The conventional accounting notion of ‘going concern’, that a firm will continue business operations in the same manner indefinitely, has influenced accounting thought and practice throughout this century. An alternative view, widely upheld in the literatures of economics and organizational behaviour, is that firms are generally innovative and adapt to changes in market and economic conditions. These conflicting ideas are put under inquiry by examining the business policies and practices of the four major Australian banks over the period 1983 to 1994. We conclude on analytical grounds that conventional cost allocation and deferral practices, being based on the static or conventional idea of a ‘going concern’, are flawed and yield balance sheets that are not indicative of the financial capacity of firms to engage in commerce at any time. We conclude on empirical grounds that the Australian banks, at least, are generally innovative and adaptive enterprises.