HSBC: IR belooft een belangrijke doorbraak in de rapportage kwaliteit te worden. Russell Picot, chief accounting officer bij HSBC, vertelt PwC waarom zij, als een van de eerste, deelnemen aan het IIRC pilot programma voor het testen van geïntegreerd rapporteren. Russell staat stil bij de risico’s van het niet op de hoogte zijn en de voordelen die zij tot nu toe hebben ervaren.
You’ve been on board from the start of the integrated reporting (IR) journey – so why are you involved, and why is HSBC a pilot company?
We believe in expressing our corporate voice on issues that we think matter to society quite broadly. We also believe in a voluntary approach in this area, and that’s why we’re heavily involved in the pilot programme with the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC). We’re trying to develop good ideas, bring corporate and institutional voices together and avoid the concern that some of these very innovative ideas might get hard-coded into legislation too early.
In February, we released about 700 pages of investor material to the market – it’s a big challenge for us to distil the important messages about our strategy. So we see integrated reporting as holding the promise to provide a major breakthrough in the quality of corporate reporting, globally.
So what steps have you taken as a company to really shape the reporting?
Our annual report is our main communication to the market – we don’t have a preliminary results announcement. So we’ve been experimenting with restructuring our risk document – bringing upfront what happened in the market during the year, how we responded to it, and how it’s reflected in our numbers. Then we put all our standing data and boilerplate information about our systems (which may not change) at the back of the document.
Are there a few key messages from investors about what they want from integrated reporting?
It really is a classic example where less will be more. No one wants to see another 50 or 100 pages of material. So the challenge is to distil it down.
If you look at the banking industry, investors said very clearly that they thought banks’ business models were quite opaque, and that in some parts of the market, they were uncertain about the viability of funding models. They said that they were exacting a heavy penalty in terms of our equity prices being marked down.
For investors, it’s all about clarity and transparency, which all good corporates should want to achieve anyway.
And what are the key challenges?
Because this is a voluntary programme, it requires voluntary support, and that’s one challenge – to harness the interests of all the stakeholders.
Also, this won’t be successful if we don’t get a strong investor voice. My message for investors is: “please get involved, please send us your views”.
Another issue that needs to be dealt with early comes from those CEOs or CFOs saying, “well, this just sounds like more work”. I don’t believe that’s the case – I think it’s a question of starting afresh, ensuring a broad engagement programme within the company and looking at your corporate communication model and then deciding what’s important.
If it’s just a programme by the finance function, for the finance function, the company’s not going to reap the sort of benefits that they should expect.
So what are the key benefits of adopting an integrated reporting approach?
The major benefit of IR is clarity of communication to the market. I think that over time, we will see that this could lead to a lessening of the financial reporting burden – creating a much more relevant model of corporate reporting.
It also provides a unifying, integrating force within a company. The CEO, the major business heads and the department heads are getting into a room and discussing how they create shareholder value and how they communicate that to the market – and that’s really powerful. It has both internal and external benefits.