Financial modeling is the process of building an abstract representation (a model) of a real-world financial situation. It is a powerful tool used to identify and analyze potential trends and outcomes to support decision making. The success of a financial model depends on the accuracy of the data and the strength of the underlying assumptions. To be effective, financial models must utilize charting techniques.

This blog post will discuss some charting techniques used to aid in financial modeling in Excel.

Defining Financial Modeling

Financial modeling is used in analyzing and forecasting a company's financial performance and it serves to help in understanding the past, present, and future of an organization's finances. It involves building a comprehensive model using financial data, assumptions and calculations to generate insights into the organization's future performance. Financial models can range from a simple calculation to very complex models for large corporations.

Overview of the Charting Technique

Financial models rely heavily on making decisions based on specific analyses. Charting techniques facilitate visualizing financial modeling data, accurately show trends, and make it easier to assess information quickly and accurately. This helps in indicating patterns and diagnosing problems. Excel is a powerful and commonly used financial modeling tool and has several charting options that can be used in order to create a visualization of financial data.

  • Column charts
  • Bar charts
  • Line charts
  • Scatter plots
  • Area charts
  • Pie charts
  • Bubble charts

Key Takeaways

  • Financial models must utilize charting techniques to be effective.
  • Excel is a powerful and commonly used financial modeling tool.
  • Visualizing financial modeling data helps indicate patterns and diagnose problems quickly.
  • Column, bar, line, scatter, area, pie, and bubble charts are the charting options offered in Excel.
  • Excel charting techniques help to make efficient and accurate decisions.

General Information About Charting

Charts are an effective and visual way to convey complex financial models. Adding charting to financial spreadsheets can help assist users in making data-driven decisions and uncovering patterns that may not be easily accessible in raw data form. Here we'll take a look at the benefits of leveraging charting in financial modeling, types of charts available, as well as their advantages and disadvantages.

Benefits of Charting in Financial Modeling

Charting has numerous benefits in financial modeling. Charts allow users to interpret data more efficiently and quickly. They are visually appealing and often help users interpret trends, patterns, or outliers that might be hidden without the use of graphical representations. Additionally, charts help to provide stakeholders with an interpretable and accessible means of making decisions based on the data, which can help to improve the transparency of any model.

Types of Charts Available for Financial Modeling

Excel offers many types of charts that are suitable for use in financial modeling. Commonly used chart types are bar and column charts, line graphs, scatter plots, and pie charts. These all offer different ways of depicting the same data, so it’s important to consider which will display the information most clearly and effectively.

Advantages of Charting

Charts have a variety of advantages when used in a financial modeling project. They help to draw out patterns and trends in the data which might not be obvious when focusing purely on raw figures. Drawing attention to these patterns can help give models more context and provide a basis for more informed decisions. Additionally, charts offer a simple and effective way of displaying data without requiring complex language or deep analysis.

Disadvantages of Charting

While charts can be an incredibly informative and useful tool in financial modeling, they also come with some potential drawbacks. If not used correctly, they can oversimplify data and present false trends. Users should be aware of any potential pitfalls and adjust their models to account for any issues. Additionally, charting requires a significant amount of time to set up, and if used incorrectly or without proper preparation, could produce inaccurate or misleading data.

Overview of Charting Options in Excel

Writing an effective financial model in Excel is often dependent on an accurate presentation of financial data. When creating a financial model, using the range of charting options available in Excel can be an effective way to make the information easily interpretable and accessible for readers. In this blog post, we will discuss the five main charting options available in Excel and the advantages of each.


First, let’s take a look at the scatterplot. This type of chart is great for analyzing the relationship between two different items. A scatterplot works by plotting a series of two-dimensional points, allowing the user to see the direction and the strength of the relationship. In the chart, each point represents two specific values, and the direction of the relationship can be interpreted by looking at the pattern formed when the points are connected. For example, if the points are trending upwards, then that would generally indicate a positive relationship.

Bar Chart

Bar charts are excellent for illustrating comparisons between different categories. This type of chart presents data in the form of rectangular bars, and each bar represents a specific value. For financial models, bar charts can be used to compare items such as expenses, revenue, and market trends. Additionally, the vertical axis is typically labeled with a unit of measure, and the length of each bar indicates the magnitude of the value. This type of chart is particularly helpful in visualizing changes in variables over time.

Line Chart

Another helpful charting option is the line chart. This type of graph is perfect for examining trends and understanding how different variables interact with each other over time. With a line chart, each point on the graph represents a single data point, and the line illustrates how the data points relate to each other. This type of chart is helpful in finance for seeing the ups and downs of stock prices, interest rates, and market index values. Line charts can also be used to predict the future trajectory of certain variables.

Column Chart

The column chart is similar to the bar chart, but instead of displaying the bars horizontally, they are placed vertically. This type of chart is great for illustrating the relationship between different elements. Additionally, they can also be used to compare data. For example, they can be used to compare the performance of a business over the course of several years or to look at the spending habits of different countries.

Pie Chart

The pie chart is a great way to represent a collection of data as a whole. This type of chart is composed of a series of slices that represent different parts of the same value. In the context of a financial model, pie charts can be used to show the breakdown of expenses, revenue, or market capitalization. This type of chart is also helpful in seeing how different elements add up to create a total value.

Techniques of Charting in Excel

Visualizing data is an effective way to convey important information to stakeholders and decision makers, as well as aid with further analysis and interpretation. Excel provides various techniques to generate data visualizations, known as charts.

Creating Data Visualization

Data visualization describes the process of creating visuals to illustrate meaningful patterns, trends, and relationships within a dataset. Excel provides multiple types of charts, such as bar and line graphs, scatter and bubble plots, and histograms, as well as many specific types of graphs for specific data analyses. Generally, raw data must be sorted and organized prior to creating a chart in order to represent the information clearly and accurately.

Formatting Charts

Once the initial visualization is created, features such as chart titles, legends, axis labels, and gridlines can be added. Charts can also be customized to meet specific formatting requirements, such as changing the theme or background, or adding specific colors and fonts.

Altering the Order of Charts

When dealing with a large dataset, often multiple charts will be necessary. Excel allows the order of the charts to be adjusted, so they can be arranged in any order necessary to show the analysis desired.

Grouping Charts

Grouping charts is an effective way to keep data organized in Excel. By grouping charts together, it is easy to analyze multiple charts simultaneously and move or copy the charts as a unit, without having to move or copy the charts individually.

Chart Design Guidelines in Excel

It can be daunting to create effective and illustrative charts when using Microsoft Excel. In this chapter, we will explore some guidelines and best practices for charting in Excel to help you create better visuals for your financial models.

Color and font selection

When setting up charts, choosing an effective color scheme can be critical to the success of the visualization. There should be a reason for each of the colors applied to the graph. Your goal should be to select colors that are compatible with each other, easy to read, and reflective of the data or point you want to convey. Colors that create too much contrast, for example, could distract from the conclusions you are conveying. Additionally, fonts should be easily readable and appropriate to the type of chart you are creating. Clear, sans-serif fonts, such as Helvetica, are often the best option.

Use of labels and titles

Adding labels and titles to your charts is essential. The same can be said for creating legends. Explaining your data with appropriate labels, titles, and legends will help viewers fully understand it. Also, adding labels decreases the size of the chart and effectively conveys the information in a compact, easy-to-understand way.

Adjusting the chart background

The chart background should be adjusted to reflect the chart data, not detract from it. A solid or blended background will provide the chart with a professional feel and emphasize the areas of the graph that are most important. Customized backgrounds, such as grids, may help to make graphs easier to read but should be used judiciously.

Use of Charting Software

Charting software is often used to visualize data and communicate information. It’s used to express numbers in a way that’s easy to understand, and it’s often used in financial modeling to illustrate the relationships between the components of a model in a simple way. As such, understanding how to use charting software is important for mastering financial modeling techniques in Excel.

Types of Charting Software

There are a variety of types of charting software available, ranging from simple programs that generate charts based on data input, to more complex programs that allow you to manipulate and customize your charts. Some examples of charting software include: Microsoft Excel, Tableau, Chartio, BIRTchart, and Visme.

Comparison with Excel Charting

Excel makes charting relatively easy, and it offers a number of different chart types, from line and bar graphs to scatter plots and pies. However, Excel is limited in terms of the complexity and interactivity of the charts it can produce, and there are some features – such as the ability to display data over time or add annotations – that are not supported by Excel.

Understanding the Features

When evaluating charting software, it’s important to consider the features and functions it provides, such as the ability to manipulate and customize charts, to display data over time, and to add annotations. Other important features to consider include ease-of-use, security, and integrations with other software.

Comparing different charting software options and understanding their features is an essential part of mastering charting techniques for financial modeling in Excel. By carefully selecting the right charting solution and understanding how it works, you can use it to create engaging and informative financial models.


Excel is a powerful tool and can be used to effectively support financial modeling with the help of charting techniques. Charting techniques provide important visualization elements to Excel models, which can help explain financial information in an intuitive and straightforward way. With a few simple techniques, financial modeling can be enhanced and made more impactful and understandable.

Summary of Charting Techniques for Financial Modeling

There are several important chart and graph types for financial modeling in Excel. Basic line and column charts are used to clearly display trends over a period of time. Pie charts illustrate the proportions of different parts of a whole. Heat maps or conditional formatting help identify outliers or problem areas. Finally, scatter plots can be used to facilitate regression analysis and visualize relationships between data.

Advantages of Charting for Financial Modeling

  • Charts can instantly provide readers with an understanding of complex data.
  • The impact of trends and related changes in data can be understood more quickly.
  • Scatter plots provide an effective way to run linear regression analysis and discover trends and correlations.
  • Using heatmaps or conditional formatting, outliers and potential problems are easily spotted.

Understanding and mastering Excel accounting is an essential requirement for anyone working in the financial sector. With a solid understanding of charting techniques, financial models can be more effective, easier to understand and provide important insight that move decisions forward.

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