New research into the adoption of digital investor relations communications in the DACH region.
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, for the first time, we’re sharing our insights with the community at large.
In anticipation of the DIRK-Konferenz in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, our initial findings from the 2015/2016 season focus on companies in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria. These results are the first of many we’ll be publishing over the next few months.
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.
Be sure to check Tangelo’s website regularly for new findings as we dive into more regions, various aspects of digital IR publication, new trends and development, and insightful comparisons. Along the way, we’ll call out our favorite pieces and forecast the next big trends on the horizon.
In honor of the DIRK-Konferenz, Europe’s largest financial communications event, these first results concern the digital investor relations communications of the DACH countries: Germany (Deutschland), Austria, and Switzerland (Confoederatio Helvetica).
To get a good sense of recent trends in the region, we surveyed the annual reporting practices of 159 companies:
All of the 159 companies surveyed offer a downloadable annual report on its website—that is, they’re all fulfilling the bare minimum.
The real question is how many offer true digital IR communications with actual web-based annual reports? Real online reports are by far the most accessible way to reach shareholders, provide tools to analysts, and offer insights into your company.
Over 50% of companies listed on the German DAX and Swiss SMI publish real online annual reports. Remarkably, only six of the 39 Austrian companies did.
A sharp distinction jumps out from the German indices: more than half of the large enterprises on the DAX feature online reports, while only about 30% of the smaller organizations on the MDAX and SDAX offer them.
In 2016, there’s no excuse not to offer responsive web design that works on every desktop, smartphone, and tablet. Fortunately, the grand majority of companies have finally caught on and offer fully responsive online reports.
Almost 85% of German companies and over 90% of Swiss companies with online reports featured responsive web design.
Okay, so over 50% of the German DAX and Swiss SMI companies surveyed offer online reports. That’s laudable—but how much information are they really sharing in these reports? Are they lightweight summaries or complete annual reports rendered into an online format?
We looked into every online report surveyed to separate the wheat from the chaff. What qualifies as a “complete” in our eyes? If the online report contained all the financial statements and notes—without having to download these items separately—we counted it as a bona fide complete report.
According to our research, more than half of all online reports are mere summaries. Within the DAX, MDAX, and SMI, 40% to 45% of companies with online reports offered full reports complete with all financials and notes.
Surprisingly, none of the SDAX companies included full reports—dragging Germany down to about 36%. While only six of the 39 Austrian businesses created an online report, it seems those that did committed to quality: Austria leads all countries with 67% of its companies featuring full online reports.
A few of the organizations we reviewed seem to be stuck in the past. Out of 100 German companies, six still thought it was acceptable to offer up a Frankenstein website with an old school flipbook—giving users the chance to “flip” through a PDF report like it’s 1999.
Some even used Flash—a complete bygone in the modern era, thanks to the platform’s extremely limited support on tablets and mobile devices. In all likelihood, these companies chose this old-timey option because it was cheap and they thought creating a full online report was too much of a challenge.
As you might have guessed, three of the six companies were from the smaller SDAX group. Shockingly, two companies from the medium-sized MDAX and one from the DAX chose this hopelessly outdated option.
Let’s take a quick look at some of the highlights from this season’s online annual reports. We’ll spotlight our favorite examples and see why they work so well. If you prefer jeers over cheers, check out our Twitter (@tangelosoftware), where we’ll call out a few reports that weren’t so successful and suggest what they could have done better.
While there’s no clear winner just yet, in our eyes, the following digital reports are all contenders for the best online annual report of the year:
Why it’s great:
− Spectacular flight-simulator experience on the first page
− Engaging, beautiful design (though it’s easy to get lost in the clouds)
Why it’s great:
− Bursting with creativity, just like last year’s report
− Delivers a ton of information without feeling overwhelming
Why it’s great:
− Extremely stylish—as you might expect from Hugo Boss
− Clean, simple, and clear navigation
Why it’s great:
− Dynamic animations and presentations of key figures
− Great design and fresh artwork—though we like last year’s report even more.
Why it’s great:
− Wonderfully fresh and original design
− Inviting, streamlined navigation
Why it’s great:
− Subtle and understated use of color
− Features like Excel and PDF downloads, switching between English and German, and social sharing
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.
We’ve seen from experience that shareholders really appreciate to the ability to create custom PDFs—and it seems German and Swiss companies are listening. Almost half of the online reports from these countries offer the feature, compared with only 17% of Austrian companies surveyed.
Downloading financial statements as Excel files is the most common feature—and arguably the most useful for analysts and investors. Here, Austria leads the pack with over 80% of companies offering Excel downloads. Regrettably, few annual reports allow you to download select financial info—typically, a predefined set of data is available for download. (We expect selective Excel downloads to get more popular in the years to come.)
Interactive charts remain fairly popular, with adoption higher than PDF downloads but lower than Excel exports. Some question the value of interactive graphs—and we’ll admit it’s a valid concern. We’ve seen companies go overboard with the topic, allowing users to see every set of numbers without offering any context.
The best interactive charts offer new insights that you can’t get from a static table or infographic. Whether it’s changing the chart type, adding and subtracting different metrics, or seeing different timescales, it should provide a new perspective through its interactivity—otherwise you’re just adding bells and whistles with no substance.
Once upon a time, developing a mobile app seemed like the mark of a modern investor relations team. Today, it feels like an afterthought—if not a relic of the past. Why have apps declined so precipitously?
− In Germany, 15 out of 100 companies (15%) publish an app, 4 financial reporting apps (4%), and 11 IR apps (11%)
− In Austria, 4 out of 39 companies (10%) publish an app, all of them are IR apps (10%)
− In Switzerland, 5 out of 20 companies (25%) publish an app, 2 financial reporting apps (10%), and 3 IR apps (15%)
The simple answer is that with responsive web design and improved features, you don’t need a dedicated smartphone or tablet app to provide your report online. In fact, only six of the 159 companies surveyed published a financial reporting app—that’s less than 4%.
Beyond reporting apps, the same holds true for general-purpose IR apps: a well-designed responsive site largely removes the need for a native app. At best, the adoption rate of IR app is holding steady—in all likelihood, it’s probably headed for a decline.
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?). Well-made apps still have their place: a comprehensive approach to digital IR communications might include a responsive website and a lean, mean, specialized app with useful shareholder tools and notifications.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our findings on the DACH region. Don’t forget to check our website regularly for fresh reports, which we’ll be doling out over the next few months. We’ll investigate new regions, thought-provoking comparisons, and rising trends—and highlight our favorite IR pieces along the way.
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.