Annual reports

Why JTC’s maiden report was highly commended for a listed organisation

JTC’s chief communications officer David Vieira believes groundwork was the key to the success of its first annual report

Many maiden voyages are full of risks, and those that come a cropper are often remembered: think the Titantic.

Thankfully, this does not apply to private wealth services house JTC, which, far from hitting any icebergs with its first annual report after listing on the London Stock Exchange, showed how it was done.

David Vieira, chief communications officer at JTC, explains: ‘This was our maiden report, so we wanted to use it to introduce the company to a wider capital markets audience and build on our positioning and profile with existing holders.’ Such was its success that the annual report was highly commended at the 2019 CorpComms Awards.

He adds: ‘It was a really important document for our employees, as every single member of staff at JTC is an owner of the company, so our people are key stakeholders. We also wanted to articulate our long and successful history prior to listing – the business is over 30 years old – and how our strategy has evolved during that time and become what it is today as an engine for further growth.’

The experience means Vieira has much to share with other companies embarking on their first annual report. ‘The lessons we learned were many –it being our first ever annual report – but the key ones were around careful planning, selecting the right expert partners to work with and thinking deeply about the narrative and key messages as well as the hard data in the financials,’ he says.

Prior to its March 2018 listing, the company was backed by private equity – which held a 40 percent stake with employees owning 60 per cent – and as such, there was no requirement to produce an annual report. ‘It would have been seen as an additional cost and also a potential loss of competitive advantage,’ says Vieira.

Before embarking on his debut report, Vieira undertook research to establish the effective criteria of a good report. ‘Having looked at lots of other reports as part of our own planning process, I think the stand out attributes are: clarity of message and overall narrative, ease of reading and finding a way to let the personality of the business shine through,’ he says. ‘We think it’s a very important comms tool and also a great discipline as it makes the business think deeply about its strategy and performance on a regular basis.’

He has also identified other benefits. ‘The process of articulating, clearly and concisely, what we do and how we generate value for the long-term is a great way of regularly testing our strategy and being honest about where we’ve performed and where we could perhaps do even better,’ explains Vieira

‘For our shareholders, it’s an important comms tool as we are relatively new to the listed space and our analyst and media coverage track record is still developing. For our employees, clients and partners it’s a fantastic tool for explaining what we do and why, in a more detailed way than we might otherwise ever get the chance to present in one place.’

But, even after the experience of producing just one annual report, Vieira can see that the requirements are changing. ‘I think is true is that the role of annual reports is constantly changing, or, more accurately, evolving over time,’ he says. ‘The biggest driver of change is probably the [UK Corporate Governance] Code, but in addition, I think the media landscape and how people want to consume reports is changing significantly, with a clear trend towards digital media that goes beyond a simple PDF version of a hard copy report.’

Vieira predicts the Corporate Governance Code will influence the focus of annual reports over time. ‘I think the evolving Code will change the role of the report, in particular in the area of ESG reporting, which is already becoming a standalone addendum report to many existing annual reports,’ he says, adding: ‘I think some of the fundamental roles of the report – to summarise financial performance over a set period, articulate business models and strategy and explain how a company deals with risk and governance matters – will always be present. Reports will also become much richer in terms of media, making greater use of native digital tools, including video, to better articulate narrative, messages and data. I think that development is very exciting. But it will probably pose some challenges in terms of ensuring consistency and being able to easily compare companies based on their reports.’