Archives For IIRC

Frank Curtiss, head of corporate governance at RPMI Railpen Investments

Investor primacy and a clear narrative in the voice of management are key elements in risk reporting.

What I want to see is an honest explanation in the context of the business strategy and the business model and how that risk is managed. While I recognise that other stakeholders will want to look at corporate reports and there is a wider public interest, the purpose of reporting is about stewardship and accountability to those who provide the risk capital.

Boilerplate reports are of little use, as are reports which drag investors into the micromanagement of the business.

A boilerplate approach may be what your lawyers think is a good idea and you may think you can’t be faulted but you can. Even worse is just an exhaustive list of risks, some of which are so obvious. What we need to know are the key risks, why management thinks they are critical and what they are going to do about it.

As a member of the IIRC working group I am naturally a keen proponent of integrated reporting, and keeping risk reporting connected to the broader risk management approach of the company.

It’s also about integrated thinking and working across the company. We see enthusiastic companies taking part in the IIRC pilot programme where finance and corporate social responsibility and investor relations are working together, not in silos.

The less enthusiastic finance departments tend to throw out excuses about sensitive information and increasing the reporting burden. In many cases they should be reporting on these things anyway if only for management information. There’s clearly a balance between informing the markets and giving the game away, but the more transparent companies don’t seem to have a problem. If people tell me ‘it can’t be done, it can’t be done’ I just tell them that some people are already doing it.

Some of the companies I think demonstrate good risk reporting include:

  • Admiral – highlighted the risk relating to their change of strategy in the CEO’s statement – which is where it should be
  • Aggreko – written in a personal voice, refreshingly honest and doesn’t shrink from telling us the potential risks to revenue
  • BT – very good description of the business model and very good up-to-date risk section – we don’t want to read the same thing year after year
  • Great Portland Estates – they explain the strategy pretty clearly, each risk is identified and discussed with helpful cross references to other parts of the report
  • Provident Financial – lending to subprime customers is a very risky business and terribly topical: the risk section is very good and tells what their risk committee agenda is.  But it’s a hugely controversial sector and they know they need to explain it—we don’t need that level of detail from every company.

Often higher levels of transparency can be found in those areas, such as gambling and tobacco, where the ‘licence to operate’ is in question. They are all too aware that the spotlight is on them and they’ve got to justify themselves.

But some industries are in general better than others – the extractive industries are generally ahead of many financial services organisations, for example.

An important factor is the general level of information that is around. There’s the risk of assuming prior knowledge. For a mid-tier company there’ll be nothing like the level of analysis that there is on say, the big telecoms providers and their peers. And even the most clued-up investors don’t know everything – they’re not present at board meetings or risk committee meetings or audit committee meetings so the more that a company explains the better.

In recent years RPMI has shifted its asset allocation considerably away from UK equities and is now a truly global investor across a number of countries. I would like to see a more closely aligned international standard of reporting. However with even English-speaking countries with common traditions having wide variations, it is difficult for companies simply to import a better reporting regime into a different jurisdiction.

There’s got to be a race to the top, that’s why I support the IIRC attempt to promote best practice internationally. There’s definitely a willingness by governments and regulators to embrace this, but investor and privately led initiatives tend to be more successful, as by definition regulation has to be more detailed. We don’t hope to change it tomorrow but we might see a significant step-change between now and 2020.

By this time I hope that more and more reporting will have moved online, hopefully in standardised formats that make it easier for investors to mine and work with the data.

An annual report is useful as a snapshot for stewardship purposes—but as technology improves you will see dynamic integrated reporting as reporters and users become more confident, and that will eventually replace the massive end-of-year annual report.

I have seen a lot of progress in risk reporting since the financial crisis. Risk has now become something that can be discussed when previously it was a four-letter word. The better reporters are telling us something useful about risk—the levels of disclosure used to be terrible across the board, now there are plenty that are not.

Successive generations of management will wonder what all the fuss was about. The benefits of better quality information and greater transparency must outweigh the risks of an enhanced disclosure regime, and any unhelpful side effects will be more than balanced by the positives.

The big challenge now is the mass of companies whose risk reporting is inadequate at best:

There are some shining examples, good reports that tell the story honestly and in the voice of the company. The trick is to get the others up to speed.

High quality risk reporting increases investor confidence, not just in terms of the risks being discussed, but also in the overall quality of management:

It provides reassurance in terms of stewardship and responsibility that the management are taking on all this and that they are looking at the right risks.

Ultimately it’s all about what management think and what they are doing.  And if a company can’t explain its own strategy and its business model itself, then who can?

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By Helen Thompson, head of PR, ACCA

IR can help restore trust in business, but now is the time to put the Framework into action

The launch today of the IIRC’s Integrated Reporting Framework is welcomed by ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants), saying this represents a landmark opportunity to break down the silos in corporate reporting.

Helen Brand OBE, ACCA’s chief executive says: “Now is the time to put the Framework into practice. This presents a significant opportunity to refresh corporate reporting and to place investor’s needs central to the process.”

ACCA believes that IR brings a number of benefits because it offers a focus on the long term strategy and performance of a business. The Framework centres on the material information about an organisation’s governance, strategy, prospects and performance that reflect the commercial, social and environmental context within which the organisation operates.

Helen Brand adds: “A better understanding of long-term risks to commercial models can only be of benefit to business and to the investor community. Explaining how corporate value is created and sustained is important, and the IR Framework enables business to do this.

“Ultimately, I hope that IR will restore trust in business – reporting models have been criticised in the past, but now is the time for change. I am sure the accountancy profession is ready and willing to show the necessary leadership to make that change happen.”

ACCA and IR

  • Helen Brand, ACCA’s chief executive, is a member of the IIRC’s Council;
  • Neil Stevenson, ACCA’s executive director – brand, sits on the IIRC’s Working Group;
  • ACCA’s global network has been raising awareness of IR and supporting the IIRC’s outreach work for a number of years;
  • ACCA’s Annual Reports for 2011 / 12 and 2012 / 13 have been produced using the IR Framework, giving a concise, clear and comprehensive picture of how ACCA has created value by making its strategy happen.

Don’t ignore the draft

aksaroya —  22 May 2013 — 1 Comment

By Barry Cooper, ACCA president

Engaging in the IIRC’s consultation is vital in developing the integrated reporting framework.

Barry Cooper-0513

It has always been a source of pride to me that ACCA has been at the forefront of developments within the accountancy profession – the move to ensuring that our syllabus was based on International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) being just one.

Now ACCA is once again demonstrating its pioneering credentials by not only being one of the first adopters of integrated reporting (IR) – having produced our most recent annual report to IR principles – but also by calling for the business community, companies and investors alike to ensure they help shape the future of IR.

We have urged these groups to respond to the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC) consultation draft on the integrated reporting framework to help develop a new corporate reporting model. This will enable organisations to communicate their activities more effectively and provide clear information to stakeholders.

In my meetings with members, employers and tuition providers, many have commented favourably on our first annual report produced along IR lines – which enabled our stakeholders to see the bigger picture brought together in what is hopefully an easily digested document. Our next report will be another step along the IR route.

But this initiative is not only an opportunity to demonstrate leadership and innovation in the accountancy profession. It is also critical that those you advise play their part in helping to shape the future of integrated reporting, by looking at issues and challenges which can be addressed now and which ensure that the IIRC gets the full picture.

You have a critical role to play, and I urge you and your companies to engage in the consultation process.

This post first appeared in Accounting and Business magazine, May 2013

Liz Hughes, head of ACCA Ireland, on the value of a new approach to financial reporting

integrated

The term “integrated reporting” may not yet be a part of your current accountancy vocabulary but the likelihood is that it will become a standard feature of reporting practices in the near future. Its move to prominence is being driven by three related developments.

Firstly, increased recognition that the traditional use of the financial statement as the sole measure of a company’s health and wellbeing can no longer go unquestioned. Secondly, the widespread introduction into entities’ reporting practices of a number of specialist reports, for example, reports on corporate governance policies and practices. Finally, and more generally, the steady increase in company disclosure requirements, which has led to corporate annual reports becoming extremely lengthy documents, sometimes running to hundreds of pages. This trend, while understandable, is contrary to the goal of achieving transparency in reporting practices.

There is now a developing body of opinion that we need to promote a new approach to corporate reporting, one that brings together all the material factors impacting on an entity’s standing and performance, and communicates them in a coherent ‘integrated’ way. Crucially, it is argued that an entity needs to weave these different strands of information into a coherent narrative that is driven an explanation of its strategy, i.e. plans it has to achieve its business objectives. The essence of this new concept then, is not to add to the proliferation of reported information but to identify the factors that are most material to a full explanation of what a reporting company is trying to achieve, and to make sure that a full and rounded explanation is conveyed.

The concept is now being taken forward by the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC), a new body based in London that is enjoying widespread support from business, the profession and regulators. IIRC is currently developing a framework to guide companies in how they should go about producing integrated reports, through a consultation paper on this framework. Depending on the feedback received, a final version will follow by the end of 2013. More information can be obtained at www.theiirc.org

This article first appeared in Accounting and Business, Ireland edition, April 2013

tall building, modern CFOBy Jeffrey C. Thomson, CMA; President and CEO, IMA

According to The Changing Role of the CFO, a new report co-published by ACCA and IMA®, CFOs will face many challenges in the future, including global economic uncertainty and volatility, fluctuating energy prices, and turbulent currency markets, along with a shift in economic power. The report identifies emerging priorities that will impact the future role of the CFO and cites nine future key issues that will shape the finance function’s top job, including regulation, globalisation, technology, risk management, transforming finance, stakeholder engagement, strategy, integrated reporting, and talent.

Of course, these emerging priorities could well vary by global region depending on regulation, socio-economic factors, environmental conditions, culture, and more. But as a former U.S.-based CFO, I wonder if we in the U.S. face a couple of unique challenges associated with regulatory uncertainty and litigation. These issues exacerbate the ‘day-to-day’ challenges – and opportunities – of today’s CFO team.

First, let me tee up the uncertainty associated with regulation. Usually, when we discuss the CFO team’s lead role in dealing with uncertainty and disruption, it is in connection with consumers and competition, not regulation since that tends to be a ‘known’ quantity with exposure drafts, comments letters, discussion roundtables etc. before a regulation associated with financial reporting even goes into effect. Specifically, I am focusing on the uncertainty associated with adoption of IFRS in the U.S. Will the U.S. adopt IFRS? If not in full, what would an ‘incorporation’ model look like? The larger questions are around the degree to which U.S.-based CFO teams should begin the training process and technology changes necessary to affect a massive shift from the decades-old US GAAP. This is not the resource allocation challenge that CFOs deal with every day in trading off returns on various investments; it is a long-term decision to invest in training and technology without clarity as to ‘if, how and when.’

Smart CFOs will need to do two things: (1) Hire and nurture good technical talent, so adopting to any deviation to pure-play GAAP will be that much easier; and, (2) Stay close to the regulatory scene and be a proactive advocate for the best solution (e.g., SEC, FASB, IASB, IFRS Foundation, etc.)

The second, arguably unique challenge for U.S.-based CFOs is with integrated reporting, or, the evolution of external corporate reporting. At least in the U.S., the external disclosures are voluminous and yet do not adequately inform stakeholders as to long-term sustainable value generation and growth because they are too financially focused, too complicated, and yet not comprehensive enough. But the unique challenge in the U.S. is not so much about selecting more non-financial measures, or measures more of a leading indicator variety, or even how to source and report measures such as employee learning and growth, process improvements, sustainability, carbon footprint, societal contributions, or governance factors. It is the litigious nature of society and an often ‘unforgiving’ regulatory environment in the U.S. If this challenge is approached as ‘let’s report everything – and thus subject it to internal controls and audit – because it may be useful to some stakeholder in the future,’ then much like in the early days of Sarbanes-Oxley, integrated reporting will be viewed as a ‘social tax’ with little societal good and expensive shackles placed on corporate entities. There are no easy answers here, but leading CFOs need to be at the table to find the right balance, rather than waiting for the steam-roll effect of transforming external corporate reporting ‘to just happen.’

What do you think?