Looking beyond the numbers
Review of banks’ annual reports
Banking is a complex business and reporting financial and non-financial information in a clear and concise form to satisfy the needs of both the sophisticated and non-sophisticated reader of the annual reports is challenging.
Initiatives such as greater and more intense regulation, reassessment of governance structures and changes to reporting requirements are having a major impact on the quality and quantity of public reporting by banks.
The main findings of our report are:
- The length of annual reports by UK banks is growing as they need to comply with the additional requirements laid down by accounting standard setters and regulators or demanded by investors;
- Information disclosed in banks’ annual reports is improving in many areas but could still evolve further to enhance understanding and comparability across different institutions.
- The adoption by major banks of the British Bankers Association’s voluntary Code for Financial Reporting Disclosure undoubtedly improved reporting by the UK banks for 2009.
- Some very useful disclosure areas, such as critical accounting policies and key sources of estimation and uncertainty, provide valuable information to users of financial statements. However, current disclosures appear not to be widely read by investors. Banks should consider whether they can give greater prominence to these disclosures in their accounts.
- The use of a glossary and an index are very helpful in aiding a user to navigate around the annual reports. The complexity of the business, geographical spread and diverse products that banks are engaged in makes it a challenge to articulate key information succinctly and clearly. On balance, banks have and are continuing to make great efforts to meet this challenge.