FIVE MINUTES WITH BAHAREH KHEZR
Bahareh Khezr, head of UK sales at CtrlPrint, talks to Communicate magazine about corporate reporting trends and the challenges facing design platforms today.
What are the dominant trends in corporate reporting today?
Every two years, at CtrlPrint, we conduct a comprehensive survey of our global user base, which comprises approximately 10,000 users. The latest survey has brought to light two recurring challenges that are top of mind for most of them: with the increased sustainability reporting required for CSRD, how do we ensure data quality throughout the reporting process?
And, how do we strike the right balance between machine readability and the human reader of the report? Even if the information sought is the same, a computer and a human read a report differently, creating challenges in the structure and design of the corporate report.
In response to these two key challenges, we are witnessing significant emerging trends. Changes are on the horizon, and it's imperative for issuers to initiate discussions and prepare their respective teams for what lies ahead.
- Annual and sustainability reporting demands increasing collaboration among experts - What was once primarily the domain of the accounting department and the communications team has now become a collective effort, drawing in individuals from various departments, including legal, operational, and more, for data collection, analysis, and report writing. This shift is primarily attributed to directly sourcing sustainability data from within the business. It's also influenced by the necessity of digital tagging, which, to some extent, demands a different set of expertise than in the past.
- Corporate reports are expanding both in size and scope - Conversations with different audit firms have revealed that, according to some, the additional CSRD information alone could necessitate an extra 80 pages in the management report. This surge in information will also bring about heightened demands for the corporate governance report, the remuneration report, and more. It raises the question of whether, in the future, we might witness the emergence of two distinct corporate reports: one dedicated to legal requirements with digital tagging, and another focusing on reputation and strategic aspects.
What recent changes in formatting and design have you noticed in annual reports, and has CtrlPrint been able to adapt to these?
I would argue that the most significant change is not occurring in terms of format and design but rather in the flexibility available for design within annual reports. If you're a brand designer or a creator in the field of annual and sustainability reporting, you're likely grappling with the impact of heightened regulations on your work. These regulations not only prescribe the content of corporate reports but also exert influence over their visual presentation.
At CtrlPrint, we are committed to ensuring that the compliance-driven aspects of corporate reporting do not overshadow the importance of effective communication and messaging. We also strive to prevent machine-readability from compromising accessibility for the average person. We recognise the challenges our users encounter in today's highly regulated corporate landscape, and we stand beside them every step of the way as they navigate this terrain, preserving both creativity and business relevance.
How do you see the future of corporate reporting evolving?
The future of corporate reporting is expected to continue evolving with a focus on mandatory sustainability reporting requirements, integrated reporting, digital transformation, and a greater emphasis on stakeholder engagement. Reporting will become more customised and transparent, with an increased use of AI for data analysis and presentation, and potentially more global convergence of reporting standards.
With CtrlPrint being a cloud-based SaaS service, how is the platform ensuring security for its customers?
Our customers trust us to handle their most important documents. So, information security is something we highly prioritise and part of everything we do. We have been certified according to ISO 27001:2013 Information Security Management since 2016, something that demands that we constantly evolve and stay alert.
We securely provide our services not just by thinking about the past and present, but also about what may be beyond the horizon. We employ robust encryption, access controls, and data protection measures to safeguard customer data. Our platform is regularly updated to address emerging security threats and ensure the highest level of data security. CtrlPrint’s platform is operated at several geographically dispersed data centres to create redundancy. All systems and infrastructure are constantly monitored by both CtrlPrint and our data centre provider. Tests of ‘Disaster recovery’ and ‘Business continuity’ are performed regularly in accordance with our information security policies.
How does CtrlPrint proactively stay informed about, and adapt to, the evolving landscape of reporting standards and guidelines?
That is the million-dollar question, not just for us; it resonates with everyone involved in corporate reporting. Much is happening on many different fronts, primarily driven by regulatory and technical changes. However, the landscape also encompasses design, tools, and much more.
CtrlPrint was founded as an answer to the challenge of simplifying and enhancing the reporting process. Since our inception, we have maintained a close working relationship with our customers. In fact, some of our users have been with us from the very start, and they carry CtrlPrint with them when they transition to new roles. This proximity to our users enables us to receive their input promptly. We also work closely with all the major studios in our key markets and, of course, the Big Four accountancy firms. Furthermore, we maintain strong collaborations with major creative agencies and studios in our key markets and, naturally, with the Big Four accountancy firms.
It may sound strange, but many of our colleagues at CtrlPrint come from IR, agencies and communications backgrounds, so we are passionate about what we do.
We want to empower our clients and we constantly update our platform to ensure that our users can adhere to the latest reporting standards and regulatory requirements, such as ESEF and CSRD. For instance, CtrlPrint features an integrated AI-driven automation module for XBRL tagging and compliance validation. This module is designed to facilitate the production of ESEF-compliant reports, resulting in a substantial reduction in manual effort and the mitigation of potential errors in both financial and non-financial data.