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A Look at Intangible Assets
Friday, May 13, 2016

We all know that eventually the robots and software algorithms will take over the world, and leave us poor human saps with no jobs because everything is automated. That, of course, implies that companies’ management of intangible assets—patents, trademarks, goodwill, brand reputation, customer data, and so forth—should become more valuable.

So in between watching ‘Terminator’ movies around here, a thought occurred: how much are intangible assets increasing on the balance sheets of Corporate America, anyway?

First we opened the Calcbench Data Query Tool, which lets you research very specific types of data on very large populations of U.S. filers. On the balance sheet options, we crunched the numbers for Goodwill and Intangible Assets Excluding Goodwill, for both 2010 and 2015. Then we crunched the same numbers again for all other assets, except for the Assets box at the bottom of the list (which would have rolled intangible assets into the total).

The results were this:

Year No. of Filers Total Assets Total Intangibles Intangibles as % of Assets
2010 7,804 $48.357 Tr $3.73 B 7.71 pct
2015 5,700 $52.615 Tr $4.87 B 9.26 pct

So as we can see, intangible assets are becoming more valuable to the corporate balance sheet. That carries implications for audits (procedures will differ for tangible and intangible assets), compliance (collecting more data means heightened security needs and stronger access controls), cybersecurity (more protection for that which is more valuable), and risk management (many bad things can happen more quickly to information than to physical goods).

Food for thought as well all sit at our cubicles, crunching numbers and clicking through user agreements. This stuff is valuable, and getting more so every day.


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