Prepping Clients for Financial Reporting
By Kirsten Waechter & Phil Wade
Copyright © Phil Wade & Kirsten Waechter 2017
Shakespir License Statement
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment. It may not be re-sold or given away to other people. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
Kirsten Waechter has been working as a business English trainer, intercultural trainer and translator since 1998. She focuses on communication skills but also ESP such as finance and accounting. She is a regular presenter at international events and also provides teacher training. She has authored several books on business skills for Cornelsen Scriptor. She divides her time between Bochum, Germany, Scotland and Sweden.
Phil Wade is a Business English teacher, coach and author of over 20 ebooks, including the BESIG David Riley award winning ‘Presentation Lesson Hacks’, the ‘A 10 minute intro to Business English Teaching’ series, and is co-author of ‘10 Quick Prep 1-2-1 Business English Activities About Work Life’ along with Noreen Lam.
Kati Bilsborough has been drawing, designing and making things since a young age. After getting a degree in Interior Design, and doing an internship with a design company, Kati decided to explore other areas of design including Graphics, Web Design and Illustration. This led to creating ELT ebook covers for numerous writers and organisations, one of which won the BESIG David Riley award for innovation. She is currently working on original artwork for a primary coursebook and is designing materials for an online English course.
Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @bilsdesigns and on [+ Facebook+]
The idea behind this series was to create a series of short and very niche ebooks on specific events that 1-2-1 Business English teachers, trainers and coaches help clients prepare for. Download ebook 1 ‘Prepping clients for Conference Calls’ from:
1. To understand spreadsheet specialist financial jargon
Clients sometimes have the problem of not understanding or even misunderstanding specific financial terms which are used by their international counterparts in daily spreadsheets. They need to quickly learn and recognise the related set of specific vocabulary to understand the information in the spreadsheets so that they can perform their job successfully.
2. To adapt writing styles to different reporting guidelines
National companies sometimes get taken over by multinational groups, something which creates the need to follow international guidelines for reporting. A prepared and capable client can easily make the switch from a domestic type of reporting to an international one as they understand all the writing conventions involved as well as the different sets of vocabulary applied, e.g. for financial statements.
3. To present the differences in local and international reporting principles
Clients not only need to understand but also be able to explain how local and international principles for reporting differ and how they are both used. For instance, consolidated group reporting is done according to international accounting standards, yet there is still the need for local GAAP reporting, e.g. for tax purposes. Being able to present this in an understandable manner to people who are not financial experts requires very clear and concise descriptions.
4. To express facts and figures related to company performance
An important part of clients’ jobs is presenting financial results, forecasts and budgets in meetings to other accountants or even the company management. They need to be able to express figures well, describe trends and provide clear and accurate reasons in written and spoken communication, particularly for meetings and presentations. As those meetings are often done online, clarity becomes even more important.
5. To communicate effectively during audits
Due to changes in international reporting, students need to deal more with compliance issues and gaps that will be checked and investigated by auditing companies in English. Moreover, even if they already have a good command of English, understanding the auditors’ very specific questions and being able to provide the right information adequately using the jargon of audits and financial reporting all in a suitable manner is a skill that needs developing with practise over time.
1. Financial statements
Present your client with two simplified financial statements, a profit and loss account and a balance sheet (1 page each). They can be from a well-known company or the client’s own. Tell them to identify and circle the items they don’t know or are not familiar with and to translate them into their own language, then write the translations on the paper next to the items. Check they understand the meaning of the terms by asking for explanations of each and then for summaries of each sentence using 1 of the words. Finally, ask for personalised examples about the company or their department and ask clarifying or extension questions using the same chosen words. Note down any words they still have difficulty with and go back to the definition stage to see what the problem is before asking more questions to provide more exposure and controlled usage.
2. Local to international
Elicit what local and international reporting is. Draw up a comparison. Then ask for examples of style, structure, headings, vocabulary and anything else the client believes is important. Ask the client to find examples of both on their device or bring some to the class yourself. Look at or create a brief local reporting example, and then brainstorm how it would look different in an international version. Next, try it the other way around. Finally, ask the client to draft a local report on a topic of their choice. You draft an international one as best you can. Compare them and ask them for feedback on yours.
Ask the client to bring some documents or notes about consolidated group reporting to class that covers international standards and GAAP reporting. In the lesson, give them 1 minute to explain the first and then another for the second. Ask them these questions after each presentation: 1) What are the requirements? 2) Where do we use it? 3) What is the function? 4) Do we have this in our set of generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP)?
Give them feedback on how clear their presentations were and, of course, provide the answers. Explain how complicated or simple their language was and how much you understood, as a non-financial expert.
Next, help them gather all the information from the 1 minute talks and the answers to your questions to recreate more concise and clearer 1 minute explanations, even if they are only B1 level. It is better to be more basic and clearer than to use too complex language and demotivate people. Ask them to present the 2 explanations and give feedback on how clear they are.
4. Number cruncher
Tell the client to bring a spreadsheet they have presented to management or colleagues. Before you start working with it, ask and discuss together the following questions and make notes. Make use of the client’s use of language to build on this later. Note down a few words and phrases for each:
1) How do you describe figures in English? 2) How do you explain trends? 3) How do you give reasons for figures and trends? 4) How do you talk about past results? 5) How do you explain forecasts?
Now, recap your notes and elicit or contribute a few more. For example, nouns, verbs and adjectives for figures, ‘increase, decrease’ and ‘remain stable’, as well as words like ‘due to’ and ‘on account of’ for giving reasons, then ‘I/we predict…’ and ‘based on these results, we believe…’ when giving forecasts.
Roleplay a regular meeting of accountants at quarter-end to present their different results and forecasts and give your client 5 minutes to prepare a short presentation about the past and future. Create your own questions. Listen to the talk, ask questions, then give feedback. Finally, work on how to put this into writing and draft example paragraphs together; discuss how the written version compares to the spoken.
Ask the client for anecdotes they know about companies that were audited. Explain that you have heard of tighter auditing and compliance guidelines and ask the following: 1) Why were those new guidelines necessary? 2) What do companies need to do to comply with them? 3) What questions can/do auditors ask? 4) Why is it necessary to answer the same questions every year (consistency principle)? 5) What information (check code of conduct) are you allowed to share or disclose?
If the client has little experience of audits, Google sample questions or a video example on YouTube before or during the lesson.
Prepare a roleplay for a sample audit with you being the auditor. Ask the client to write down 5+ questions for you to ask and for them to answer. Do the roleplay for a few minutes and record the audio using your phone. Play it back and analyse and improve the responses. Then redo the roleplay, but mix up the questions and add some more.
1. Revise and recycle vocabulary
Use a few simplified financial statements from the client’s company and make regular use of them for exposure to financial jargon. The meaning of each item usually becomes clear from their position on the sheet. Keep a note of new terms and build vocabulary revision into each lesson. Make online flashcards with Quizlet and play hangman where they win or lose money for right/wrong letters.
2. Exploit YouTube
Find and share YouTube videos about the differences between US GAAP and IFRS. Show and discuss short (less than 5 min) videos or sections in class or set longer ones for homework. The “more” and “transcript” options from the menu can help you create a written script if needed. Work on any new vocabulary and discuss which relates to written or spoken communication or both and how it is used correctly.
3. Vary presentations
Question the client for examples of regular reporting and, if principles are not used in local GAAP, from certain industries (e.g. the matching principle used in the construction industry). Many companies use IFRS or US GAAP, which are the two most prominent sets of accounting principles. Make presentations a habit and vary the form from short informal F2F from behind a table types to formal standing presentations, recorded online presentations and Skype or phone ones. Give feedback using flipcharts, a shared online doc, paper or small cards.
4. Use big data
Once your clients become confident with describing figures, trends and reasons, move on to highlighting and tenses (e.g. will-future for forecasts) then how to express figures vaguely (about, around, almost, just below). You can practise this language with share prices, company profits and other published data. If your client is a sports fan, you can even use team and player statistics.
5. Role-play a real audit
Set up formal audit role-plays from the beginning of the lesson and make them as realistic as possible. Change room and possibly involve other staff if appropriate. Don’t drag them on too long and stay ‘in character’. Record them if the client is OK with it and go over the recording afterwards but ask the client to review themselves by making positive and ‘things to work on’ comments. Provide them with a list of tips to help them with their noticed weak areas and then add 2 more suggestions.