Survey highlights report opportunities

A design opportunity is emerging in the corporate literature sector, with more companies producing Summary Financial Statements as well as annual reports, a new survey reveals.

Out of the UK’s top 100 companies surveyed, 53 produced Summary Financial Statements in 1996, compared with 38 in the previous year, according to the Merchant Handbook.

Merchant Corporate Design carried out research with the London School of Economics into individual shareholders’ needs for financial information.

An SFS should be accessible with a human touch, giving it a newsletter or glossy magazine appearance, suggests the handbook – Merchant’s third annual survey on financial reporting.

It shouldn’t just be a slimmed-down version of the annual report and accounts, says Merchant managing partner Geoff Smith. “The SFS is not as limited a document as its name implies. It can be a powerful communications document in its own right,” he adds.

“The increase in SFS is being driven by utilities and the banks [born out of building societies], who have a lot of small shareholders,” says Stephen Thomas, managing director of CGI which came fifth in the handbook’s listing of most prolific design groups.

Without an SFS there is an element of compromise, with companies trying to cater for all audiences through an annual report, he adds.

The top six consultancies in the market designed more than a third of the top 250 companies’ annual reports last year. Pauffley still leads, on 17 reports – no change on 1995. Merchant has climbed to second place, handling 14 reports, and, along with Bamber Forsyth on 13, is the fastest growing group in the sector.

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