The Eva Financial Management System
Posted: 25 Aug 1998
In this article, we argue that for many large companies the tops-down, earnings per share-based model of financial management that has long dominated corporate American is becoming obsolete. The most serious challenge to the long reign of EPS is coming from a measure of corporate performance called "economic value added," or EVA. EVA is by no means a new concept. Rather it is a practical, and highly flexible, refinement of economists' concept of "residual income"--the value that is left over after a company's stockholders (and all other important stakeholders) have been adequately compensated. For companies that aim to increase their competitiveness by decentralizing, EVA is likely to be the most sensible basis for evaluating and rewarding the periodic performance of empowered line people, especially those entrusted with major capital spending decisions.EVA, moreover, is not just a performance measure. When fully implemented, it is the centerpiece of an integrated financial management system that encompasses the full range of corporate financial decision-making--everything from capital budgeting, acquisition pricing, and the setting of corporate goals to shareholder communication and management incentive compensation. By putting all financial and operating functions on the same basis, an EVA system effectively provides a common language for employees across all corporate functions, linking strategic planning with the operating divisions, and the corporate treasury staff with investor relations and human resources.We begin by describing the shortcomings of the tops-down, EPS-based model of financial management. Next we explain the rise of hostile takeovers--as well as the phenomenal success of LBOs--in the 1980s as capital market responses to the deficiencies of the EPS model. The EVA financial management system, we go on to argue, borrows important aspects of the LBO movement--particularly, its focus on capital efficiency and ownership incentives--but without the high leverage and concentration of risk that limit LBOs to the mature sector of the U.S. economy. In the final section, we present the outlines of an EVA-based incentive compensation plan that is designated to simulate for managers and employees the rewards of ownership.
JEL Classification: G30
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation