Sunday, 30 December 2012

Standard Costing: Material variances (Price, Usage, Mix & Yield)

By Jackie, Researcher
Topic: Education
Area of discussion: Cost & Management Accounting
Chapter: Standard Costing – Material variances (Price, Usage, Mix & Yield)

The objectives of this posting are to guide students in the computation of all material variances, to share a random picked ACCA Paper 8 Managerial Finance’s question with clear step-by-step workings and explanation, and finally show you how to double check your answers. Ideally, professional exams like ACCA and LCCI require students to compute advanced variances (i.e. direct materials mix and yield variances). Normally, students will not face any problems in handling direct materials price and usage variances, but struggling in solving those advanced variances (students often confuse when normal loss exists). Hopefully, this sharing will help students to understand this topic clearer and better.

The breakdown of the materials variances

Formulas and descriptions:

Total direct materials variance
The total direct materials variance is the difference between the standard materials cost for the actual production and the actual materials cost. Alternatively, it can also be computed by summing up direct materials price variance and direct materials usage variance.
Total direct materials variance = standard materials cost – actual materials cost
Total direct materials variance = direct materials price variance + direct materials usage variance

Material price variance
The material price variance is equal to the difference between the standard price and the actual price per unit of materials multiplied by the quantity of material purchased:
Material price variance = (standard price per unit of material – actual price) x quantity of material purchased

Material usage variance
The material usage variance is equal to the difference between the standard quantity required for actual production and the actual quantity used multiplied by the standard material price:
Material usage variance = (standard quantity of materials for actual production – actual quantity used) x standard price per unit

Materials mix variance
The materials mix variance arises when the mix of materials used differs from the predetermined mix included in the calculation of the standard cost of an operation. If the mixture is varied so that a larger than standard proportion of more expensive materials is used, there will be an unfavourable variance. When a larger proportion of cheaper materials are included in the mixture, there will be a favourable variance.
Materials mix variance = (actual quantity in standard mix proportions – actual quantity used) x standard price

Materials yield variance
The materials yield variance arises because there is a difference between the standard output for a given level of inputs and the actual output attained.
Materials yield variance = (actual yield – standard yield from actual input of material) x standard cost per unit of output 

Answers and comments:

Additional readings, related links and references:

This link provides an extremely good and detailed step-by-step calculation and there are a lot of worked examples. Full formulas are provided and alternative methods for computation are shown clearly.

Materials mix and yield: Relevant to ACCA qualification paper F5. An extremely good discussion on variance analysis with excellent illustration, worked examples and clear explanation.

Standard Costing 2 Material Variances: “Managerial Accounting SFCC Fall 2007 Chapter 9 Videos

This link provides a number of standard costing examples. There are a total of 6 parts in it. Good site to look at in order to master variance analysis.

Material mix and yield variances: Grahame Steven explains why understanding material mix and yield variance is a recipe for success.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Comparison of Net Present Value and Internal Rate of Return Methods

By Jackie, Researcher
Topic: Education
Area of discussion: Cost & Management Accounting
Chapter: Capital Budgeting & Cost Analysis

The objective of this posting is to discuss, explain, and justify the superiority of NPV over the IRR. We will look into the conditions which make IRR method becomes inappropriate for usage purpose (i.e. the IRR’s technical shortcoming).

Net Present Value Method
It calculates the expected monetary gain or loss from a project by discounting all expected future cash inflows and outflows back to the present point in time using the required rate of return. In other words, it is the present value of the net cash inflows less the present value of the net cash outflows (if any), and then minus the project’s initial investment outlay. A positive NPV indicates that an investment should be accepted, while a negative value indicates that it should be rejected. A zero NPV calculation indicates that the firm should be indifferent to whether the project is accepted or rejected.
Internal Rate of Return Method
It is the rate of return promised by an investment project over its useful life. It is sometimes referred to simply as the yield on a project. The internal rate of return is computed by finding the discount rate that equates the present value of a project’s cash outflows with the present value of its cash inflows. In other words, the internal rate of return is the discount rate that results in a net present value of zero. The decision rule is that if the IRR is greater than the opportunity cost of capital, the investment is acceptable as it is profitable and will yield a positive NPV. Alternatively, if the IRR is less than the cost of capital, the investment should be rejected as it is unprofitable and will result in a negative NPV. When the IRR is equal to the opportunity cost of capital, the firm should be indifferent to whether the project is acceptable or rejected.   

Comparison of Net Present Value and Internal Rate of Return Methods
In many situations the internal rate of return method will result in the same decision as the net present value method. In the case of conventional projects (in which an initial cash outflow is followed by a series of cash inflows) that are independent of each other (i.e. where the selection of a particular projects does not preclude the choice of the other), both NPV and IRR rules will lead to the same accept/reject decisions. However, there are also situations where the IRR method may lead to different decisions being made from those that would follow the adoption of the NPV procedure. 
Mutually exclusive projects 
If projects are mutually exclusive (i.e. the acceptance of one project excludes the acceptance of another project), it is possible for the NPV and the IRR methods to suggest different rankings as to which project should be given priority. For example, choosing one out of three possible factory locations. When evaluating mutually exclusive projects, the IRR method is prone to indicate wrong decisions (i.e. incorrectly rank projects) due to its reinvestment assumptions especially when dealing with unequal lives or unequal levels of initial investment outlay. For instance, compare an investment of £ 10,000 that yields a return of 50 per cent with an investment of £15,000 that yields a return of 40 per cent. If only one of the investments can be undertaken, normally managers will choose the project which has the highest IRR, but bear in mind that in actual fact, the first investment will only yield £5,000 but the second investment will yield £6,000. Thus, if the objective is to maximize the shareholders’ wealth the NPV provides the correct measure.
Percentage returns 
We can sum NPVs of individual projects to calculate a NPV of a combination or portfolio of projects as NPV method is expressed in monetary terms, not in percentages. For example, Project Alpha consists of two smaller projects: South (NPV = £12,500) and West (NPV = £7,500). Then, the NPV of Project Alpha will be £20,000. In contrast, IRRs of individual projects cannot be added or averaged to represent the IRR of a combination of projects.
Volatile cost of capital 
NPV method can also be used when the cost of capital varies over the life of a project. For instance, Vortex Plc has made an initial investment of £10,000 and expected to receive cash inflow as much as £25,000 in year 1 when the cost of capital is 12%, followed by another cash inflow of £18,000 when the cost of capital is 10% in year 2 and finally, £5,000 cash inflow in year 3 when the cost of capital is 8%. Then, the NPV can be calculated as £31,163 (see below). It is not possible to use IRR method in this case. This is because different cost of capital in different years means that there is no single cost of capital that the IRR (a single figure) can be compared against to decide whether the project should be accepted or rejected. 

Reinvestment assumptions 
The assumption concerning the reinvestment of interim cash flows from the acceptance of projects provides another reason for supporting the superiority of the NPV method. The implicit assumption if the NPV method is adopted is that the cash flows generated from an investment will be reinvested immediately at the cost of capital (i.e. the returns available from equal risk securities traded in financial markets). However, the IRR method makes a different implicit assumption about the reinvestment of the cash flows. It assumes that all the proceeds from a project can be reinvested immediately to earn a return equal to the IRR of the original project. This assumption is likely to be unrealistic because a firm should have accepted all projects which offer a return in excess of the cost of capital, and any other funds that become available can only be reinvested at the cost of capital.
Unconventional cash flows 
When the signs of the cash flows switch overtime (i.e. when there are outflows, followed by inflows, followed by additional outflows and so forth), it is possible that more than one IRR may exist for a given project. In other words, there may be multiple discount rates that equate the NPV of a set of cash flows to zero (see below). In such cases, it is difficult to know which of the IRR estimates should be compared to the firm’s required rate of return.

Additional readings, related links and references:
“Perils of the Internal Rate of Return”: This is an extremely good link. It heavily focuses on discussion with clear and detailed examples. Calculations and graphs are all provided. This is highly recommended for those who are doing a research project on this issue or doing revision for coming exams.
“Which is a better measure for capital budgeting, IRR or NPV?”: This site is suitable for beginner. It provides a brief explanation, examples and concepts. It can give you a quick understanding.

“Chapter 6 - Investment decisions - Capital budgeting”: Well, this site looks like an e-book to me. The good thing about this link is it offers more detailed calculations instead of theories. Complete formulas are given too. 

“Net Present Value Vs Internal Rate Of Return (NPV & IRR) & Excel Calculations For DCF”: If you prefer to learn via hearing instead of reading, then this might suit you. 

“How to calculate NPV and IRR in Excel”: The voice is clear, good explanation and most importantly, it is a step-by-step tutorial approach.

Friday, 14 December 2012


By Jackie, Researcher
Topic: Education
Area of discussion: Management
Chapter: Leadership: Transformational Leadership

The objective of this posting is to share a real-life example of transformational leadership. This example is based on Siemens (German multinational heavy engineering and electronics conglomerate) and its previous leader, Von Pierer (CEO of the company from 1992-2005). This posting emphasizes more on practical application as compared to theoretical concept. Ideally, leadership is extremely important in determining a company’s survival ability nowadays. It is a process by which a person exerts influence over other people and inspires, motivates, and directs their activities to help achieve group or organizational goals.

      Siemens was in a hard time during 1992 because of rising worldwide competition, having an inflexible hierarchy as well as practising conservative culture which greatly reduced decision making speed, stifled creativity and innovation (Jones & George 2003, p.459). Fortunately, Siemens’ Chairman, Von Pierer has taken a ‘shift-in-style’ approach by utilising transformational leadership. He removed two layers of middle management, downsized workforce by 7.5% through early retirement and sold slow-growing businesses at $2 billion (Miller 1995, p.53). Decision making processes were also speed up through the creation of new management boards (Boddy 2005, p.385). At the new Siemens, subordinates were given chances to critique their managers, who were in return receiving training to be more democratic and participative while employees were given ample ‘speaking freedom’ to express their thoughts.
      Jones and George (2003, p.460) highlight that Von Pierer has successfully transformed his subordinates in three essential ways. Firstly, he has ‘brainwashed’ his employees’ passive mindset and increased their awareness about the importance of their jobs as well as high performance to attain Siemens’ goals. For instance, upon realising that microprocessor sales managers were not acting on their best as they thought that their job are unimportant, he called Siemens’ top customers like Opel, Ford and Sony to critic and express their dissatisfaction for receiving lousy service and unreliable delivery schedule. Secondly, his subordinates are aware of their own needs for growth, development, and accomplishment. For example, Von Pierer has organised numerous workshop and training session as well as developing fast track career programs like TOP (Time-optimized processes) and launched a high-profile educational campaign for all level of employees. Thirdly, he also motivated his workers to work for the good of the company, not just for their personal gain or benefit. This can be seen when he tried to make all employees to think in the similar manner by inserting self-addressed postcards in the company magazine, urging them to send their ideas for improvement purposes directly to him.

      He also engaged in development consideration such as providing counselling sessions with a psychologist for managers who face difficulties in adapting to Siemens’ changes and sponsoring hiking trips to stimulate employees’ thinking and work in new ways (Miller 1995, p.52). One of the greatest outcome is a team of Siemens’ engineers working in jeans in a rented house has developed a machine-tool control system by just using one-third of the time and cost as compared to previous system. The effectiveness of Von Pierer has been portrayed in GLOBE research related to German leaders, where “tough on the issue, soft on the person” strategy seems to be the ultimate recipe for success in Siemens (Brodbeck, Frese & Javidan 2002, pp.21-24).



 Boddy, D 2005, Management: An Introduction, 3rd edn, Prentice Hall, Harlow, p.385.

 Brodbeck, FC, Frese, M & Javidan, M 2002, ‘Leadership made in Germany: Low on compassion, high on performance’, Academy of Management Executive, vol.16, no.1, pp.21-24, viewed 24 September 2012,

Jones, GR & George, JM 2003, Contemporary Management, 3rd edn, McGraw-Hill, New York, pp.459-462.

Miller, KL 1995, ‘Siemens Shapes Up’, Business Week, 30 April, pp.52-53, viewed 12 October 2012,

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Mathematical Tables

By Admin
Uploaded content: Mathematical Tables (Present Value and Future Value Tables)

The tables below are extremely useful especially for finance and accounting students. They are often used to find either the present value or the future value of money. Some academic topics like time value of money and capital budgeting will frequently use these tables to ease calculation purposes. It is highly recommended if you are using all or any one of these, please download it and adjust the picture until it fits into an A4 sized paper before you print it. Also, please keep it nicely for future usage purpose.

Future Value Interest Factors (FVIF) Table 

Future Value Interest Factors Annuity (FVIFA) Table

Present Value Interest Factors (PVIF) Table

Present Value Interest Factors Annuity (PVIFA) Table

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Capital Investment Decisions: Appraisal Methods

By Jackie, Researcher
Topic: Education
Area of discussion: Management & Cost Accounting
Chapter: Capital investment decisions – appraisal methods

The objective of this posting is to share a ‘question & answer’ related to capital investment decision. A real past year question was taken from AAT Stage 3 Cost Accounting and Budgeting. I hope this posting will help more students to understand payback, accounting rate of return and net present value calculations better. Some parts of it might be tricky where it tries to confuse students. Besides, normally professional exams questions will ask a bit on its theoretical concepts or other qualitative measures. Hopefully, this posting will help students to eliminate the fear in exams and to score with flying colours.

Payback is defined as the length of time that is required for a stream of cash proceeds from an investment to recover the original cash outlay required by the investment. If the stream of cash flows from the investment is constant each year, the payback period can be calculated by dividing the total initial cash outlay by the amount of the expected annual cash proceeds. However, if the stream of expected proceeds is not constant from year to year, the payback period is determined by adding up the cash inflows expected in successive years until the total is equal to the original outlay (see below).

Accounting rate of return uses profits rather than cash flows. Therefore, to find out the profits, we have to take cash flows minus depreciation. Do not add the scrap value back to the final year’s cash flow. This is because scrap value is not profit. Remember, if all things are run accordingly, there will be no ‘gain or loss on disposal’, thus it will not affect the profits. The average investment under this assumption is one-half of the amount of the initial investment plus one-half of the scrap value at the end of the project’s life.

Net present value (NPV) is computed using net cash inflows less the project’s initial investment outlay. A positive NPV indicates that an investment should be accepted, while a negative value indicates that it should be rejected. A zero NPV calculation indicates that the firm should be indifferent to whether the project is accepted or rejected. 

Normally, for the last sub-question of the investment appraisal decisions, the examiners will frequently ask the students on which is the most favorable investment project. Sometimes, when there is a conflict in ranking between the few investment appraisal methods, NPV method will be the key decision factor.

Not all investment projects can be described completely in terms of monetary costs and benefits. There is also a danger that those aspects of a new investment that are difficult to quantify may be omitted from the financial appraisal.

Additional readings, related links and references:

Payback Period: Meaning, Calculation, Example, Usage and Consideration.

Investment Appraisals: A guide to calculating ARR, the accounting rate of return.

Net Present Value (NPV): Tutorials, Calculators, Android Apps, Excel Solutions & Tables for Finance

Watch a short introduction video to Investment Appraisal Methods

Investment Appraisal Masterclass by Kaplan

Friday, 7 September 2012

The Differences Between Financial Accounting And Management Accounting

By Jackie, Researcher
Topic: Types of Accounting (Terminology & Concepts)

The objectives of this research are to find out what are the major differences between financial accounting and management accounting. 

Management Accounting sometimes is also known as 'Managerial Accounting'.

     First and foremost, management accounting is concerned with the provision of information to people within the organization or ‘internal parties’ (i.e. managers inside the organization) to help them to make better decisions and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of existing operations, whereas financial accounting is concerned with the provision of information to ‘external parties’ outside the organization (e.g. shareholders, creditors, tax authorities, regulators, potential investors, and etc). Thus, management accounting could be called ‘internal reporting’ and financial accounting could be called ‘external reporting’.

       Secondly, there is a statutory requirement for public limited companies to produce annual financial accounts regardless of whether or not management regards this information as useful. It must be done as it is ‘mandatory’. Management accounting, by contrast, is entirely optional and information should be produced only if it is considered that benefits from the use of the information by management exceed the cost of collecting it. Thus, it is not ‘mandatory’. A company is completely free to do as much or as little as it wishes.

        Thirdly, financial accounting reports describe the whole of the business whereas management accounting focuses on small parts of the organization such as the cost and profitability of products, services, customers and activities. In addition, management accounting information measures the economic performance of decentralized operating units, such as parts, segments, divisions or departments.

      Besides, financial accounting statements must be prepared to conform with the legal requirements and the generally accepted accounting principles established by the regulatory bodies such as the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) in the USA, the Accounting Standards Board (ASB) in the UK and the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) to ensure the uniformity and consistency that is required for external financial statements are achieved so that the inter-company and historical comparisons are possible. Thus, financial accounting data should be objective and verifiable. In contrast, management accountants are not required to adhere to generally accepted accounting principles when providing managerial information for internal purposes. Instead, the focus is on the serving management’s needs and providing information that is useful to managers relating to their decision-making, planning and control functions.

     Furthermore, financial accounting reports what has happened in the past in an organization, whereas management accounting is concerned with future information as well as past information. Decisions are concerned with future events and management therefore requires details of expected future costs and revenues. In other words, financial accounting is past-oriented (eg. Reports on 2010 performance were prepared in 2011) and management accounting is future-oriented (eg. Budget for 2011 was prepared in 2010).

      In addition, a detailed set of financial accounts is published annually and less detailed accounts are published semi-annually. Management requires information quickly if it is to act on it. Consequently, management accounting reports on various activities may be prepared at daily, weekly or monthly intervals.


Additional readings, related links and references:

Differences between financial and managerial accounting

The Differences between Financial Accounting & Management Accounting

Financial and Managerial Accounting Information

Financial Accounting Vs Managerial Accounting (Cute cartoon illustration)

Dennis Ensing, CA of WiseMentorCapital, discusses the differences between financial and managerial accounting. Visit for more resources to help turn your ideas into reality.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Job Interview Tips, Preparation And Advice

By Jackie, Researcher
Topic: Employment skills (Interview)

The objectives of this research are to highlight what and how a fresh graduate should prepares for a job interview. This preparation is basically divided into three stages: before the interview, during the interview, and after the interview. Hopefully, the tips below will increase a job seeker’s confident and aid them to excel better in an interview session.

Ideally, making all the right moves at the interview is crucial to leave a positive and lasting impression on potential employers. Besides, securing a job interview means you are now having the chance to show a potential employer why you are the best candidate for the job. However, the interview itself could be a daunting experience for the underprepared. Here are some tips and guides on how to maintain your composure and impress your prospective employers.

Before the interview

When you get call for the interview, make sure you obtain the correct date and time of your appointment, as well as the exact location (including building, floor and room). It is also good to know the name of your interviewer and his or her designation.

Doing some "homework" before actually going to the interview like researching the company and understand what are the company objectives,  short-term and long-term goals will definitely help a candidate in his or her interview session later. 

Research the company
Find out as much as you can about the company in terms of products or services, market position, competitors and challenges so that you can speak knowledgeably during the interview. Find out also if the company has been in the news recently and if it runs any community projects. If you are unfamiliar with the location, do a trial run to avoid getting lost on the actual day. It will also help you gauge how long it takes to get there.

Research the position
Research the daily activities or tasks of the job on offer so that you know what you are really getting yourself into. Then try to match your own qualifications, experience and personal traits to those activities or tasks. It is also a good idea to think of questions to ask the employers to reiterate your interest.

Role-play rehearse
As silly as you may feel, rehearsing an interview with a friend or family member can help to overcome a bad case of the nerves. While rehearsing, think of difficult questions you may get asked and prepared suitable responses. If you are still in university, check with the career placement centre to find out if they conduct mock interview training. Career counselors are more than happy to help students practice interview skills.

On the interview day

Make sure you have all the necessary documents with you before you leave home. This includes all degree certificates and letters of references (and their photocopies), passport-size photos, and a portfolio of your previous work or projects (if any). Also don’t forget to bring at least two copies of your resume.

Sometimes an interview session might be a little bit "uneasy" for a candidate, especially  when there are more than one interviewers in the interview session. It could be quite "uncomfortable" when people staring right in your eyes and hear carefully what are you going to say. Anyway, constant practice can overcome this problem.

Dress to impress
Statistics by recruitment specialists Sarina Russo Group indicate that more than 90% of the impact we make comes from how we dress, walk and talk, and not from what we actually say. Dress appropriately for the job you are applying for. Jobs in banking and financial services sector usually require formal wear. Here are some ground rules to dress for interviews:

  1. Solid, muted colours such as black, white, dark blue, brown, grey are generally accepted.
  2. Business attire: long pants, shirt, tie and jacket for men; long pants or skirt (at least knee-length), blouse and jacket for women.
  3. Clothes should be clean and neatly ironed. Jewellery and accessories should be minimal and not flashy. 
  4. Shoes should be formal-looking yet comfortable to wear, and also well polished. Flip-flops and sneakers are a definitely no-no, along with extremely high heels. 
  5. Hair should be neatly combed and styled. Avoid dying hair in shocking colours. Men should preferably be cleanly shaved but if they have a moustache or beard, it should be neatly trimmed and groomed.

Punctuality matters
You should never be late for an interview. If you are running late, call the interviewer before the schedule time to let him or her know. Try to get there at least 15 minutes ahead of the appointment to freshen up and mentally prepare. Arriving early also helps if you need to fill up any forms.

Courtesy and composure
You are being assessed the minutes you walk into the interview room. Remember to be courteous at all times. Introduce yourself to all the interviewers, shaking their hands gently yet firmly. Your posture and body language are equally important in making a good first impression, along with regular eye contact. Always wait until the interviewer finishes asking a question before responding. Listen attentively and look for opportunities to point out how your capabilities match the employer’s requirements.

After the interview

Remember to shake hand after interview. It symbolizes 'respect'.

Don’t forget to shake the interviewers’ hands and thank them for their time once the session is over. It is also a good idea to send a thank-you note or email to reiterate your interest in the job. You may follow up with a phone call a week later if you have not heard from them, but avoid flooding them with calls or emails or you will be perceived as pushy or desperate.

All in all, getting to the interview stage of the recruitment process is akin to having one foot in the door to the hiring company. Make sure you go fully prepared, put your best foot forward and do your best.

Funny interview cartoon

Additional readings, related links and references:

Job interview tips and advices

Interview attire: How to dress for an interview

Top 10 interview tips

Success in personal interview: Top 20 interview questions and answers

Tips on what to do during an interview for a job