On the leading edge of innovation in electronic disclosure

Far beyond putting a PDF up on a website, the leaders in electronic disclosure truly innovate. Access to advanced technologies and analytics are just some of the tools that these pioneers provide.

The mobile and social revolution has changed much for us all. This couldn’t be more true for corporate reporting, where it simply isn’t good enough to drop a mountain of paperwork once a year for a select few to read. Today’s disclosure standards mean providing more information in various formats and to a wider audience.

Leaders in electronic reporting recognize the importance of the changing digital landscape in communicating with investors. In reviewing companies that enter the Awards of Excellence in Corporate Reporting, judges assess online disclosures to determine the quality of investor relations content, its navigability and usability, any innovations, and a sense of how social media is used.

Not too many years ago, entrants augmented printed reports with websites containing PDFs of those reports—and that was enough. No longer. Websites need to be comprehensive and interactive. Disclosures need to extend to social media and mobile devices.

Benchmarks are moving targets and the definition of innovation is constantly changing. The entrant that led the way in 2016 was Intact Financial Corporation, whose website was a beacon of innovation that not only disclosed financial results but made valuation and analysis readily accessible. The honourable mention went to WSP Global Inc., who impressed judges with advanced digital features that allowed investors to easily access and interpret data.

4 ways to stand out with electronic annual reporting

Here are four key tips to help you stand out in electronic disclosure:

1. First and foremost, stay on top of regulatory requirements
The Canadian Securities Administrators has highlighted the need for reporting issuers to be  aware of the securities reporting obligations that their social media activities may trigger, even if these activities are not directly intended to communicate with investors. It encourages the development of strong social media governance policies and emphasizes the importance of balanced information that is complete and consistent with the financial statements and other formal documents.

2. Organize your information with the end-user in mind
Highly-ranked entrants present Internet-based disclosures in a well-organized manner; the presentation is simple to navigate and data is relatively easy to use. Winning companies emphasize data tools and data analysis centres, where info is set out in a format that can be selected and downloaded for analysis in a variety of applications. 

3. Get on board with mobility
Smartphones and tablets are overtaking desktops for accessing disclosure information. Presentations need to be re-formulated to perform effectively on portable devices, and websites have to be responsive. 

4. Leverage social media
Investors, like the rest of the world, are obsessed with social media—so companies need to get comfortable with platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and LinkedIn for investor relations. On a broader level, companies need to move beyond the traditional, one-way model of reporting, and interact with investors and other stakeholders to create a true corporate dialogue.

For more information on this and other categories, check out the 2016 Judges’ Book for profiles on last year’s winners. 

Entries for the 2017 Awards of Excellence in Corporate Reporting are open May 1 – June 30.

Disclaimer

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of CPA Canada.

About the Author

Gerald Trites, FCPA, FCA, CISA

Specializing in information systems technology and assurance, Internet-based financial reporting and XBRL, Gerald is an author and popular conference presenter. He taught accounting and information systems at St. Francis Xavier University and served as a technical support and client service partner at KPMG. Gerald is a Fellow Chartered Professional Accountant.

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