Monday, December 13, 2010

Accounting science fiction

Here's a little piece of accounting science fiction I prepared as part of a recent XBRL presentation:

Friday, 2 December 2050 - EOB and weekend at last! Qifan Strittmatter relaxes, leans back and signs off from work. She is 75, citizen of Switzerland and the Chinese Federation and has been living with her husband in the NW state of Switzerland for the last couple of years. She looks forward to an early retirement from her job as CFO of Novroche. 
She spent the past week mostly working on an important transaction which was communicated to the markets this morning. Novroche sells a large protein synthesis unit to a food conglomerate which had made an important discovery half a year ago. That discovery meant that the buyer could add more value with the unit than Novroche, hence the premium he was willing to pay over Novroche's valuations. 
That premium has now been booked into the constantly live Finance Feed for which Qifan is responsible together with her team of 11 around the globe. The share price barely moved, though, as the transaction was built into expectations soon after the discovery was published.
In deep thought, Qifan's glance falls on a glass case containing a wonderful 1581 edition of Paracelsus' Opus Chirurgicum on loan from the firm's Art Fund. Those were the times when she helped prepare similar tomes every quarter! Sadly, the bigger the reports, the less they were used. Nowadays, things are quite different for sure: With her small team, she signs off on the Finance Feed which reflects everything in real time to the markets and - duly modified - to regulatory authorities around the world. Users make their own choice of the time horizon appropriate for their analytical task. In the case of extraordinary events like today, she has to make sure that automatic adjustments to historical KPI time series which analysts love so dearly are executed correctly.
Her main job consists in adjusting her Finance Feed for the modifications necessary as the Global Investor Reporting Standards (GIRS) get updated. Even more importantly, she has to make sure that the feed's parametrisation (they used to call that Accounting Policy in the olden days) delivers a faithful representation of economic reality at all times. The best ways to achieve that goal is a constant topic of conversation at the GIRS Committee, the global body of experts moderating the setting of GIRS in an extensive, yet intense mass collaboration effort. We've truly come a long way since the edicts of London and Norwalk, by means of which a small group of experts were trying to define the world economy's operating system. Doing that, they had to rely on a process predicated on historical precedent and contingencies which was anything but independent of undue political influence.
Today, that's only of interest to economic historians, daily life in the profession looks very different. And tonight, she looks forward to the trip to Strasbourg and her husband's dinner invitation at the Crocodile, a historic institution in its own right!

Monday, December 06, 2010

Of prudence and pretence

As indicated earlier, my article has now been published in the December issue of IPE. Unfortunately, the article contains two editorial mistakes: Replace "parametric" with "patronal" in the 3rd paragraph, and CHF 1bn is EUR766 mio today, not EUR460 mio. There are a number of other interesting articles about Switzerland in the magazine.

Your comments are very welcome!