparent solution, the introduction of IFRS requirements resulted in an additional level of complexity that often caused the projects to fail.
Therefore, IFRS should be considered as THE company-wide solution and not as just another regulation prescribed by central banks. It is only when this attitude prevails that the implementation of IFRS can be conducive to identifying, minimising and monitoring risks. The switchover to IFRS has to be very well prepared and is generally associated with a lengthy process of learning and gaining experience. It is advisable to use well-proven methods in order to shorten the process and reduce or even avoid the costs incurred. To this end, international software providers offer “out-of-the-box” solutions which have been developed using the experience gained from projects in countries that have already changed to IFRS-compliant procedure.
Rather than being an additional obstacle, the implementation of IFRS will present an opportunity to Asia’s financial industry to create financial institutions that can compete at international level.
* Dr. Karl Kirchgesser, Director, Executive Vice President at FERNBACH