Accounting and Finance Seminar - Per Per Ahblom (LSE)
G.15, 15-19 Tyndalls Park Road
"Delivering” performance: The capital market framing of financial numbers from a preparer perspective
This paper investigates the work involved in making sense of specific financial numbers within a preparer organization and conveying this understanding at the corporate-capital market interface. An observation-based study was undertaken of the investor relations team’s interactions during the silent period up to the release of the quarterly report for a large Northern European bank. This rare empirical material was used to trace the successive framing (Goffman, 1974) of the Core Tier 1 ratio, a regulated measure of capital adequacy that the case organisation “delivered” on in its quarterly report. We argue, in contrast to prior literature, that preparers of corporate financial reporting are limited in their choices of the economic reality they present by the very process of constructing a meaning of financial numbers. The process of framing involved anchoring specific numerical representations to perceived intraorganizational realities, market audience expectations, as well as past representations of financial performance. We observed how specific interpretations of financial numbers, as expressed in words and phrases that became imbued with meaning, were moved between spatio-temporally separated sites through the circulation of cues. These cues provide a scaffolding for the enactment of interpretational frames within specific situations – and across sites. The development and circulation of cues in interactions between investor relations professionals and numerous other parties at the corporate-capital market interface contribute to making financial numbers meaningfully anchored, widely distributed and influential representations of organizational reality.