The importance of financial reporting cannot be overstated. It provides a clear picture of a company’s financial health and helps stakeholders assess its potential for growth and profitability. Financial reporting also helps companies comply with legal and regulatory requirements, such as tax laws, accounting standards, and securities regulations.

This article is designed for beginners to learn the basic knowledge of financial reporting: the definition, objective, main types of financial reporting and how to do financial reporting and analysis.

1. What Is Financial Reporting? 

Financial reporting is a process that involves compiling and presenting financial information about a company in a standardized format. This information is used by investors, stakeholders, and financial analysts to make informed decisions about the financial health and performance of a business. The purpose of financial reporting is to provide transparency and accountability for a company’s financial activities and to promote confidence in the company’s financial stability and future prospects.

Financial reporting typically includes balance sheets, income statements, cash flow statements, and other key financial metrics that provide insight into a company’s financial position, operating results, and cash flows. This information is presented in a clear and concise manner, allowing for easy comparison with other companies in the same industry or over time. Financial reporting also involves adhering to established accounting standards, such as Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), to ensure that the information is accurate and consistent.

2. Three Types of Financial Reporting

Generally speaking, all the company’s annual reports and business reports refer to the financial reporting. A complete set of financial reporting includes a balance sheet, income statement, cash flow statement, statement of changes in equity (or statement of changes in shareholders’ equity) and notes to the financial statements.

In financial data analysis, the balance sheet, comprehensive income statement, and cash flow statement are usually the most basic and important financial statements, which are called the three major financial statements.

Balance Sheet

The balance sheet is one of the three major financial statements. From the balance sheet, you can clearly see every transaction of the enterprise, which is the most comprehensive report that reflects the financial situation of the enterprise. At the same time, it is also the basis for the other two financial statements (cash flow statement and  income statement) in one of the three major financial statements.

A balance sheet is where Assets = Liabilities + Shareholders’ Equity. The left side of it reflects the use of corporate funds, and the right side reflects the source of corporate funds. In a simple summary, the balance sheet reflects the issues of “where does the money go” and “where does the money come from”.

Balance sheet by FineReport
Balance sheet by FineReport (You can click the pic to check out the demo)

Income Statement

Income, that is, profit. Profit = revenue – expenses. Through income statement, the revenue and expenditure of the enterprise can be clarified. It is an accounting statement that comprehensively reflects the operation and distribution (or compensation) of an enterprise in a certain accounting period (such as year, quarter, month).

When a company’s net profit for the year is positive, it means that the company is making profits. If the net profit is still growing healthily year by year, it means that the business is in good condition; when the net profit is negative, it means that the company is losing money. If the company continues to lose money every year, there may be a problem with the operating policy of , which needs to be adjusted.

Income statement by FineReport
Income statement by FineReport (You can click the pic to check out the demo)

Cash Flow Statement

Cash Flow Statement calculates cash flows of all different natures, and records all cash inflows and cash outflows of a company within a certain period of time (usually a month or a quarter).

Different from the balance sheet and the income statement which adopt the system of receivable and payable, that is, as long as the enterprise generates income and expenses, it will be recorded regardless of whether the enterprise actually receives or spends the money.

However, the cash flow statement adopts the actual payment system, and only when the enterprise receives and pays in real time, that is, the money is actually received or paid, will the money be recorded. Therefore, financial report items such as accounts receivable and accounts payable will cause discrepancies between the income statement and the actual cash flow statement.

For example, the company sells 1 million products, and the customer will not pay the payment half a year later. Then, this account receivable will not appear in the cash flow statement of the current month, but this payment appear on the balance sheet.

Cash flow statement by FineReport
Cash flow statement by FineReport (You can click the pic to check out the demo)

By reading this far, you should probably have a general understanding of what is financial reporting. The complexity of financial statements leads to a long time for the preparation of financial statements. Especially for the annual financial statements at the end of the year for a company, which involves data from all aspects, it is a challenge for those who prepare the financial statements.

3. How to Make Professional Financial Reporting Statement?

In the process of creating financial statements, do you often encounter the following three problems?

  • Scattered financial-related data, unable to integrate and analyze comprehensively

Financial data is scattered in various financial and business systems, lacking integration, making it difficult to manage data from various business themes and dimensions. Thus it will be very hard for business personnel to analyze and use.

  • Manually creating financial statements is tedious and inefficient

Most financial statements need to be manually filled out in Excel, and then be reported in the hierarchical system of the company. This consumes a large amount of human resources and also limits the timeliness and accuracy of financial statements.

  • Financial statement is complex, making it difficult for leaders and staffs of other department to understand

Leaders with non-financial backgrounds can only see the size of the numbers and not understand the reasons behind them, resulting in a lack of decision-making basis and a inability to find solutions based on the root cause.

In fact, if the amount of financial data is not large enough to use a database, Excel can still handle the creation of financial statements. But if it involves a database, especially when financial data is scattered in various financial and business systems, it is more recommended to use a professional reporting system, such as FineReport. Not only can it automate the reporting process, freeing financial personnel from repetitive work, but it can also improve the readability and analyzability of financial statements through features such as multi-dimensional charts and drill-down ability of reports.

Maybe someone will ask, why do companies still need to use a reporting system besides Excel and the financial system that already exists in most enterprises with everyday reports?

The reports in the financial system are based on historical needs and the existing analysis methods of the reports cannot meet the business needs. Moreover, after years of changes in business, the reports in the financial system often become useless. Therefore, the use of a reporting system is imperative.

1/Using Reporting System to Address Complex Reports

Financial reporting can be considered the most complex among other types of other reporting, with many dimensions to analyze and complex data sources, which require more effort to process.

Firstly, let’s address the complexity of multiple data sources. FineReport supports seamless integration with other business systems (such as ERP/MES/CRM, etc.) and can connect to multiple data sources, so financial data is no longer an Isolated island.

System connection by FineReport
System connection by FineReport

Then, let’s talk about the complexity of the financial reporting themselves. FineReport has created three unique report modes that can handle any complex report style using simple operations like drag and drop.

  • Normal Report: suitable for the same report containing multiple areas to display different content and solve various calculation needs
  • Aggregation Report: suitable for irregular reports, no need to merge cells, each module is independent
  • Dashboard: visualized dashboards, suitable for comprehensive financial reporting analysis and presentation

2/Learn to Reuse Templates

The three most commonly used financial statements: the income statement, the balance sheet, and the cash flow statement, are all provided in the FineReport financial statement templates and can be directly applied.

Financial Reporting Templates by FineReport
Financial Reporting Templates by FineReport

You can also find out various types of templates ranging from all business department and industries in FineReport. You can check it our by logging to our FineReport Demo Platform.

Also, feel free to make an appointment for a live demo with our product experts. We will be more clear about your needs and see how FineReport can help you and your organization to transform data into value.

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3/Utilize FineReport to Automatically Calculating Data

In the past, detailed data had to be exported from SAP and manually split and totaled. FineReport supports directly calculating and outputting results through the report backend, and finance personnel only need to review the data for any issues before submitting the report, freeing up finance personnel from tedious financial work.

4/Use the Data Filling Function to Improve Financial Data Collection

In traditional budget preparation, when the budget form is sent to each department for filling, finance personnel will find the following problems after collecting the budget forms: the data format filled by each department is different, and sometimes the form format is even modified, making the verification and summary work of finance personnel more difficult and requiring a lot of time to complete and sometimes causing errors.

With FineReport online financial templates, real-time filling can be easily realized. When doing comprehensive budget management, the business department only needs to fill in the budget online for budget preparation, and the data verification function ensures that the data is compliant. After the budget preparation is completed, the platform automatically merges and transforms, generating the four major financial statements.

Data Filling Function of FineReport
Data Filling Function of FineReport
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4. Objective of Financial Reporting

Before doing financial analysis, we need to clarify the purpose of financial reporting. Different people have different purposes for financial analysis, but the common goal is to obtain useful information for their economic decisions from financial statements. Therefore, there are three aspects of doing financial statement analysis: financial situation, operating results, and cash flow.

Based on this, debt repayment ability analysis, profitability analysis, and operational ability analysis, constitutes the general framework of financial statement analysis.

For example:

  • Enterprise management departments, parent companies, and finance departments will tend to focus on analyzing the allocation of relevant resources, compliance with financial policies, financial disciplines and systems, and preservation and appreciation of capital.
  • Investors focus on examining the profitability, operational ability, and effectiveness of fund utilization to understand investment returns and risks.
  • Creditors focus on analyzing the debt repayment ability of the enterprise, evaluating the financial security of the enterprise, and so on.

From the different requirements of internal financial management of the enterprise, the content of financial statement analysis is very extensive, which not only explains the summary and evaluation of the financial situation and operating results of the enterprise to the report users, but also provides reliable basis for economic forecasting and decision making for the report users.

Financial Reporting Analysis Dashboard By FineReport
Financial Reporting Analysis Dashboard By FineReport

5. How to Do Financial Analysis?

I. Basic Ideas

  • Capture: The specific data of each item in the report is only the surface, the structure (various ratios or indicators) is the skeleton, and the trend is the core. Structure is more important than specific data, and trend is more important than structure.
  • Compare: Financial reporting only have meaning through comparative reading, and under normal circumstances, at least a horizontal comparison of three companies and a vertical comparison of three years is required to draw a relatively scientific conclusion.
  • Master: All kinds of accounting principles have natural limitations, and you should not be confined to report analysis and avoid making conclusions recklessly.

II. Analysis Methods

Structure Analysis

A. Checking the reconciliation relationships in the financial statement is the basic skill.

B. Do a horizontal comparison of the financial statement structure and find out the significant differences in the indicators with competitors, then analyze the reasons. Important indicators include gross margin, net profit margin, sum of operating cash flow/sum of sales revenue, sales revenue/fixed assets, current assets/non-current assets, inventory/fixed assets, liabilities/total assets, etc. Don’t be confined to the classic indicators in textbooks, you can create your own indicators based on the characteristics of the industry.

After listing the structural differences, you need to infer from factors such as competitiveness, product segmentation, business model, scale, and location. If you cannot find a reasonable explanation, there is reason to suspect the authenticity of the financial statement.

Trend Analysis

The important content of trend analysis is assets, revenue, and profit.

The analysis of the increase in assets primarily focuses on whether it is sourced from debt or equity (profits or shareholder input), and you also pay close attention to the proportion changes of each asset item, which often reflects changes in the company’s business model.

The analysis of the increase in revenue primarily focuses on whether it is sourced from an expanded consolidation range or from the company’s own expansion, and you should pay close attention to changes in gross profit margins and market share. Generally speaking, steady growth in market share under the premise of relatively small fluctuations in gross profit margins is the most reliable and sustainable scenario, and anything else must be analyzed carefully.

The increase in profit must be logically inferred from the growth of assets and revenue, but profit is located at the end of the financial statements after several additions and subtractions, and is subjectively the weakest. It should be carefully treated after understanding the limitations and loopholes of the accountability system.

Financial KPI dashboard by FineReport
Financial Reporting Analysis Dashboard By FineReport

III. Practical Applications

In addition to the analysis methods introduced above, attention should also be paid to the breadth and depth of financial analysis in actual financial analysis. Here, this can be achieved with the help of FineReport reporting system’s multi-data source integration and drill-down functions of the reports.       

Financial statement correlation presentation, realizing the breadth of financial analysis

Through the financial reporting dashboard, all financial-related indicators are related and complex indicators are intuitively displayed with multidimensional charts, greatly improving the readability and timeliness of financial reporting data, better providing decision-making support to senior leaders, and making the dimension of financial analysis more comprehensive.

CFO dashboard by Finereport
Financial KPI dashboard by FineReport

Drilling down related business data, realizing the depth of financial analysis

FineReport supports multiple financial statements to be linked, drilling down to view data details layer by layer. By drilling down to related business data, it helps to find the root cause of problems behind financial data, making financial analysis more in-depth.

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6. Final Thoughts

Financial reporting is an important aspect of modern business operations, as it provides stakeholders with the information they need to make informed decisions. Whether you’re a financial analyst, investor, or business owner, understanding the basics of financial reporting is essential for making informed decisions and managing financial risk. I hope you can gain some valuable insights about financial reporting after reading this article.

Creating and analyzing financial reports can be a time-consuming and complex task, which is why many companies turn to specialized reporting tools such as FineReport to help streamline the process. FineReport‘s intuitive user interface and drag-and-drop report builder make it easy to create customized financial reporting that meet the unique needs of each company. Also, FineReport provides a range of advanced analytics tools to help businesses analyze their financial data in a more in-depth and meaningful way.

For personal use, FineReport is free without time or feature limits. For enterprises, it offers a quote-based plan that charges according to different situations. In a word, FineReport is price-friendly to all customers.

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Feel free to make an appointment for a live demo with our product experts. We will be more clear about your needs and see how FineReport can help you and your organization to transform data into value.

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