Quaderno AIAF
n. 145
The value of Intangibles to overcome the systemic crisis
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The value of Intangibles to overcome the systemic crisis



Informazioni aggiuntive





Mission Intangibles Study Group

Andrea Gasperini (Co-ordinator), Responsible for the credit line area of Gruppo Banca Leonardo S.p.A., EFFAS Commission on Intellectual Capital,  AIAF member
Andrea Casadei, Executive Director of BilanciaRSI Research Centre and lecturer in “Business Ethics and Accountability”, University of Bologna, AIAF member
Filippo Amadei, Coordinator of research area at BilanciaRSI, Research Centre and tutor in social accountability, University of Bologna
Marta Degl’Innocenti, Department of Management, University of Bologna, AIAF member
Lorenza Menicucci, Employee at Confartigianato Servizi s.r.l.

Executive Summary

As suggested by several researchers, the bigger size of many firms (banks, insurance, and real estate companies, …) particuraly compared to that of Small/Medium Enterprises (SME) has been a major cause for moral hazard over the last few years that has driven them to excessive risk taking because they believed they were “too big to fail” and that Government intervention would in any case protect investors.

Nevertheless, the SMEs cannot expect to receive similar Government rescue as a last chance. Such companies depend solely on their own strategies and must try to survive the ongoing crisis of the financial markets, of a whole business model and of regulation and control systems by relying on their own resources, most of which are intangible. Unlike many larger companies, which can usually rely on tangible assets such as property, plants and equipment, SMEs often have a larger amount of intangible assets that are identifiable and carry a specific economic value but remain nonetheless invisible in the financial statements: according to the most important international sources and conventional schemes, these assets are represented by human, structural and relational capital.

Each entity owns / has access to intangible assets that fit into all of the above three categories although one of them may often be more significant than the others, depending on the company’s business model and/or sector, and only their mutual relationship can represent a significant value driver to market competitiveness – a distinctive feature vis-à-vis other competitors – and can play a strategic role for growth. However, a more in-depth analysis reveals a quite different situation, which is almost a paradox for the recognition of their value, which often remains unexpressed in traditional accounting reports.

In this scenario, the contribution of Intellectual Capital to corporate success is indeed partially evaluated and the strategies of management are often not explained in the financial reports. Furthermore, little emphasis is placed on the risks resulting from the inability to identify intangible assets or, even if properly identified, to manage them and achieve a continuos accumulation and improvement.

The recent events in the financial market have shown that intangible assets may become intangible liabilities which cause a value erosion in terms of reputation, higher transaction costs with stakeholders, lack of attraction from investors and lower market penetration of products/services. Such risks can therefore be defined as the negative impact that unpredictable events have on the targets of an entity, namely the possibility of losses due to uncertainty over the achievement of corporate targets.

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