The State of Digital IR Communications in Canada

New research into the adoption of digital investor relations communications in Canada.

As a leading resource in the world of investor relations (IR), Tangelo Software conducts extensive research on annual reporting trends and developments in Northwestern Europe, North America, and Asia-Pacific. Now, we’re sharing our insights with the IR community at large.

We’re proud to release our findings on Canadian companies in anticipation of  CIRI’s 29th Annual Investor Relations Conference in Quebec City on June 12-14—where we’ll be showing off Tangelo’s enterprise solution.

On Tangelo’s Research & Focus

Across all regions, our research on the state of annual reporting looks into a number of questions: what languages are companies publishing in? How many enterprises are embracing sustainability reports and GRI standards?

We’re particularly interested in questions concerning the adoption of digital investor relations communications. How are annual reports made available online? Are they only downloadable, or are they real, interactive digital reports? What information do they include? What cutting-edge capabilities do they offer? Are IR mobile applications on the rise or decline? These are just some of the inquiries fueling our research.

For these findings, we’ve also ranked the Top 10 Online Annual Reports from Canada (and explained why the others didn’t make it). Stay tuned to tangelo-software.com/news for more research on other regions over the next few months.

Exploring Canadian Digital Investor Relations Communications

To get a good sense of recent trends across Canada, we surveyed the financial reporting practices of all 60 companies on the S&P/TSX 60 Index, a comprehensive sweep of large businesses on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Predictably, 70% of these companies are cross-listed—mostly in the US on the New York Stock Exchange, with just one company listed in London and one on Nasdaq. A scattering have multiple secondary listings on exchanges like Hong Kong, the Philippines, and Trinidad and Tobago.

Accounting Standards & SEC Filings

Of course, all Canadian companies cross-listed in the US file annual reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission—but they don’t all do it the same way.

About 93% (38 of 41) file via Form 40-F, which serves the same purpose as the 20-F required of other international companies while differing slightly in structure and timeline.

Nine of the 41 companies cross-listed in the US use US-GAAP, filing their forms in the XBRL format. Of these nine, two—Restaurant Brands International (formed by the merger of Burger King and Tim Hortons) and Valeant Pharmaceuticals—actually file via Form 10-K, as they don’t qualify as foreign private issuers.

The 32 other US-cross-listed companies use IFRS, filing in the EDGAR format. Interestingly, only one company (the Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan) files a Form 10-K in EDGAR—which may be the only 10-K in the entire SEC database that’s not in XBRL.

Fiscal Year Finish Lines

While not terribly consequential, we’ve always found non-standard fiscal years (FYs) fascinating (can you tell we’re IR wonks)?

22% of the companies surveyed don’t end their FY on or around December 31. Among the 78% that do, some, such as Canadian Tire and Loblaw, end as late as January 3rd because they follow 52-week or 53-week reporting cycles, ending on the Saturday or Sunday closest to December 31. Similarly, companies like Metro and Alimentation Couche-Tard closed their FYs on September 26 and April 26 respectively, preferring full weeks over full months.

Oddly, in 2015, Gildan Activeware transitioned its FY close from the first Sunday after September 28 to the Sunday closest to December 31. This created a one-time, 15-month fiscal year—a quizzical challenge for number crunchers.

Linguistic Trends in Canada

Canada offers an interesting insight into the role of language in IR communications, with a significant proportion of French speakers in Quebec, the country’s second-most populous province.

50% of companies surveyed publish a report in French—these companies are all from Quebec or are in the financial services and banking industry. All 60 companies published in English, with one company—the Bank of Nova Scotia—also releasing a report in Spanish.

Sustainability Reporting

We’ll share our in-depth findings on sustainability, ESG (environmental, social and governance), and integrated reporting in a separate release in the near future. These findings will compare adoption trends across countries, diving deep into regulations and the adoption of GRI guidelines and IIRC frameworks.

For now, it’s clear that Canada is towards the front of the pack: 72% of companies published a sustainability report—though only one released a fully integrated annual report: the Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan, an award-winning forerunner in IR reporting. Stay tuned for more findings!

Canadian Online Annual Reports

We’re going to break down the stats for online reports in Canada—but if you’re not a numbers person, we’ve also ranked the Top 10 Online Annual Reports from Canada.

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While most companies offer a static, downloadable report, only 17 of 60 companies—just 28%—publish a real online annual report. What makes an online report “real”? Compared to PDFs, they’re web-based, interactive, and by far the most accessible way for companies to reach shareholders and empower analysts.

How does a 28% adoption rate stack up? You’ll have to wait for our US findings, but in the DACH region (i.e., Germany, Switzerland, and Austria) 33% of 160 companies surveyed published real online reports. That seems close, until you take a closer look at the data. There was much greater adoption among companies surveyed from the German DAX index (53%) and Swiss SMI index (55%). Canada pales in comparison to these powerhouses.

Breaking Down Online Reports by Industry

The materials (i.e., mining) industry—which has long been lauded for its impressive focus on IR—is the strongest sector in Canada when it comes to online reports, making up over one third (35%) of the companies that offer them.

The banking and telecom/media industries are the next most representative, at 29% and 24% respectively. However, we’d caution you from reading too much into these findings, given the relatively small sample size.

Summaries vs. Complete Reports

In the world of online annual reports, all releases are not created equal. Some are only lightweight summaries, while others offer a “complete” annual report rendered into an online format. Put another way, complete reports contain all the financial statements and notes of a proper annual report in a single online experience.

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Canada falls short here: just two of the 17 online reports qualified as complete: Cameco’s and Bell’s. Compare that 12% figure to the DACH region, where 42% of online reports were complete.

Embracing Responsive Design

By 2016, most companies have gotten the message: you simply must offer responsive design (web design that works on desktops, smartphones, and tablets). 82% of Canadian online reports were responsive—almost the exact same rate of the DACH region (81%).

Remarkably, the two complete online reports were not responsive! While that seems counterintuitive, it is, of course, easier to create a responsive summary, rather than a mobile-friendly complete report with full financial statements and notes.

Capabilities of Canadian Online Reports

Online reports outshine their paper and PDF counterparts by providing limitless possibilities. Compared to a static page, these digital reports are infinitely more interactive, engaging, and adaptable to new technology.

After looking into the availability and breadth of digital annual reports, we wanted to hone in on what capabilities they offer users. Putting aside all of the potentially game-changing capabilities of the future, we assessed the reports on the basis of three standard next-generation features: custom PDF creation, Excel downloads, and interactive charts.

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For all three capabilities, Canada fell short yet again. Only two (12%) allowed custom PDFs, while 42% of online DACH reports did. Similarly, just 12% of Canadian reports offered Excel downloads (compared to 72% in DACH countries) and 12% featured interactive charts (versus 55% in DACH countries).

Commendably, the Bank of Montreal provides all three features! CIBC offers Excel downloads and interactive charts, while the Royal Bank of Canada allows custom PDFs.

Conclusions on Canadian Annual Reports

For whatever reason, Canadian companies are lagging behind their European counterparts on IR communications. With far fewer online reports, a dearth of complete reports, and scant tools for shareholders and analysts, Canada has a fair bit of ground to gain to catch up to Germany, Switzerland, and Austria.

Thankfully, it’s not all doom and gloom. While there’s a lot of progress to be made overall, a few Canadian companies match their European peers admirably.

Check out Tangelo’s Top 10 Online Annual Reports from Canada to see who made it to the top, why, and what other Canadian companies could do to step up their IR communications.

The Declining Popularity of IR Apps

Just a few years ago, dedicated mobile apps seemed like the height of digital IR communication. Today, they’ve fallen out of favor with the rise of responsive design and improved features. Just 5% of Canadian companies surveyed offered an IR mobile app. This confirms findings from our DACH region research, where only 11% of companies released an IR app.

Nonetheless, there are some valuable features that you can only find in a native IR app, like push notifications, user settings, swipe-friendly UI/UX features, and offline availability (though when are we ever offline these days?).

Stay Tuned for More Research & Insights!

We hope you’ve found our investigation into Canadian IR practices valuable. Remember to check tangelo-software.com/news regularly for fresh reports—we know that readers are eager to see how Canada stacks up against its neighbor when we publish our US research.

Learn more about how Tangelo can help your company easily create, manage, and publish professional IR documents in-house.Contact us to schedule a demo and get started.

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