Report Leadership: 10 years on
21 November 2016
10 years ago to this very day, a group of like-minded individuals under the project title ‘Report Leadership’ published some simple and practical ways to improve narrative and financial reporting.
This multi-stakeholder group included staff from CIMA, PwC, Radley Yeldar and Tomkins who wanted to challenge established thinking on corporate reporting in the shared belief that it could, and should, be more accessible and effective. In order to bring our ideas to life, we created a fictitious company, Generico, and wrote our very own ‘Strategic Report’ (long before the Strategic Report was even a twinkling in the eye of the FRC) that attempted to clearly communicate the information investors told us they valued. At the time everyone involved was encouraged to think outside the box of conventional reporting – but not to go completely off-piste. We created pragmatic ideas that drew heavily on emerging practices.
Predicting the future?
So, 10 years on – have our ideas stood the test of time? Suggestions included:
- effective communication through clear messaging and navigation
- using the group’s strategy to underpin the report
- setting out a strategy progress statement providing a clear link between strategic priorities, key performance indicators, performance and risk
- providing contextual information to allow investors to assess the quality and sustainability of future cash flows
- describing external trends likely to affect the group’s business environment, supported with quantifiable forecast data, externally sourced
- being explicit about management’s view of the group’s risk profile
- rethinking the financials to outline key drivers of revenue, identify the key measures of value creation costs, and provide greater granularity on segmental information, pensions and debt
- supplementing traditional financial data with non-GAAP measures used by management.
Some of these look familiar don’t they? On the one hand it’s pleasing to see so many of them now commonplace in good strategic reporting today. On the other, there remains a sense of frustration that a decade later a number remain part of my standard lexicon when encouraging companies to improve the quality of their reporting.
But perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised. Having looked at reporting practices in the FTSE 350 for the last few years, it’s clear that changes in corporate reporting don’t happen quickly. Something we noted in this year’s annual reporting review.
Looking ahead, I firmly believe that reporting needs to undergo more radical change - both in content and delivery - over the next 10 years if it’s to respond to an ever more uncertain and disruptive corporate environment and the demands of business. But what might it look like in a decade’s time? Will the annual report still exist? Will financial profit remain the key measure of success?
With your crystal ball in play, I’d love to hear your thoughts on what your Generico might look like now, and what innovation you expect to see over the next 10 years. Please comment below, or feel free to contact me by email.