Achieving critical mass in new reporting technologies

As part of the Clear and Concise initiative by the Financial Reporting Council’s (FRC) Financial Reporting Lab, a new report titled ‘Digital Present’ has been released, looking at how investors currently view digital corporate reporting communications. The report highlights a number of areas where investors feel there is room for improvement, as well as some potential solutions for companies to review.

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Responses seem to have focused on the simplicity of using a PDF and the knowledge that it had not been subsequently edited and is bounded to the reporting requirements of the printed document. With many companies now producing bounded separate websites, with enhanced search dedicated to the Annual Report it’s interesting to see that many users still wish to use the PDF.

What investors want

The majority of investors questioned prefered the PDF format for digital annual reports due to:

  • searchability in the confines of the document, rather than the full corporate website
  • the ability to keep the file on their chosen device and use as and when needed
  • the perception that the information is assured and has not changed from the printed copy
  • the format being similar to other companies and so easily comparable.

However many of the suggestions for improvement in PDFs are already available in responsive annual report websites, which include:

  • Investors want companies to think about how the PDF is shown on screen, taking in to consideration any barriers investors may have. Some suggestions for improvement are:
    • tailoring the pdf to screen - many may view on a desktop and a landscape presentation may work better
    • making sure the pdf works with the reflow tool
    • assessing the layout of the text - are columns the best format online
    • showcasing double page spreads in their full form
    • easy navigation
  • Making sure the document can quickly be printed out in black and white - potentially removing large images and colour heavy pages and ensuring all graphs work in black and white.
  • Keeping an extensive back catalogue of documents alongside the Annual Report, such as prelim announcements, quarterly and half year statements and more.

Other areas of the report of note are around video communications, the additional information provided alongside them and the types of communication channels used.

Given there are many good examples of technology addressing the key concerns of stakeholders, it is maybe just achieving wider consistent adoption that provides the key challenge going forward.

The next stage of the project looks at Digital Future and will look to develop ideas with participants for the future of digital reporting. You can read the full report here and to find out more about how we can help with your digital communications, get in touch.