Key roles and responsibilities of the financial manager
The financial manager is responsible for making decisions which will increase the wealth of the company’s shareholders.
The specific areas of responsibility are listed below.
However, it is also important that the financial manager considers the impact of his role on the other stakeholders of the firm.
You may be asked in the exam to assess the
- strategic impact
- financial impact
- regulatory impact
- ethical impact
- environmental impact of a financial manager’s decisions
Link between strategy and financial manager’s role
You will remember from your earlier studies that the process of strategy selection starts with the development of a mission statement. A mission statement:
- is the overriding purpose of the firm
- guides and directs all decisions taken.
The mission is then broken down into broad-based goals, and then further, into detailed objectives. Strategies can then be developed to bridge the gap between current forecast performance and the targets set.
The mission will also provide the basis for the development of a policy framework.
The purpose of this framework is:
- to govern the way in which decisions are taken, and
- specify the criteria to be considered in the evaluation of any potential strategy.
At a broad level, this framework will incorporate guidance on issues such as:
Ethics and social responsibility
A consideration of the role of business in society. It covers responsibilities towards society as a whole, the extent to which the company should fulfil or exceed its legal obligations towards stakeholders and the behaviour expected of individuals within the firm itself.
The extent to which the needs and wishes of individual stakeholders are incorporated into decisions and the development of a framework to ensure their needs are met and their rights upheld.
The system by which companies are directed and controlled, including issues of risk management.
Ensuring that projects and developments that meet the needs of the present, do not compromise the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
This guidance is often formulated as a general principle:
e.g. all suppliers used must demonstrate commitment to employee welfare,
but may also form the basis for the generation of specific targets:
e.g. increase by 10% the amount of raw materials sourced locally in the next 12 months.
Policies will also be developed to govern decisions within each operational area of the business. These policies specify generally applicable processes or procedures to be followed when decisions are being made, or state one overarching principle which the sets the boundaries for all decisions taken.
The role and responsibility of the financial manager
For example, within the finance function, policies will be developed over areas such as:
- investment selection
- overall cost of finance
- distribution and retentions
- communication with stakeholders
- financial planning and control
- risk management
- efficient and effective use of resources.
Key areas of responsibility for the financial manager
The main roles and responsibilities of the financial manager can be summarised by the following headings:
- investment selection and capital resource allocation
- raising finance and minimising the cost of capital
- distribution and retentions (dividend policy)
- communication with stakeholders
- financial planning and control
- risk management
- efficient and effective use of resources.
The Advanced Financial Management syllabus (and the rest of this Text) covers these areas in detail. This chapter gives a brief introduction to each of them.
Investment selection and capital resource allocation
The primary goal of a company should be the maximisation of shareholder wealth, but any number of stakeholders may have views on the objectives a company should pursue.
Therefore, key policy decisions need to be made:
What method of investment appraisal should be used?
In times of capital rationing, how are competing projects to be evaluated?
– use of theoretical methods
– incorporation of non-financial factors such as:
(1) closeness of match to objectives
(2) degree to which all goals will be achieved.
• As markets are not truly efficient, and investors treat earnings and
dividend announcements as new information, to what extent should the
impact on, for example:
be considered when evaluating a project?
|More on investment selection|
|Incorporation of corporate policy issues
If for example, a decision has been taken to pay a ‘fair’ wage to all
employees regardless of the legal minimum requirement in the country
where the business is operating, this rule must be applied to the wages
figure used in any project evaluation.
The financial executive must be aware of the policy requirement and
ensure that sufficient research is carried out in advance that the correct
figure is used.
Methods of investment appraisal
Assuming that the discounted cash flow techniques are preferred over
Payback and ARR (which do not assure the maximisation of shareholder
wealth), it is still necessary to designate which of the DCF methods is to
be applied. Although NPV is theoretically superior, it is not as well liked
by non-financial managers. IRR as a percentage is deemed clearer and
simpler (although the point could be argued!). It is for the senior financial
executive to decide on a method and ensure it is applied correctly.
The rule for an NPV evaluation states that all projects with a positive NPV
should be accepted. However, this presupposes no limits on the available
funds. Where restrictions exist, theoretical models can be applied:
• Shortages in one period only – use limiting factor analysis (covered
in the Financial Management exam).
• Shortages in multiple periods – see Chapter 2: Investment
However, these methods do not build in evaluation of non-financial
factors such as how well each strategy will meet the objectives set and
practical difficulties that might be encountered along the way.
Forms of evaluation such as Cost Benefit Analysis and Weighted Benefit
Scoring can be used where these factors are significant. These methods,
pioneered by the public sector where such problems are commonplace,
include techniques to assign money values to non-financial factors and to
weight subjective factors against each other. Detailed knowledge of such
methods is outside the syllabus.
Earning and dividend measures
Even where improving shareholder wealth is the primary concern of the
financial executive, the impact of the investment decisions on the
reported position and perceived performance of the firm cannot be
ignored. In an imperfect market, the earnings of a company and the
dividends paid, are treated as relevant information for evaluating a
company’s worth and may impact the share price. Yet it is the share price
that the executive is trying to improve.
Conventional financial management is based on the assumption that
markets are efficient, and that investors behave in ways that are logical
The efficient market hypothesis (EMH)
The EMH states that security prices fully and fairly reflect all relevant
information. This means that it is not possible to consistently outperform
the market by using any information that the market already knows,
except through luck.
The idea is that new information is quickly and efficiently incorporated
into asset prices at any point in time, so that old information cannot be
used to predict future price movements.
Despite the evidence in support of the efficient markets theory, some
events seem to contradict it, such as significant share price volatility and
boom/crash patterns e.g. the stock market crash of October 1987 where
most stock exchanges crashed at the same time. It is virtually impossible
to explain the scale of those market falls by reference to any news event
at the time
An explanation has been offered by the science of behavioural finance.
Behavioural finance is a relatively new field that seeks to combine
behavioural and cognitive psychological theory with conventional
economics and finance to provide explanations for why people make
irrational financial decisions.
Key concepts of behavioural finance
Pioneers in the field of behavioural finance have identified the following
factors as some of the key factors that contribute to irrational and
potentially detrimental financial decision making:
Anchoring – investors have a tendency to attach or ‘anchor’ their
thoughts to a reference point – even though it may have no logical
relevance to the decision at hand e.g. investors are often attracted to buy
shares whose price has fallen considerably because they compare the
current price to the previous high (but now irrelevant) price.
Gambler’s fallacy – investors have a tendency to believe that the
probability of a future outcome changes because of the occurrence of
various past outcomes e.g. if the value of a share has risen for seven
consecutive days, some investors might sell the shares, believing that the
share price is more likely to fall on the next day. This is not necessarily
Herd behaviour– this is the tendency for individuals to mimic the actions
(rational or irrational) of a larger group. There are a couple of reasons
why herd behaviour happens. The first is the social pressure of
conformity – most people are very sociable and have a natural desire to
be accepted by a group. The second is the common rationale that it’s
unlikely that such a large group could be wrong. This is especially
prevalent in situations in which an individual has very little experience.
Over-reaction and availability bias – according to the EMH, new
information should more or less be reflected instantly in a security’s price.
For example, good news should raise a business’ share price
accordingly. Reality, however, tends to contradict this theory. Often,
participants in the stock market predictably over-react to new information,
creating a larger-than-appropriate effect on a security’s price.
Confirmation bias – it can be difficult to encounter something or
someone without having a preconceived opinion. This first impression
can be hard to shake because people also tend to selectively filter and
pay more attention to information that supports their opinions, while
ignoring or rationalising the rest. This type of selective thinking is often
referred to as the confirmation bias.
In investing, the confirmation bias suggests that an investor would be
more likely to look for information that supports his or her original idea
about an investment rather than seek out information that contradicts it.
As a result, this bias can often result in faulty decision making because
one-sided information tends to skew an investor’s frame of reference,
leaving them with an incomplete picture of the situation
Hindsight bias and overconfidence – hindsight bias occurs in
situations where a person believes (after the fact) that the onset of some
past event was predictable and completely obvious, whereas in fact, the
event could not have been reasonably predicted.
Many events seem obvious in hindsight. For example, many people now
claim that signs of the technology bubble of the late 1990s and early
2000s were very obvious. This is a clear example of hindsight bias: If the
formation of a bubble had been obvious at the time, it probably wouldn’t
have escalated and eventually burst.
For investors and other participants in the financial world, the hindsight
bias is a cause for one of the most potentially dangerous mind-sets that
an investor or trader can have: overconfidence. In this case,
overconfidence refers to investors’ or traders’ unfounded belief that they
possess superior stock-picking abilities.
Student Accountant article
The article ‘Patterns of behaviour’ in the Technical Articles section of the
ACCA website provides further details on behavioural finance.
Raising finance and minimising the cost of capital
A key aspect of financial management is the raising of funds to finance existing
and new investments. As with investment decisions, the main objective with
raising finance is assumed to be the maximisation of shareholder wealth.
The following issues thus need to be considered when setting criteria for future
finance and deciding policies:
• Is the firm at its optimal gearing level with associated minimum cost of
• What gearing level is required?
• What sources of finance are available?
• Tax implications.
• The risk profile of investors and management.
• Restrictions such as debt covenants.
• Implications for key ratios.
Distribution and retention (dividend) policy
When deciding how much cash to distribute to shareholders, the company
directors must keep in mind that the firm’s objective is to maximise shareholder
• Shareholder value arises from the current value of the shares which in turn
is derived from the cash flows from investment decisions taken by the
Retained earnings are a significant source of finance for companies and
therefore directors need to ensure that a balance is struck:
– Paying out too much may require alternative finance to be found to
finance any capital expenditure or working capital requirements.
– Paying out too little may fail to give shareholders their required
• The dividend payout policy, therefore, should be based on investor
preferences for cash dividends now or capital gains in future from
enhanced share value resultant from re-investment into projects with a
It is the task of the financial manager to decide on the appropriate policy for
determining distributions and retentions.
Communication with stakeholders
A vital role for those running a company is to keep both external and internal
stakeholders informed of all significant matters.
External stakeholders to be kept informed would include:
• community at large.
Corporate goals and financial policies must be communicated to all those
involved within the organisation, whether at a senior level or in operational
|Test your understanding 1|
|Suggest reasons why it would be important to keep each of the
above stakeholders informed of general corporate goals and
In addition to information about corporate goals, key matters of financial policy
will also need to be communicated to stakeholders:
• Shareholders will need information about:
– dividend policy
– expected returns on new investment projects
– gearing levels
– risk profile.
• Suppliers and customers will need information about:
– payment policies
– pricing policies.
Financial planning and control
Financial planning and control is the main role of the management accountant
within a company.
The senior financial executive will need to oversee the development of policies
to govern the way in which the process is carried out.
Policies will be needed over areas such as:
• the planning process
• business plans
• budget setting
• monitoring and correcting activities
• evaluating performance.
The management of risk
One of the key matters to consider when developing a financial policy
framework is the way risk and risk management is to be incorporated into the
decision making process.
A number of policy decisions must be made:
• What is the firm’s appetite for risk?
• How should risk be monitored?
• How should risk be dealt with?
A major part of the AFM syllabus involves the choice and use of many
alternative methods and products to manage risk exposure.
|More detail on risk management|
|Appetite for risk
Shareholders will invest in companies with a risk profile that matches that
required for their portfolio. Management should be wary of altering the
risk profile of the business without shareholder support. An increase in
risk will bring about an increase in the required return and may lead to
current shareholders selling their shares and so depressing the share
Inevitably management will have their own attitude to risk. Unlike the
well-diversified shareholders, the directors are likely to be heavily
dependent on the success of the company for their own financial stability
and be more risk averse as a consequence.
The essence of risk is that the returns are uncertain. As time passes, so
the various uncertain events on which the forecasts are based will occur.
Management must monitor the events as they unfold, reforecast
predicted results and take action as necessary. The degree and
frequency of the monitoring process will depend on the significance of the
risk to the project’s outcome.
Dealing with risk
Risk can be either accepted or dealt with. Possible solutions for dealing
with risk include:
• mitigating the risk – reducing it by setting in place control
• hedging the risk – taking action to ensure a certain outcome
• diversification – reducing the impact of one outcome by having a
portfolio of different ongoing projects.
Policy decisions about which methods are to be preferred should be
made in advance of specific actions being required.
Use of resources
It will be important to develop a framework to ensure all resources (inventory,
labour and non-current assets as well as cash) are used to provide value for
money. Spending must be:
Performance measures can be developed in each area to set targets and allow
for regular monitoring.
|Definitions of the 3 Es|
|Economy: Minimising the costs of inputs required to
achieve a defined level of output.
Efficiency: Ratio of outputs to inputs – achieving a high
level of output in relation to the resources put
Effectiveness: Whether outputs are achieved that match the
Transparency: Ensuring all spending is recorded and reported
The role of the treasury function
Most large companies have a separate treasury function to undertake some of
the above listed roles.
Developments in technology, the breakdown of exchange controls, increasing
volatility in interest rates and exchange rates, combined with the increasing
globalisation of business have all contributed to greater opportunities and risks
for entities. To survive in today’s complex financial environment, entities need to
be able to actively manage both their ability to undertake these opportunities,
and their exposure to risks.
A separate treasury function is more likely to develop the appropriate skills, and
it should also be easier to achieve economies of scale; for instance in achieving
lower borrowing rates, or netting-off balances.
Treasury and financial control
In a large entity the finance function may be split between treasury and financial
control, with both functions reporting to the chief financial officer.
The financial control function will be concerned primarily with the allocation and
effective use of resources, and will have responsibility for investment decisions.
The treasury function is usually responsible for obtaining finance and managing
relations with the financial stakeholders of the entity who will include
shareholders and lenders.
Close liaison is often required between financial control and treasury, for
• In investment appraisal decisions, the treasurer is best able to assess the
cost of capital and quantify the entity’s aversion to risk, while the financial
controller relates these factors to group strategy.
• When managing currency risks, the financial controller will play an
important role in identifying the entity’s currency risks, while the treasurer
advises on the best means to hedge the risk.
In larger entities, treasury will usually be centralised at head office, providing a
service to all the various units of the entity and thereby achieving more effective
control over financial risks and also achieving economies of scale (for example,
by obtaining better borrowing rates).
Financial control is frequently delegated to individual units, where it can more
closely impact on customers and suppliers and relate more specifically to the
competition that those units have to face.
As a result, treasury and financial control may often tend to be separated by
location as well as by responsibilities.
|Test your understanding 2|
|Compare and contrast the roles of the treasury and financial control
departments with respect to a proposed investment.
|Treasury: Cost centre or profit centre?|
|As a cost centre the aggregate treasury function costs would simply be
charged throughout the group on a fair basis. If no such fair basis can be
agreed, the costs can remain as central head office unallocated costs in
any group segmental analysis.
However it is also possible to identify revenues arising from treasury
departments and thus to establish the treasury as a profit centre.
Revenues could be realised as follows:
• Each division can be charged the market value for the services
provided by the treasury. The total value charged throughout the
group should exceed the treasury’s costs enabling it to report a
• By deciding not to hedge all currency and interest rate risks. Experts
in the treasury could decide which risks not to hedge, hoping to
profit from unhedged favourable exchange rate and interest rate
• Hedging using currency and interest rate options leaves an upside
potential which could be realised if the rate moves in the company’s
• Taking on additional exchange rate or other risks purely as a
speculative activity, e.g. writing options on currencies or on shares
The trend in recent years has been for large companies to turn their
treasuries from cost centres into profit centres and to expect the treasury
to pay its way and generate regular profits each year.
However the following points should be noted:
• A treasury engaged in speculation must be properly controlled by
the company’s board of directors. Millions of dollars can be
committed in one telephone call by a treasurer, so it is crucial that
limits are set on traders’ risk exposures and that these limits are
monitored scrupulously. The temptation has been for directors to let
treasurers ‘get on with whatever they do’ as long as regular profits
are being earned. Such a policy is no longer acceptable; the finance
director in particular must control the treasury on a day-to-day basis.
For example, the German oils and metals company
Metallgesellschaft managed to lose $1 billion after becoming overexposed to oil derivative contracts.
• Treasury staff must be well trained and probably well paid, so that
staff of the right calibre can be secured.
• The low volume of foreign currency transactions undertaken by a
small company would probably make a profit centre approach
unviable. A regular flow of large foreign transactions is needed
before the cost centre approach is abandoned.
|The international treasury function
The corporate treasurer in an international group of companies will be
faced with problems relating specifically to the international spread of
• Setting transfer prices to reduce the overall tax bill.
• Deciding currency exposure policies and procedures.
• Transferring of cash across international borders.
• Devising investment strategies for short-term funds from the range
of international money markets and international marketable
• Netting and matching currency obligations.
|The centralisation of treasury activities|
|The question arises in a large international group of whether treasury
activities should be centralised or decentralised.
• If centralised, then each operating company holds only the minimum
cash balance required for day to day operations, remitting the
surplus to the centre for overall management. This process is
sometimes known as cash pooling, the pool usually being held in a
major financial centre or a tax haven country.
• If decentralised, each operating company must appoint an officer
responsible for that company’s own treasury operations.
Advantages of centralisation
• No need for treasury skills to be duplicated throughout the group.
One highly trained central department can assemble a highly skilled
team, offering skills that could not be available if every company had
their own treasury.
|Agency theory identifies that, although individual members of a business
team act in their own self-interests much of the time, the well-being of
each individual and of the business overall depends on the well-being of
the other team members too. The separation of owners and management
in many businesses leads to the classic ‘agency problem’.
Definition of ‘Agency Problem’
A conflict of interest inherent in any relationship where one party is
expected to act in another’s best interests.
The problem is that the agent who is supposed to make the decisions
that would best serve the principal is naturally motivated by self-interest,
and the agent’s own best interests may differ from the principal’s best
Application to shareholders/managers
In corporate finance, the agency problem usually refers to a conflict of
interest between a company’s management and the company’s owners
The manager, acting as the agent for the shareholders, or principals, is
supposed to make decisions that will maximise shareholder wealth.
However, it is in the manager’s own best interest to maximise his own
While it is not possible to eliminate the agency problem completely, the
manager can be motivated to act in the shareholders’ best interests
through incentives such as performance-based compensation, direct
influence by shareholders, the threat of firing and the threat of takeovers.
Application to not-for-profit organisations
In not-for-profit and public sector organisations, the agency problem
changes, because of the ambiguity in identifying the principals, or
owners, of the organisation.
It could be argued that the owner of a public sector organisation such as
a hospital is society as a whole, so there is more a moral rather than a
legal ownership in place.
As with a profit-focussed organisation, the managers have to make
decisions in the best interests of the ‘owners’ rather than in their own
interests, so the agency problem doesn’t disappear in a not-for-profit
|Examples of stakeholder conflict|
|Stakeholders Potential conflict Costs resulting
from the conflict
Employees may resist the
introduction of automated
processes which would
improve efficiency but cost
Shareholders may resist
wage rises demanded by
employees as uneconomical.
Costs of strike or
work to rule from
Costs of strikes
etc. as above.
Customers may demand
lower prices and greater
choice, but in order to provide
them a company may need to
squeeze vulnerable suppliers
or import products at great
Shareholders may encourage
management to pursue risky
strategies in order to
maximise potential returns,
whereas finance providers
prefer stable lower risk
policies that ensure liquidity
for the payment of debt
Agency costs: loan
Government will often insist
upon levels of welfare (such
as the minimum wage and
Health and Safety practices)
which would otherwise be
avoided as an unnecessary
Costs of complying
NB: You may have come up with different suggestions in an exam
scenario. The point is to recognise that there are a huge range of
potential conflicts of interest and each one results in additional costs for
the business and therefore a reduction in returns to shareholders.
Strategies for the resolution of stakeholder conflict
Hierarchies of decision making (corporate governance codes)
In order to prevent abuse of decision-making power by the executive, control
over decisions tends to be distributed between:
• the full board
• individual executive directors making operational decisions
• non-executive directors
– audit committee
– remuneration committee
• shareholders in general meeting
• specific classes of shareholders where particular rights are concerned.
In addition, a company may elect to take some key decisions in consultation
with the employees.
|More on Corporate Governance|
|The full board
Whilst for most operational matters, decisions may be taken by the
appropriate functional director, matters of corporate policy, investment
decisions over a certain limit, sensitive decisions etc. are likely to require
the consent of the full board. This ensures that all salient factors are
considered when the decision is taken.
Whilst executive directors are employees involved in the day-to-day
running of the business, non-executives are independent of the company,
and appointed to monitor and challenge the executives as well as to
advise and support them.
Removing decisions such as director remuneration and appointment from
the remit of the executive, mitigates the likelihood of directors making
self-serving decisions contrary to the interests of other stakeholders.
In addition, creating an audit committee to provide an independent
reporting line for internal auditors and external auditors alike, provides a
safeguard for shareholders against potential cover-ups of poor
Shareholders in general meeting
Legislation reserves for the shareholders certain key corporate decisions
such as the appointment and removal of auditors and directors. When
taking decisions, the directors will be aware that ignoring the wishes of
the shareholders would put them at risk of removal. Shareholders may
also use the company general meetings as an opportunity to express
their concerns and remind the directors of their voting control.
Specific classes of share
In order to protect the rights of non-voting shareholders such as those
holding preference shares, it is common to allow them voting rights in
particular circumstances such as where their dividend goes into arrears.
The principles of corporate governance
Corporate governance is usually defined as ‘the system by which
companies are directed and controlled’. The concept encompasses
issues of ethics, risk management and stakeholder protection.
The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)
issues specific guidelines for national legislation and regulation in the
form of the Principles of Corporate Governance. These were explored in
the Strategic Business Leader syllabus.
The implications of the guidelines for companies in all countries are a
need for the:
• Separation of the supervisory function and the management
• Transparency in the recruitment and remuneration of the board.
• Appointment of non-executive directors.
• Establishment of an audit committee.
• Establishment of risk control procedures to monitor strategic,
business and operational activities.
Performance monitoring and evaluation systems
Managers are more likely to act in accordance with shareholders’ wishes when
their performance is regularly monitored and appraised against prescribed
targets. To be of real value, the targets must be congruent with the
maximisation of shareholder value.
|Performance appraisal methods – Link to s/h wealth maximisation|
|Listed below are some of the ways in which management performance
may be appraised. For each method we have considered the extent to
which it is congruent with the maximisation of shareholder wealth
• EPS/ROCE/RI – both suffer from the same criticism – that earnings
are not directly related to shareholder wealth and therefore may
encourage non-goal congruent behaviour.
• DPS – is a measure of immediate improvement in wealth but must
be looked at in conjunction with the company share price. Dividends
may be reduced in order to invest in positive NPV projects, but in
that case, the gain should be reflected in the share price.
• Economic value added – EVA is a more sophisticated method of
residual income (registered as a trademark by Stern, Stewart &
Co.), which more accurately measures improvements in shareholder
wealth by adjusting the accounting data to eliminate much of the
subjectivity and incorporating the company’s WACC into the
Stock market figures:
• Share price – reflects the expectations of the investors. Is a direct
measure of company success but is hard to link directly to directors’
performance as it is affected by so many outside factors.
• PE ratio – as a multiple of share price over earnings it does reflect
investors’ view of the investment potential of the company but
suffers from the same weakness as all other earnings related
measures and is not easy to relate to directors activities.
Shareholder value added
A calculation of the present value free cash flows, this method is a more
accurate measure of improvements in shareholder wealth, but its
complexity makes it of little use as a regular performance measure.
Specific cost/revenue targets
A vast array of financial targets may be set around the levels of spending
and investment, or around revenues earned. Care must be taken to
ensure that the targets are achievable and within the control of the
person being assessed. Particular attention must be paid to the
interdependence of the various aspects of performance. If managers are
incentivised to achieve a reduction in purchase spending for example,
alternative measures must also confirm that quality is maintained.
Many businesses operate a balanced scorecard approach to
management appraisal. This involves setting targets in all of those
aspects of the business where success is necessary if positive NPVs are
to be earned. In addition to financial targets, managers are measured on
the satisfaction of customers, improvement of business practices and
levels of innovation. Since achieving these targets should lead to
improved project returns and greater cost efficiency, a balanced
scorecard approach should lead to improved shareholder wealth.
In addition, some businesses specifically set management targets related
to employee satisfaction ratings, or related targets such as absenteeism
or staff turnover.
|According to the International Accounting Standards Board’s (IASB’s)
conceptual framework, the objective of financial reporting is to ‘provide
information about the reporting entity that is useful to existing and
potential investors, lenders and other creditors in making decisions about
providing resources to the entity’.
Financial statements provide historic financial information. To help users
make decisions, it may be helpful to provide information relating to other
aspects of an entity’s performance.
• how the business is managed
• its future prospects
• the entity’s policy on the environment
• its attitude towards social responsibility etc.
There has been increasing pressure for entities to provide more
information in their annual reports beyond just the financial statements
since non-financial information can also be important to users’ decisions.
The important additional non-financial information can be reported in a
number of ways, for example:
A management commentary (sometimes called an operating and
financial review) will assess the results of the period and discuss future
prospects of the business.
An environmental report will discuss responsibilities towards the
environment and a social report will discuss responsibilities towards
society. Both these issues could be combined in a report on sustainability
which will also encompass economic issues.
|The International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC)
The IIRC was formed in 2010 and aims to create a globally accepted
framework for a process that results in communications by an
organisation about value creation over time. The IIRC brings together a
cross section of representatives from corporate, investment, accounting,
securities, regulatory, academic and standard-setting sectors as well as
Objective of the IIRC
At the time of its formation, the IIRC’s stated objective was to develop an
internationally accepted integrated reporting framework to create the
foundations for a new reporting model to enable organisations to provide
concise communications of how they create value over time. After a
consultation process, the IIRC published the first version of its
‘International Integrated Reporting Framework’ in 2013. This framework is
intended as a guide for all businesses producing integrated reports.
The concept of Integrated Reporting (<IR>)
Integrated Reporting (<IR>) is seen by the IIRC as the basis for a
fundamental change in the way in which entities are managed and report
A stated aim of <IR> is to support integrated thinking and decision
making. Integrated thinking is described in the <IR> Framework as “the
active consideration by an organization of the relationships between its
various operating and functional units and the capitals that the
organization uses or affects”
The objectives for integrated reporting include:
• To improve the quality of information available to providers of
financial capital to enable a more efficient and productive allocation
• Provide a more cohesive and efficient approach to corporate
reporting that draws on different reporting strands and
communicates the full range of factors that materially affect the
ability of an organisation to create value over time.
• Enhance accountability and stewardship for the broad base of
capitals (financial, manufactured, intellectual, human, social and
relationship, and natural) and promote understanding of their
• Support integrated thinking, decision-making and actions that focus
on the creation of value over the short, medium and long term.
Purpose and content of an integrated report
The <IR> Framework sets out the purpose of an integrated report as
The primary purpose of an integrated report is to explain to
providers of financial capital how an entity creates value over time.
An integrated report benefits all stakeholders interested in an
entity’s ability to create value over time, including employees,
customers, suppliers, business partners, local communities,
legislators, regulators, and policy-makers.
The ‘building blocks’ of an integrated report are:
Guiding principles – these underpin the preparation of an integrated
report, informing the content of the report and how information is
Content elements – the key categories of information required to be
included in an integrated report under the Framework, presented as a
series of questions rather than a prescriptive list of disclosures.
Key requirements of an integrated report
An integrated report should be a designated, identifiable communication.
A communication claiming to be an integrated report and referencing the
<IR> Framework should apply all the key requirements (identified using
bold type below), unless the unavailability of reliable data, specific legal
prohibitions or competitive harm results in an inability to disclose
information that is material (in the case of unavailability of reliable data or
specific legal prohibitions, other information is provided).
Performance – To what extent has the organisation achieved its
strategic objectives for the period and what are its outcomes in terms of
effects on the capitals?
Outlook – What challenges and uncertainties is the organisation likely to
encounter in pursuing its strategy, and what are the potential implications
for its business model and future performance?
Basis of preparation and presentation – How does the organisation
determine what matters to include in the integrated report and how are
such matters quantified or evaluated?
Integrated reporting (<IR>) and performance appraisal
<IR> enables an organisation to prepare a much wider range of information that
can be used by stakeholders to appraise the performance of the management.
The <IR> information covers both financial and non-financial performance.
Therefore, when making decisions, the financial manager must consider the
impact of the decisions on all aspects of the organisation’s performance, not
just its financial performance.
Student Accountant article
Read the article ‘Myopic management’ in the Technical Articles section of the
ACCA website for more details on stakeholder considerations and finding a
balance between short-term and long-term success of a business.
4 The strategic impact of the financial manager’s decisions
Strategic issues are those which impact the whole business in the long term.
Key strategic issues which may arise from decisions made by the financial
Does the new investment project help to enhance the firm’s competitive
For example, if the firm has traditionally competed on the basis of cost
leadership, the financial manager needs to ensure that new projects maintain
this position, and that any new finance is raised at the lowest possible cost.
Fit with environment
A knowledge of the main Political, Economic, Social and Technological factors
which impact the business will help the financial manager to identify likely
Use of resources
The financial manager should identify new investment opportunities which make
the best use of the firm’s key resources. Knowledge of the firm’s current
strengths (core competencies) and weaknesses is critical in assessing which
new projects are most likely to be successful.
As discussed above, it is critical that the views of all stakeholders are
considered when financial management decisions are made. Theoretically, the
directors have a primary objective to maximise shareholder wealth. However,
decisions which appear to satisfy this requirement by ignoring other
stakeholders’ views in the short term can damage the firm’s prospects for longer
term shareholder wealth maximisation.
Impact on risk
Investors will have been attracted to the firm because they deem its risk profile
to be acceptable. Making decisions which change the overall risk of the firm
may alienate shareholders and damage the firm’s long term prospects.
5 The financial impact of the financial manager’s decisions
It is common to assess the financial impact of a financial manager’s decision by
focussing on the likely Net Present Value (NPV) of investment projects
undertaken. After all, the primary aim of a company is to maximise the wealth of
its shareholders, and NPV represents the increase in shareholder wealth if a
project is undertaken.
However, it is also important to consider the following issues:
Likely impact on share price
In a perfect capital market, the NPV of the project would immediately be
reflected in the company’s share price. In the real world, unless the details of
the project are communicated effectively to the market, the share price will not
Likely impact on financial statements
In theory, a positive NPV project should increase shareholder wealth. However,
if the project has low (or negative) cash flows in the early years, the negative
impact on the financial statements in the short term may give a negative signal
to the market, thus causing the share price to fall.
Impact on cost of capital
As discussed in detail elsewhere, raising new finance causes the firm’s cost of
capital to change. However, undertaking projects of different business risk from
the firm’s existing activities can also impact cost of capital. Projects will be more
valuable when discounted at a low cost of capital, so the financial manager
should avoid high risk projects unless it is felt that they are likely to deliver a
high level of return.
|Test your understanding 3|
|The directors of Ribs Co, a listed company, are reviewing the company’s
current strategic position. The firm makes high quality garden tools which
it sells in its domestic market but not abroad.
Over the last few years, the share price has risen significantly as the firm
has expanded organically within its domestic market. Unfortunately, in the
last 12 months, the influx of cheaper, foreign tools has adversely
impacted the firm’s profitability. Consequently, the share price has
dropped sharply in recent weeks and the shareholders expressed their
displeasure at the recent AGM.
The directors are evaluating two alternative investment projects which
they hope will arrest the decline in profitability.
Project 1: This would involve closing the firm’s domestic factory and
switching production to a foreign country where labour rates are a quarter
of those in the domestic market. Sales would continue to be targeted
exclusively at the domestic market.
Project 2: This would involve a new investment in machinery at the
domestic factory to allow production to be increased by 50%. The extra
tools would be exported and sold as high quality tools in foreign market
Both projects have a positive Net Present Value (NPV) when discounted
at the firm’s current cost of capital.
Discuss the strategic and financial issues that this case presents.
6 The regulatory impact of the financial manager’s decisions
The extent to which the financial manager’s actions are scrutinised by
regulators is determined by:
• the type of industry – some industries (for example the privatised utility
industries in the UK) are subject to high levels of regulation
• whether the company is listed – listed companies are subject to high levels
of scrutiny. The Regulator for Public Companies has the primary objective
of ensuring clarity for all investors.
The UK City Code
The City Code applies to takeovers in the UK. It stresses the vital importance of
absolute secrecy before any takeover announcement is made. Once an
announcement is made, the Code stipulates that the announcement should be
as clear as possible, so that all shareholders (and potential shareholders) have
equal access to information.
The ethical impact of the financial manager’s decisions
Ethics, and the company’s ethical framework, should provide a basis for all
policy and decision making. The financial manager must consider whether an
action is ethical at a:
• society level
• corporate level
• individual level.
|Explanation of levels of ethics|
The extent to which the wishes of all stakeholders both internal and
external should be taken into account, even where there is no legal
obligation to do so.
The extent to which companies should exceed legal obligations to
stakeholders, and the approach they take to corporate governance and
The principles that the individuals running the company apply to their own
actions and behaviours.
As key members of the decision-making executive, financial managers are
responsible for ensuring that all the actions of the company for which they work:
• are ethical
• are grounded in good governance
• achieve the highest standards of probity.
In addition to general rules of ethics and governance, members of the ACCA
have additional guidance to support their decision making.
|ACCA Code of Ethics|
|At an individual level, members of the ACCA are governed by a set of
fundamental ethical principles. These principles are binding on all
members and members review and agree to them each year when they
renew their ACCA membership and submit their CPD return.
The fundamental principles are:
• professional competence and due care
• professional behaviour.
Members should be straightforward and honest in all professional and
Members should not allow bias, conflicts of interest or undue influence of
others to override professional or business judgements.
Professional competence and due care
Members have a continuing duty to maintain professional knowledge and
skill at a level required to ensure that a client or employer receives
competent professional service based on current developments in
practice, legislation and techniques. Members should act diligently and in
accordance with applicable technical and professional standards when
providing professional services.
Members should respect the confidentiality of information acquired as a
result of professional and business relationships and should not disclose
any such information to third parties without proper and specific authority
or unless there is a legal or professional right or duty to disclose.
Confidential information acquired as a result of professional and business
relationships should not be used for the personal advantage of members
or third parties.
Members should comply with relevant laws and regulations and should
avoid any action that discredits the profession.
In working life, a financial manager may:
• have to deal with a conflict between stakeholders
• face a conflict between their position as agent and the needs of the
shareholders for whom they act.
An ethical framework should provide a strategy for dealing with the situation.
|More on ethics|
|Ethical financial policy
All senior financial staff would be expected to sign up and adhere to an
ethical financial policy framework. A typical code would cover matters
• acting in accordance with the ACCA principles
• disclosure of any possible conflicts of interest at the first possible
opportunity to the appropriate company member
• ensuring full, fair, accurate, complete, objective, timely and
understandable disclosure in all reports and documents that the
• ensuring all company financial practices concerning accounting,
internal accounting controls and auditing matters meet the highest
standards of professionalism, transparency and honesty
• complying with all internal policy all external rules and regulations
• responsible use and control of assets and other resources
• promotion of ethical behaviour among subordinates and peers and
ensuring an atmosphere of continuing education and exchange of
Assessing the ethical impact of decisions
Once a framework has been developed it is essential that all decisions
are made in accordance with it.
This will involve:
• all employees explicitly signing up to the framework
• providing employees with guidelines to apply to ethical decisions
• offering resources for consultation in ethical dilemma
• ensuring unethical conduct can be reported without reprisal
• taking disciplinary action where violations have occurred.
Guidelines for making ethical decisions often take the form of a series of
questions which employees are encouraged to ask themselves before
implementing a decision.
• Have colleagues been properly consulted?
• Are actions legal and in compliance with professional standards?
• Is individual or company integrity being compromised?
• Are company values being upheld?
• Is the choice of action the most ethical one?
• If the decision were documented would a reviewer agree with the
In addition to written ethical guidelines firms often provide employees with
a list of people who can be consulted in the case of an ethical dilemma.
• Line manager.
• Appointed quality and risk leaders.
• Firm legal team.
• Ethics hotline within the firm (obviously only in larger companies is
this likely to be affordable).
• Professional hotline – the ACCA for example, provides its members
with ethical advice and support, as do many other professional
Interconnectedness of the ethics of good business practice
The ethical financial manager understands the importance of the
interconnectedness of the ethics of good business practice.
It is vitally important that decision makers throughout an organisation
appreciate the impact of their decisions on the likely success of all the
other, interconnected parts of the organisation. Unethical business
practices undertaken in one part of the business can have disastrous
consequences elsewhere. For example, an unethical marketing
campaign could have a knock-on impact on the sales of a business,
leading to a reduction in production and a subsequent cut in purchasing
|Test your understanding 4|
|Suggest ways in which ethical issues would influence the firm’s
financial policies in relation to the following:
• investment appraisal
8 The environmental impact of the financial manager’s decisions
In the last few years, the issue of sustainable development has taken on greater
urgency as concerns about the long-term impact of business on the planet have
The United Nations defines sustainable development as:
Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising
the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
The underlying principle for firms is that environmental, social and economic
systems are interdependent and decisions must address all three concerns
In developing corporate policies and objectives, specific attention should be
given to matters of sustainability and environmental risk.
|Specific examples of environmental issues|
|Carbon-trading and emissions
Firms with high energy use may need to set objectives for their emissions
of greenhouse gases in order to achieve targets set by governments
under the Kyoto Protocol.
This may include:
• reducing emissions to reduce liability for energy taxes
• entering a carbon emissions trading scheme.
The Kyoto Protocol
The Kyoto Protocol was negotiated by 160 nations in 1997. It is an
attempt to limit national emissions of greenhouse gases in order to slow
or halt an associated change of climate. The agreement sets emission
targets for the individual nations. Australia, for instance, agreed to limit its
annual emission by the year 2012 to no more than 108% of its emission
The Protocol was negotiated based on an economic mechanism of
‘carbon trading’ evolving; i.e. nations issuing permits for carbon emission,
set to match the targets set by the Kyoto Protocol or its follow-on
agreements. The permits, tradeable, both nationally and internationally,
are intended to operate such that market forces ultimately replace
government direction in the process of encouraging more efficient use of
Individual companies will be able to decide whether to spend money on
new ‘carbon efficient’ technology or on the acquisition of carbon credits
from those industries or countries which have a surplus.
In the UK for example, there is a carbon emissions trading scheme,
which is run by the Department of Energy and Climate Change. Details
are provided here only to provide a clear picture of how such a scheme
The UK scheme
Organisations in the scheme volunteer to reduce emissions in return for a
financial incentive provided by the government. They are set emissions
targets based on a formula. If they overachieve they can sell or bank the
excess allowances. If they underachieve they must buy the allowances
Some firms already have targets as a result of Climate Change Levy
Agreements (CCLAs – see below) set up to help businesses with
intensive energy use mitigate the effects of the UK energy tax. These
firms can sell their surpluses or buy needed credits.
Other firms, even if they do not emit greenhouse gases, may set up an
account to trade in the allowances.
The climate change levy is a tax on the use of energy in industry,
commerce and the public sector, with offsetting cuts in employers’
National Insurance Contributions – NICs – and additional support for
energy efficiency schemes and renewable sources of energy. The levy
forms a key part of the Government’s overall Climate Change
The role of an environment agency
Government environment agencies (in the UK – Defra – the Department
for the environment, food and rural affairs) work to ensure that business
meets the environmental targets set internationally. They set local
business targets in key areas such as:
• energy conservation
• protection of the countryside
• sustainable development.
which will need to be taken into account when setting objectives for the
business as a whole.
|Triple Bottom Line (TBL) reporting|
|Environmental audits and the triple bottom line approach
First coined in the mid-1990s, the phrase triple bottom line, refers to the
need for companies to focus on the:
• economic value and
• environmental value and
• social value.
both added and destroyed by the firm.
Providing stakeholders with corporate performance data in each of these
areas is known as triple bottom line reporting.
In order to provide credible data, companies will need to:
• set up a suitable management system to capture the information
• ensure the reports are subject to an appropriate audit scrutiny.
Triple bottom line reporting
A triple bottom line approach requires a shift in culture and focus, and the
development of appropriate policies and objectives. It can also be used
as a framework for measuring and reporting corporate performance.
Many leading companies are now publishing environmental and
sustainability reports – demonstrating to stakeholders that they are
addressing these issues.
In order to provide meaningful data, a business must be able to assess
the environmental and social impact of their operations. One way to do
this is to adopt the framework provided by ISO 14000. ISO 14000 is a
series of international standards on environmental management.
It provides a framework for the development of an environmental
management system and a supporting audit programme.
Environmental auditing is a systematic, documented, periodic and
objective process in assessing an organisation’s activities and services in
• Assessing compliance with relevant statutory and internal
• Facilitating management control of environmental practices.
• Promoting good environmental management.
• Maintaining credibility with the public.
• Raising staff awareness and enforcing commitment to departmental
• Exploring improvement opportunities.
• Establishing the performance baseline for developing an
Environmental Management System (EMS).
|Test your understanding 1|
|Shareholders – The support of shareholders is necessary for the smooth
running of the business. Actions from awkward questions at AGMs
through to (in the worst case) a vote to remove the directors, are
available to aggrieved shareholders. The goals set by a company should
reflect their concerns as key stakeholders, and communication of them
should reassure shareholders that the firm is acting as they would wish.
Government – Government targets and policies often include specific
expectations of the business community. Keeping government
departments informed of activities and consulting in key areas can help
prevent later government intervention, or punitive action from regulators.
Customers – A business will struggle to continue without the support of
its customers. Today, consumers are increasingly concerned about how
the goods and services they buy are provided. Companies are therefore
keen to demonstrate their commitment to ethical, environmental policies.
They can do so by communicating clearly the specific goals and policies
they have developed to ensure they meet customer expectations.
Suppliers – If shareholder and customer concern over the provenance of
the supply chain is to be addressed, it is essential that suppliers are clear
about the expectations of the company. This may include requirements
for their own suppliers, the treatment of their own staff, the way in which
their products are produced etc. The company must ensure such policies
are clear and enforced.
Community at large – The larger community may not have any direct
involvement with the company but can be quick to take action such as
arranging boycotts or lobbying if it disapproves of the way the company
conducts business. Reassurance about corporate goals can reduce the
likelihood of disruptive action.
Managers/directors/employees – Senior staff will need to be kept fully
up-to-date about all goals and policies set by the firm, so they can apply
them when taking decisions. Explaining to employees why decisions are
being taken can help to ensure co-operation in their implementation.
|Test your understanding 2|
|Treasury is the function concerned with the provision and use of finance
and thus handles the acquisition and custody of funds whereas the
Financial Control Department has responsibility for accounting, reporting
and control. The roles of the two departments in the proposed investment
are as follows:
• Treasury will quantify the cost of capital to be used in assessing the
• The financial control department will estimate the project cash flows.
• Treasury will establish corporate financial objectives, such as
wanting to restrict gearing to 40%, and will identify sources and
types of finance.
• Treasury will also deal with currency management – dealing in
foreign currencies and hedging currency risks – and taxation.
• The financial control department will be involved with the
preparation of budgets and budgetary control, the preparation of
periodic financial statements and the management and
administration of activities such as payroll and internal audit.
• The Treasury Department has main responsibility for setting
corporate objectives and policy and Financial Control has the
responsibility for implementing policy and ensuring the achievement
of corporate objectives. This distinction is probably far too simplistic
and, in reality, both departments will make contributions to both
determination and achievement of objectives.
• There is a circular relationship in that Treasurers quantify the cost of
capital, which the Financial Controllers use as the criterion for the
deployment of funds; Financial Controllers quantify projected cash
flows which in turn trigger Treasurers’ decisions to employ capital.
|Test your understanding 3|
Competitive advantage – currently the firm is a differentiator (it
competes on quality rather than cost). The new entrants into the market
seem to be cost leaders. Undertaking Project 1 might reduce the quality
of the Ribs Co tools and undermine the firm’s long standing competitive
Fit with environment – clearly the environment has changed in the last
12 months. The new imports indicate that perhaps the economic
environment has changed (movement in exchange rates? removal of
import tariffs?), and also that customers are seemingly looking for
cheaper tools (social factor). Ribs Co is right to try to find new projects
which enable it to compete in this new environment.
Stakeholder reactions – the shareholders are not happy, so they will
welcome the new projects (providing the directors communicate the
positive NPV information effectively). However, other stakeholders are
likely to be less impressed. For example, under Project 1 there are likely
to be job cuts in the domestic market, so the employees, local community
and domestic government are likely to be unhappy about this option. The
directors must consider the long term consequences of upsetting these
key stakeholders in the short term.
Risk – Project 2 appears to be the more risky option – it involves
exporting goods into a foreign market where Ribs Co currently has no
operations. There is no guarantee that the Ribs tools will be a success in
the new market. However, there is huge potential under this option.
Clearly the domestic market is becoming saturated, so perhaps now is
the time for Ribs to seek out new opportunities abroad.
Positive NPVs – both prospective projects have positive NPVs, so
theoretically shareholder wealth should increase whichever is
undertaken. However, the cash flow estimates need to be analysed and
sensitivity analysis should be performed to see what changes in
estimates can be tolerated.
Impact on cost of capital – Ribs Co’s current cost of capital has been
used for discounting the projects. However the change in risk (caused by
the exposure to foreign factors in both projects) is likely to change the
cost of capital.
Financing – both projects are likely to require significant short term
capital expenditure. The directors will have to consider the size of
investment required, and the firm’s target gearing ratio, as they assess
whether debt or equity funding should be sought.
|Test your understanding 4|
• Providing timely and accurate information to shareholders on the
company’s historical achievements and future prospects.
• paying fair prices
• attempting to settle invoices promptly
• co-operating with suppliers to maintain and improve the quality of
• not using or accepting bribery or excess hospitality as a means of
securing contracts with suppliers.
• charging fair prices
• offering fair payment terms
• honouring quantity and settlement discounts
• ensuring sufficient quality control processes are built in that goods
are fit for purpose.
• payment of fair wages
• upholding obligations to protect, preserve and improve the
• only trading (both purchases and sales) with countries and
companies that themselves have appropriate ethical frameworks.
• Developing a policy on donations to educational and charitable