Conference speakers talked about the importance of ‘telling the story’; integrated reporting can help us achieve this.
“Good disclosures are the ones that tell a story,” said Richard Mathieson, Managing Director of asset managers BlackRock, during the panel discussion (also attended by Sue Harding, director of the FRC's Financial Reporting Lab; and Russell Picot Russell Picot, Group Chief Accounting Officer at HSBC). The comment reinforced the challenge to companies to think more carefully about how they communicate with users. Richard Sexton, PwC’s Global Assurance Leader, said in opening the conference that public trust in corporations was at an all-time low and that rebuilding it would require clarity of purpose and communication. Many felt that the current format of company accounts was hampering that goal.
This raises the question of where integrated reporting fits in; the view from the conference was that it could be just the vehicle that companies need to tell their story more clearly. Mr Sexton felt that it was important to create an environment in which companies felt safe to experiment: “Integrated reporting is a fabulous opportunity to think more broadly about financial reporting. I encourage you to be bold.”
Mr Mathieson said that the biggest frustration for BlackRock is where cohesion in company disclosures breaks down. Non-GAAP measures, for example, are often useful, but not if it is unclear how they relate to the statutory figures. “Innovation in terms of how everything hangs together would be very welcome,” he said.
There were some concerns, though. While the IASB is committed to working with the International Integrated Reporting Council, IASB chairman Hans Hoogervorst said he had some apprehension about the IIRC’s ambition. “I’m worried that they might add unnecessarily to the disclosure burden,” he said, “but let’s see.”
Our view is that integrated reporting allows companies to tell their story; to provide the right information about the business and what drives it and to put that information in context. If our goal is to communicate with clarity, integrated reporting can take us there.