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Refining Understanding of Corporate Failure through a Topological Data Analysis Mapping of Altman's Z-Score Model


  • Wanling Qiu
  • Simon Rudkin
  • Pawel Dlotko


Corporate failure resonates widely leaving practitioners searching for understanding of default risk. Managers seek to steer away from trouble, credit providers to avoid risky loans and investors to mitigate losses. Applying Topological Data Analysis tools this paper explores whether failing firms from the United States organise neatly along the five predictors of default proposed by the Z-score models. Firms are represented as a point cloud in a five dimensional space, one axis for each predictor. Visualising that cloud using Ball Mapper reveals failing firms are not often neighbours. As new modelling approaches vie to better predict firm failure, often using black boxes to deliver potentially over-fitting models, a timely reminder is sounded on the importance of evidencing the identification process. Value is added to the understanding of where in the parameter space failure occurs, and how firms might act to move away from financial distress. Further, lenders may find opportunity amongst subsets of firms that are traditionally considered to be in danger of bankruptcy but actually sit in characteristic spaces where failure has not occurred.

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  • Wanling Qiu & Simon Rudkin & Pawel Dlotko, 2020. "Refining Understanding of Corporate Failure through a Topological Data Analysis Mapping of Altman's Z-Score Model," Papers 2004.10318,
  • Handle: RePEc:arx:papers:2004.10318

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Edward I. Altman, 1968. "Financial Ratios, Discriminant Analysis And The Prediction Of Corporate Bankruptcy," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 23(4), pages 589-609, September.
    2. Ohlson, Ja, 1980. "Financial Ratios And The Probabilistic Prediction Of Bankruptcy," Journal of Accounting Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 18(1), pages 109-131.
    3. Beaver, Wh, 1966. "Financial Ratios As Predictors Of Failure - Reply," Journal of Accounting Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 4, pages 123-127.
    4. Koen W. de Bock, 2017. "The best of two worlds: Balancing model strength and comprehensibility in business failure prediction using spline-rule ensembles," Post-Print hal-01588059, HAL.
    5. Beaver, Wh, 1966. "Financial Ratios As Predictors Of Failure," Journal of Accounting Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 4, pages 71-111.
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