Vertical and Horizontal Analysis for Finances: How To Choose Between the Two?

vertical and horizontal analysis

Vertical and horizontal analysis are both useful methods for financial analysis. However, their effectiveness depends on the specific financial analysis goals and the nature of the data being analyzed. Likewise, both methods help businesses gain valuable insights into their financial performance and identify strengths and weaknesses. Furthermore, they also help organizations make informed decisions about their future financial strategy. It is, therefore, necessary for finance professionals to be proficient in both methods. They need to clearly understand their benefits and limitations to contribute to the success of their organizations. This is where we come in.

The following blog discusses further vertical and horizontal analysis, key differences, and other relevant aspects in detail. 

Vertical and Horizontal Analysis

What is a Vertical Analysis and How is it Used in Finance?

Vertical analysis is a method that examines individual line items on a financial statement as a percentage of a base figure, such as total assets or total revenue. It also allows businesses to identify trends and patterns in their financial performance over time and make informed decisions about resource allocation, investment, and strategy.

Furthermore, vertical financial analysis offers insights into an organization’s financial health. By analyzing the proportion of each line item concerning the base amount, individuals can spot trends in the company’s finances and make informed decisions on allocating their resources.

Additionally, vertical analysis can be useful for comparing the financial performance of different companies in the same industry, as it standardizes the financial statements. However, it is important to remember that vertical analysis has limitations. Finance professionals use it with other financial analysis methods to comprehensively understand a company’s financial position.

What is Horizontal Analysis and How is it Different From Vertical Analysis?

Vertical and Horizontal AnalysisHorizontal analysis is another financial statement analysis tool that compares distinct line items across multiple periods. This method is also known as trend analysis since it enables individuals to spot a business’s long-term financial trends. Furthermore, horizontal analysis can provide insight into the financial health of an organization. Analyzing the percentage change in each line item over time allows individuals to identify trends in a company’s finances. This, in turn, allows them to make informed decisions about how to allocate their resources.

While both vertical and horizontal analysis provide valuable insights into financial performance, they are also considerably different. This has been outlined in the table below.

Key Features Vertical Analysis Horizontal Analysis
Type of Comparison Compares items as the percentage of base figures Compares items across multiple periods
Timeframe of Evaluation Evaluates performance relative to the size Evaluates performance over time
Purpose of Comparison Useful for comparing companies of different sizes as well as industries Useful for comparing an organization’s performance over time
Type of Insights Gained Used to compare an organization’s performance to industry standards Used to identify changes in revenue, expenses, as well as profit over time
Application of Analysis It helps identify changes in a company’s cost structure Helps identify areas of financial strength or weakness
Target Audience Useful for evaluating a company’s financial performance relative to competitors Helps businesses make informed decisions about resource allocation and investment

How Can Vertical and Horizontal Analysis Help Individuals Make Better Financial Decisions?

Vertical and horizontal analysis are strong tools to offer insights into a company’s financial health. 

Regarding vertical analysis, financial experts can help spot trends in the company’s finances and make informed judgments about how to distribute resources. They do so by analyzing the proportion of each line item compared to a base amount. For example, if a company’s cost of goods sold increases as a percentage of net sales over time, it could suggest the company is facing supply chain concerns or other operational challenges.

Horizontal analysis can also help individuals make informed financial decisions. By comparing the same item over different periods, individuals can identify trends in a company’s financial performance and make educated judgments about allocating their resources. For example, if a corporation’s net income declines over time, it may suggest that the company is suffering decreased demand or rising competition. Additionally, individuals can make more informed investment decisions by analyzing the percentage change in each line item over time.

What are Some Common Financial Ratios Used in Vertical and Horizontal Analysis?

In vertical and horizontal analysis, financial ratios help interpret the data and draw meaningful conclusions about a company’s financial performance over time. Likewise, here are some common financial ratios used in both financial analyses.

Liquidity Ratios

These ratios assess a business’s capacity to meet short-term obligations. Examples include the current ratio as well as the fast ratio.

Activity Ratios

They assess how well a corporation uses its assets. Examples include inventory turnover ratios and accounts receivable turnover ratios.

Debt Ratios

The debt ratios calculate how much debt a company has about its assets or equity. Examples are the debt-to-equity as well as debt-to-assets ratios.

Market Ratios

These ratios assess how investors perceive a company’s stock. Examples are the price-to-earnings ratio and the dividend yield.

Profitability Ratios

They help analyze how profitable a company is about its sales or assets. The gross profit margin and return on assets are two examples.

ALSO READ: Mastering Accounting and Financial Management for Career Success

Key Differences Between the Applications of Vertical and Horizontal Analysis

Vertical and Horizontal AnalysisVertical and horizontal analysis are considered two distinct methods of financial analysis that serve different purposes. Besides, here are the key differences between vertical and horizontal analysis applications.

Vertical Analysis

  • Examines financial accounts from a single time period
  • Depicts the relative importance or proportion of various things on a certain year’s financial statement
  • Often referred to as common size financial statement analysis
  • The base figure represents 100%, and amounts are represented as a percentage of the same

Horizontal Analysis

  • Analyzes financial accounts from several periods
  • Analyses the behavior of specific financial statement items over numerous accounting periods
  • Often referred to as trend analysis
  • It also illustrates changes through time

Boost Your Finance Career with Emeritus

Financial analysis is crucial for business decision-making, and vertical and horizontal analysis are essential tools for understanding a company’s financial performance. Besides, finance professionals involved in financial planning, investment analysis, or corporate finance must deeply understand both analysis methods. Emeritus offers online finance courses to help finance professionals deepen their vertical and horizontal analysis knowledge and enhance their skills. Additionally, these courses cover various topics, including financial statement analysis, financial modeling, and valuation techniques. By signing up for these courses, professionals can gain skills that can be applied in their day-to-day work and advance their careers in the lucrative field of finance.

By Sivaji Ganesan

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