Better Communication in Financial Reporting

Better Communication in Financial Reporting

Better Communication in Financial Reporting is an IFRS.org initiative to focus financial reporting on users. There is a general view that financial reports have become too complex and difficult to read and that financial reporting tends to focus more on compliance than communication. See also narrative reporting as a discussion on alternative ways of reporting.

At the same time, users’ tolerance for sifting through information to find what they need continues to decline.

This has implications for the reputation of companies who fail to keep pace. A global study confirmed this trend, with the majority of analysts stating that the quality of reporting directly influenced their opinion of the quality of management.

To demonstrate what companies could do to make their financial report more relevant, there are several suggestions to ‘streamline’ the financial statements to reflect some of the best practices that have been emerging globally over the past few years. In particular:

  • Information is organized to clearly tell the story of financial performance and make critical information more prominent and easier to find.
  • Additional information is included where it is important for an understanding of the performance of the company. For example, we have included a summary of significant transactions and events as the first note to the financial statements even though this is not a required disclosure.

Improving disclosure effectiveness

Terms such as ’disclosure overload’ and ‘cutting the clutter’, and more precisely ‘disclosure effectiveness’, describe a problem in financial reporting that has become a priority issue for the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB or Board), local standard setters, and regulatory bodies. The growth and complexity of financial statement disclosure is also drawing significant attention from financial statement preparers, and more importantly, the users of financial statements.

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Need for accounting measurement the big 1

Need for accounting measurement

Need for accounting measurement provides a summary of the measurement bases in use in Financial Reporting
and the concepts behind these measurement bases.
The measurement bases that will be considered here are

All these bases are forms of accrual accounting – that is, they are intended to measure income as it is earned and costs as they are incurred, as opposed to simply recording cash flows. The last four are all forms of current value measurement.

In forming a judgment on the appropriateness of measurement bases, in literature, the overriding tests has been identified to be their cost-effectiveness and fitness for purpose. However, in the absence of direct evidence on these matters, it is usual to argue in terms of various secondary characteristics that ought to be relevant in assessing the quality of information (see the key indicators in What is useful information?).

The most important of these characteristics are generally considered to be relevance and faithful representation / reliability (older term).

For each basis, an outline is given of how it works and the relevance and faithful representation of the resulting measurements. The question of measurement costs is also considered briefly. In reading the analyses that follow, the following comments should be borne in mind.

Bases of measurement in financial reporting are not carved in stone. Different people have different views on how each basis should work, and meanings evolve as practice changes. Some readers may therefore find that the way a particular basis is described does not match how they understand it.

This does not mean either that their understanding is wrong or that the description in the report is wrong; views on these things simply differ.

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Narrative reporting the right way

Narrative reporting

– whether in the form of an Operating and Financial Review (OFR), Management Discussion and Analysis (MD&A), a Business Review or other management commentary – is vital to corporate transparency. Key performance indicators (KPIs), both financial and non-financial, are an important component of the information needed to explain a company’s progress towards its stated goals, for all of these types of narrative reporting.

But despite this fact, KPIs are not well understood. What makes a performance indicator “key”? What type of information should be provided for each indicator? And how can it best be presented to provide effective narrative business reporting?

Setting the stage – two quotes

Although narrative reporting requirements remain fluid, reporting on KPIs is here to stay. I welcome any publication as a valuable contribution to helping companies choose which KPIs to report and what information will provide investors with a real understanding of corporate performance. Using management’s own measures of success really helps deepen investors’ understanding of progress and movement in business. Whether contextual, financial or non-financial, these data points make the trends in the business transparent and help keep management accountable. The illustrations of good practice reporting on KPIs shown here bring alive what is required in a practical and effective way.

KPIs – a critical component

Regulatory environment

The specific requirements for narrative reporting have been a point of debate for several years now. However one certainty remains: the requirement to report financial and non-financial key performance indicators.

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Fair value measurement

Fair Value Measurement can present significant challenges for preparers of financial statements, particularly because it involves using judgment and estimation. Further, it is the market participant view that shapes fair value, so preparers need to monitor whether the valuation models and assumptions they use for financial reporting appropriately reflect those of Read more

What are operating segments?

What are operating segments – Most entities will be able to identify their operating segments easily by reference to the definition. However, when this is not the case, for example if the (CODM) uses more than one set of segment information, other factors may enable the operating segments to be identified.

Factors to consider in determining operating segments for a reporting entity are: What are operating segments

  • the nature of the business
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