Rethinking the future of annual reports and general meetings

How would it be if they are digital, collaborative, interactive?

3 minutes read

Annual reports and general meetings are essential to review the company’s fiscal year. However, creating and organizing them is an exhaustive bureaucratic process.

Besides, financial reports are hefty documents frequently published as PDF for online consumption – a common practice that degrades the user experience and makes indexing for search engines difficult – results in user often missing out on reviewing critical information. Furthermore, improper tagging hinders the accessibility of a PDF document – making it difficult to navigate them for disabled users – e.g. scrolling through a PDF on a mobile device.

Additionally, challenges imposed by pandemic restrict conferences to the digital medium – giving live-streaming a sharp rise in popularity. While the idea of video conferencing seems favourable in the current situation, it does have its limitations, especially for a global audience with a significant time difference. e.g. Berlin and Sydney +9 hours apart – meaning participating in an event at a fixed time can be an inconvenience.

Yet, in the current scenario of uncertainty and possibilities, we could not help but ask, ‘what if we could turn annual report and annual general meeting into a single digital experience?’ Before arriving at our pivotal question, we examined, ‘why do we need to hold a meeting?’ If the meeting is just a medium for communicating and exchanging ideas, that can progressively lead to a fruitful outcome. There are other effective ways to do the same instead of following a ‘now’ trivial tradition.

In a typical layout of any general meeting, the following activities occur – voting on the proxy statement, reviewing financial health, discussing new activities and projects, and declaring dividends. A collaborative digital space can offer just that and more without a need to attend a meeting. For instance, the company and shareholders can review, ask questions and vote on critical matters directly inside the online annual report. Each participant’s response automatically organizes into the respective discussion, which helps board members keep track of collective feedback. A recent activity feature keeps everyone well informed on issues discussed by members. Furthermore, members can set future milestone and monitor the progress of past and future goals. Moreover, members can compare financial data from previous reports and competitors to analyze its financial health via interactive infographics.

While the collaborative part is accessible by members only, the interactive annual report remains online as a meaningful narrative for the press, general public and potential investors in various medium (podcast, webcast, text-based) for better content accessibility.

The benefit of such a collaborative annual report web service are manifold, compared to annual reports creation and annual general meetings, such a web service is relatively inexpensive once established. Secondly, it keeps communication on crucial matters between the company and stakeholders clear, concise and transparent. Besides, the overall usability and discoverability improve since the content is no longer hidden. The users can access information across any standard device, and search engines can share specific inquiries accurately. Finally, the web service attracts potential investors to learn more about the company’s financial perspective and invest in it.

Taha Bader | User Experience Designer Shanghai.Berlin

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