In the post-industrial economy, intellectual capital (IC) in the form of human, structural or relational capital is becoming a crucial factor for a firm’s long-term performance, as it constitutes a competitive advantage from the resource-based theory perspective. Previous research led to a fragmented view of IC, as the relationship between IC and corporate financial performance has been mostly studied mobilizing human, structural or relational capital components in isolation. Furthermore, most studies conclude that even though the relationship is positive, it remains at best unclear. Another unsolved issue lies in value capture—namely, who, among various stakeholders, benefits most from the value created by IC.
Using a statistical meta-analysis of 75 empirical studies from 1992 to 2017, this research shows that human capital (HC), structural capital (SC) and relational capital (RC) do not influence corporate financial performance to the same extent. This can be explained by the characteristics of IC components in term of ownership, tradability and timespan, and the beneficiary of the value created, being the company, the investor or the customer.
This work, then, contributes to an extended view of resource-based theory, mostly by highlighting that some IC components are interrelated in their association with financial performance. Lastly, this research opens new avenues for research in four directions: (1) identification and classification of IC components; (2) understanding of the combination and orchestration of intangible assets; (3) improvement of indicators and measurement systems of IC; and (4) enhancement of the understanding of value creation through narrative means, namely extra-financial disclosure and corporate communication.
Keywords: intellectual capital, resource-based theory, financial performance, relational capital, structural capital, human capital, brand equity