Distinctive. Strategic. Relevant. Taking corporate reporting beyond boilerplate

27 September 2016

   View Mark O’Sullivan’s profile on LinkedIn

Regular readers of our blog will not be surprised to hear that we strongly believe that reporting, if done well, can deliver significant competitive advantage to companies in a variety of ways, from securing capital and credit to winning in the war for talent and building strong business relationships.

Yet when we talk to investors and other stakeholders, they’re telling us today’s corporate reporting doesn’t meet their needs. Although we’ve seen a slow but steady improvement in the quality, content and presentation of annual reports, I’d have to agree with them.

Our annual review of reporting trends

2016 marks the 14th year we’ve conducted our analysis of FTSE 350 annual reports, and during the course of this year’s review I was struck by how similar reports are becoming in terms of the high-level nature of information reported and the way it’s presented. I got the feeling companies are still reporting within their ‘comfort zone’, with reports mirroring those of their fellow peers so closely I found it hard to remember anything distinctive about them.

More needs to be done to tackle this problem. I worry that companies are doing this in order to de-risk the reporting process, but are actually creating more risk as they’re continually failing to differentiate themselves and meet investor expectations. They mustn’t be afraid to stand out from the crowd – to take their corporate reporting beyond boilerplate and deliver true value.

3 challenges to transform your reporting

3 Reporting Challenges for companiesI believe if this change is to happen, companies must answer 3 challenging questions about their current corporate reporting:

  1. How distinctive is your annual report?
  2. Is your strategic report, strategic enough?
  3. Will your reporting meet changing expectations?

I recognise that driving change in reporting is not easy. Responding to these questions will require more than mere changes in structure and design. Instead going to the essence of how companies think, act and measure success. But in uncertain times, investors and wider stakeholders will increasingly rely on corporate reports. Now is not the time for complacency. It’s the time to explore new ways to be more distinctive, to tell a more compelling strategic narrative, and to build a report that includes the information required to meet the needs of stakeholders for today and tomorrow.

You can find this year’s report on our website, along with links to other insights we’re currently developing around our Beyond Boilerplate initiative. If you have any questions, or you’d like to know how you measure up against the FTSE 350, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

We’ll also be sharing all insights to do with our Beyond Boilerplate initiative on Twitter as they become available, so be sure to follow the conversation with #beyondboilerplate.

Mark O’Sullivan | Director of Corporate Reporting
Profile | +44 (0)20 7804 3459

 

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Comments

I agree completely with the mindset of open and honest reporting, it definitely makes a firm seem far more approachable to any customer or client. I'd be proud to be part of an organisation that promotes this attitude and recognises the benefits of sincere and ethical communication.

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