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Accounting and change in the financial services sector: the case of activity-based costing in a Portuguese bank

By Rui José Oliveira Vieira

Abstract

This thesis aims to trace the development of management accounting systems (MAS) in a Portuguese bank, where an activity-based costing system (ABC) was trialled for implementation, as a means to improving the economy, efficiency and effectiveness of employee activity. The culture of banking in Portugal has changed significantly over the last 25 years, but at the same time there are older traditions which remain strong. The purpose of this research was to study how an imported MAS like ABC is developed and disseminated within a Portuguese banking context. The research can be classified as a longitudinal study of organisational change using a single case study. Although based in the interpretive tradition since it is concerned with actors' perceptions, interpretations and beliefs, it also draws on a Foucault-inspired critical framework of the kind developed in the work of Hoskin and Macve (e.g. 1986, 1988, 1994, 2000), and in the research into the financial sector undertaken by Morgan and Sturdy (2000). The particular model developed here is designed to enable the exploration of the effect of accounting practices on change from three perspectives - changing structures, changing discourses and the effect of both of these processes on power relations. It also draws on Fligstein's (1991) institutional framework to understand change in terms of the interplay across three relevant institutional contexts - the organisational field, the state, and the existing strategy and structure of the bank.\ud \ud The research draws on the literature and on primary data, including 41 in-depth, semi-structured interviews, and documentary and archive data. The main contributions of the research are related to the increase of visibility and perceived importance of accounting in the banking sector, and how accounting is significant beyond its technical roles. The study provides new insights into how management accounting practices, along with other organisational systems, play an important role in questioning, visualising, analysing, and measuring implemented strategies

Topics: HG, HF5601
OAI identifier: oai:wrap.warwick.ac.uk:3035

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