Around 350 delegates, ranging from the Company Secretaries of FTSE 350 companies to advisors and other exhibitors, attended the sixth Annual Company Secretary Forum at the QE11 Conference centre in Westminster on Thursday 23rd November. Among their numbers was a team from Black&Callow.
One of the afternoon’s key Breakout sessions was on the subject of Corporate Reporting.
The panel comprised:
- Kerry Porritt, Group Company Secretary at Keller Group plc
- Deepa Raval, Director of Narrative Reporting at the Financial Reporting Council
- Tim Black, Joint Managing Director of Black&Callow, who also acted as moderator.
The session kicked off with a question polled to the audience: “Are you 100% happy with your corporate reporting?” The result was surprising – 100% of the audience said they were not happy with their corporate reporting.
What were the reasons behind this? The Panel’s view, shared by the audience, was that it’s largely due to the challenges posed by integrating changing Regulatory requirements around Strategic, Governance and Financial Reporting; as well as the challenge of conveying this information in a simple, effective, and engaging way.
A further poll question asked:
“What do you think are the biggest challenges/roadblocks are to effective reporting?”
- Drawing all stakeholder information together
- Consistency of messaging
- Gauging who the stakeholders are
- Getting people to read it
- Keeping up with moving requirements
- Knowing what to keep in the report
- Constraints from board/management
- Commercial sensitivity
By far the largest roadblock identified by companies was “Keeping up with moving requirements” – whilst the lowest ranked challenge was “gauging who the stakeholders are”.
Deepa Raval gave some insightful updates from the FRC concerning developments in corporate reporting, strategic reporting and narrative; while Kerry Porritt gave an equally insightful and informative practical view on how Keller Group’s Company Secretariat works with the business to produce the report, how best to reach potential investor, and a Nomination committee update.
Tim Black then spoke about Best Practice – key notes from which are reproduced below:
Primarily, each Company Secretary must ask themselves: what are we trying to achieve?
- Do we view your Report purely as satisfying Regulatory requirements, or as a marketing tool designed to better engage with stakeholders?
- Who do you see as your stakeholders?
- What do you want them to understand?
- Bearing in mind the clear direction from the FRC and Regulations, we – and our clients - see Best Practice as an Annual Report whose ultimate focus is to convey the best investment case for the company.
The ICAEW recently noted: “… it is clear that financial investors, shareholders, and those that advise them are the groups most likely to be making significant investment and stewardship decisions based on information in the Annual Report…. This does not mean that the needs of other stakeholders are irrelevant, but it does mean that a lack of trust in the annual report will affect the business primarily through the impact it has on investors.”
Frequent engagement and collaboration
We see Best Practice as agreeing a clear direction for the Report ahead of time – it will pay dividends. Bearing in mind how many parties are involved, as we can see from the last polling question, agreeing and then maintaining consistency of messaging is critical.This will help minimise costs – you can brief your external agencies in good time for them to prepare content, structure, photography, design etc.
Collaboration within the business
The next polling question asked: “Who should lead company reporting?
Not surprisingly, the widely held view was that the Company Secretary should lead, although it was noted that the IR team and Finance increasingly played a leadership role.
How best to collaborate (given increasing numbers of stakeholders involved in reporting)?
Should there be split responsibility for each section? If so, how do the stakeholders best communicate - by email or intranet or other software? If so, Company Secretaries use software to collaborate on the drafting and proofing stages?
We see Best Practice as one person taking primary responsibility for unifying both the internal collaboration and the external collaboration – single point of contact.A number of software packages can help with the drafting of the Report, which we can recommend that Company Secretaries might wish to consider – please contact us for details.
The final section dealt with the question, “What does effective reporting look like?”
A PDF of Best Practice examples can be downloaded by clicking the link below.
If you’d like any further information on the event of if you’d like to discuss how Black&Callow can add value, please call one of our team below on 020 3794 1720.