Original Research - Special Collection: Wars and pandemics economic and financial consequences

The accounting treatment of expected credit losses by South African banks during COVID-19

Vumani Nkomombini, Karl Oellrich, James Kilbourn, Ruth Weber, Arnold van der Schyf, Sihle Zondo, Sadiyah Wahab, Tariq Cassim, Gretha Steenkamp
Journal of Economic and Financial Sciences | Vol 16, No 1 | a800 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/jef.v16i1.800 | © 2023 Vumani Nkomombini, Karl Oellrich, James Kilbourn, Ruth Weber, Arnold van der Schyf, Sihle Zondo, Sadiyah Wahab, Tariq Cassim, Gretha Steenkamp | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 30 June 2022 | Published: 06 February 2023

About the author(s)

Vumani Nkomombini, School of Accountancy, Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa
Karl Oellrich, School of Accountancy, Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa
James Kilbourn, School of Accountancy, Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa
Ruth Weber, School of Accountancy, Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa
Arnold van der Schyf, School of Accountancy, Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa
Sihle Zondo, School of Accountancy, Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa
Sadiyah Wahab, School of Accountancy, Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa
Tariq Cassim, School of Accountancy, Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa
Gretha Steenkamp, School of Accountancy, Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa

Abstract

Orientation: The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic negatively affected borrowers’ ability to repay debt, which is expected to influence banks’ calculation of their expected credit loss (ECL) allowance. Comprehensive disclosure regarding the application of managerial judgement in calculating ECLs would produce decision-useful financial information.

Research purpose: This study explored the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the measurement and disclosure of ECL allowances by South African listed banks.

Motivation for the study: It is unknown whether decision-useful financial information regarding South African banks’ ECLs was produced during the pandemic, mirroring developed countries.

Research approach/design and method: Content analysis of quantitative and qualitative data from annual financial statements was employed for a sample of listed banks.

Main findings: Banks employed a variety of relief measures to accommodate borrowers, but these relief measures did not automatically trigger a significant increase in credit risk. More loans were subject to lifetime ECLs, causing the ECL allowance to increase substantially during the first year of the pandemic. Forward-looking information as well as postmodel adjustments were employed to measure the ECL allowance.

Practical/managerial implications: The ECL allowances of South African listed banks increased during the pandemic. Disclosure in the annual financial statements and identifying ECLs as a key audit matter provided evidence of adequate consideration of the credit risk and forward-looking information influencing ECLs by banks and their auditors. Improved disclosure regarding postmodel adjustments is required.

Contribution/value-add: During the COVID-19 pandemic, decision-useful financial information regarding the calculation of banks’ ECL allowances was available for South African banks, mirroring developed countries.


Keywords

COVID-19; expected credit losses; banks; impairment; IFRS 9; South Africa; accounting treatment; relief measures; significant increase in credit risk; allowance for credit losses

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