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Digital-first: Smarter annual reports

As people walk through their neighbourhoods each day, consciously or unconsciously, they tend to check if favourite local stores are re-opening or remaining open. Their conversations with business owners may be deeper and more meaningful than before as stakeholders yearn for that sense of stability that has been lacking since early 2020. Naturally, this same concern and uncertainty is extended to bigger organisations.

In this environment, organisations need to relook at their business models and communicate to what extent those are still relevant or need to be changed. Past performance provides no indication of how well equipped an organisation is to handle the repercussions of a turning point such as the one we currently face. Increasingly, many organisations will find their stakeholder groups becoming distrustful, cautious, and more demanding on verifiable disclosures. What then is the next step in annual reporting?

Case study: The Saudi Stock Exchange

2019 marked a quantum leap for the Saudi Stock Exchange (‘Tadawul’), which ended the year entering the ranks of the world’s top 10 largest stock exchanges. Given the global restrictions across multiple fronts, how did Tadawul choose to launch its annual report for this epochal year?

Having proactively introduced its first end-to-end online HTML annual report the previous year, Tadawul was prompted to take the next step – the launch of a smart annual report. Just as smart phones were the natural evolution of the traditional mobile telephone, so too the smart annual report is the natural evolution of the traditional annual report. The technology has been there for a while but we are now in an era where it is imperative that the smart annual report is adopted with speed in order to maintain or win back investor confidence.

The Tadawul Online HTML Report 2019

Why a smart annual report?

A comprehensive end-to-end online HTML annual report is very different to a PDF that happens to be online. For instance, over the past two years Tadawul’s investor base had expanded from a largely Saudi retail profile to a range of institutional, regional and other foreign investors. The smart approach allows Tadawul’s diverse audiences to consume information in ways that best suit their needs.

The experiences of Tadawul’s audiences who engaged with the Exchange’s comprehensive end-to-end online HTML are as follows.

Gail, a corporate communications professional working in Toronto:

“I enjoyed the animated journey that Tadawul’s video annual report took me through. The journey begins right on the homepage which is convenient. It’s informative, concise, and easily shareable too. Since I am always on the move, I also find it much easier to absorb information through my phone when it’s in video form. I think many others share this preference because videos have become the chosen mode of communication over the past few years.”

The Tadawul Video Annual Report 2019

Sophie who works with a fund manager in New York said:

“The key performance indicators and the messages from the leadership are what I glance at when I am handed an annual report. And voila! On the home page of Tadawul’s online report you can access the most important information. The animated graphs and charts also give quick insights while the drill-down approach helped me choose the information I needed. I was also happy when I came across the executive summary which can be downloaded as a PDF – it’s ideal for the three-minute reader.”

The Tadawul Annual Report uses a digital-first strategy

  • Interactive end-to-end HTML
  • Video annual report
  • Standard PDF

Rajan, who works as an ESG consultant in London, experienced the annual report differently:

“I have already put together all the important sections of Tadawul’s online report for my future reference. So, all I have to do when I want to read the report thoroughly is to access it through the “My Report” function which can then be downloaded as a PDF too. I also found it easy to extract and share the sections I found useful – the functions of the report are well thought out for a reader who spends some time and absorbs the content of the report.”

The drill-down approach helps audiences navigate the report easily and choose the information they want to read.
This page depicts a robust strategy in motion.

Winning trust

Tadawul’s foresight in migrating to digital mediums has proved timely especially given the uncertainty of the times. An effective online HTML annual report is one that easily crosses borders to keep stakeholders informed and engaged regardless of location or time.

Mediums of publication play a significant role in stakeholder communications. However, in today’s social, economic, and political context annual report preparers must also regain the waning trust of stakeholders. Evidence-based reporting plays an important role in this process. While a smart annual report captures the interest of diverse stakeholders, it also reaches out to each group and addresses their concerns along with the organisation’s efforts to effectively and efficiently create value.


Key take-aways

What are the key aspects you should look into when investing in your own comprehensive end-to-end online HTML annual report?

  • Comprehensive – in an online HTML annual report, you are able to include as much information as is material to your stakeholders without having to worry about the report’s bulkiness
  • Structured – whether stakeholders want a quick or leisurely look at the year in review, an online HTML annual report can be structured in a way that caters to your audiences’ diverse information needs
  • Personalised – despite including a wealth of information, an online HTML annual report can offer each reader personalisation. This includes the option to further customise the information to suit individual needs, bookmarking or even collating and sharing sections at each person’s convenience
  • User-friendly – Unlike in a printed book, the online version of your corporate story does not need to be linear. Explore the many unique design options that an end-to-end online HTML annual report affords you and discover new and exciting modes of corporate story telling
  • Signature – able to combine a wealth of digital mediums, the comprehensive end-to-end online HTML annual report should nevertheless tell a good corporate story – your story. It is able to represent your brand in a much more interactive and personalised way than traditional print. Stakeholders can see that you are addressing their concerns while hearing from your people and even have a glimpse of your culture and the sights and sounds of your operating environment