It was June 2014, time to think about and produce the very first Singapore Accountancy Commission (SAC) Annual Report.
Two facts were glaringly apparent – There was no precedence and the SAC is a statutory body formed less than 2 years ago. My question to them and to myself: What should be our message? Who is our target audience? How do we want to be viewed?
In my mind, two things were clear – the theme has to be unique; and as a supporter of the International Integrated Reporting Framework since its release on 9 December 2013 and also in our bid to lead in promoting Integrated Reporting adoption in Singapore, our first Annual Report has to be an Integrated Report (or contain the essential elements of Integrated Reporting).
We decided on the ‘theme park’ concept featuring an eco-system that has fun, community and some elements of business transactions.
We split the process into 3 parts – content, graphic and Integrated Reporting.
Since Integrated Reporting calls for concise communication, the report has to contain what’s important without overwhelming the reader. Graphics was slightly easier, we hand drew everything!
Then comes the Integrating Reporting portion. A huge part of that is to be able to create value by crafting and telling a story. In turn, it will help in better strategy formulation, decision making and stakeholder engagement.
As expected, we met with some challenges in implementing Integrated Reporting.
Who are we accountable to?
For revenue-driven corporates and multinational corporations who have a defined stakeholder group, adopting Integrated Reporting may be a logical step towards stakeholder engagement and greater investor confidence. For SAC, our roles and responsibilities are pegged at a national level (owing to the recommendations from the Committee to Develop the Accountancy Sector (CDAS) report) and involve engaging the entire Accountancy Sector.
Defining our business model
We had the dilemma of defining our business model and how we create value. The Integrated Reporting Framework recommends six capitals – manufactured, natural, social, intellectual, human and financial. While we were pouring over how natural capital applies to SAC, we have come to understand that Integrated Reporting does not mean adhering to all aspects of the Framework, but instead picking out elements that are most relevant to our story and organisational strategy.
Less is more?
We also had challenges in being concise.
We do not have much history, milestones or initiatives to write about. But we could talk a lot more about our dreams, opportunities and future. We could put in the entire CDAS report.
But that would be too much to digest. I think the financial highlights (page 48 & 49) is a fine example of less is more – everyone who sees the report is always suitably impressed with this 2-pager statement that summarises our financial position for the year.
There are also benefits.
By cutting down on noise and clutter, we understood our mission, values, roles and responsibilities better. We understood, in a nutshell, how we create – or destroy – value from the initiatives we take on. We also learnt to appreciate integrated thinking. We got down to the nitty-gritty on what our business model is and value creation over the short, medium and long term.
Connectivity between departments
As we are a small unit, most people think that we naturally have cross-departmental connectivity.
It has to be cultivated and implementing Integrated Reporting helps to bridge that understanding and respect. An example of internal collaboration and peer learning – our finance team learnt how non-financial issues such as developing our intellectual capital, can impact financial performance.
After a print run of 300 copies which were distributed among stakeholders, we received positive feedback from DBS Bank as well as ComfortDelGro. We even have organisations who are considering adopting Integrated Reporting after viewing our Annual Report.