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Are quarterly reports old-fashioned?

22/07/13

The financial services industry has embraced innovation in many areas, with high-frequency trading, big data and other technological innovations making an indelible mark on how the sector carries out its business.

However, there is one area where things have remained much the same over the years - quarterly reports.

Writing in the Financial Times, chief executive of Fresenius Group Mark Schneider argued that with the exception of shortening deadlines for filings, little has changed in the decades-old tradition of drawing up reports every three months.

By not taking advantage of the vast improvements offered by IT businesses are "missing opportunities to lower our cost of capital and to tighten financial management", as well as not providing the best possible service to investors and stakeholders.

In an environment where newswires and social media platforms like Twitter make it easier than ever to disseminate breaking stories, the quarterly model looks somewhat outdated, declared Mr Schneider.

However, the current system suits many executives down the ground, which is likely why it has yet to change.

As ramped-up regulation increases the burden of disclosure and red tape, the prospect of more frequent reporting is one that many chief financial officers are likely to find unattractive.

According to Mr Schneider, though, changing the reporting model can actually ensure things run more smoothly, as well as improving the relationship between companies and their investors by developing enhanced levels of trust.

"Businesses would benefit from improved internal financial controls as a result of a streamlined reporting structure. The timeliness of operating decisions would improve with more frequent disclosures. Investors would benefit from tighter financial management," he declared.

With the focus firmly placed on UK firms' reporting practices, they will gain nothing from attempting to fiddle their books in order to make them look more positive at the end of each quarter.

As public opprobrium to tricks like this rise and further rulings clamp down on malpractice, more regular reporting could be one way for companies to stand out from their competitors.

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