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Should boards go digital?

08/08/13

Financial directors and those tasked with creating reports for executive and non-executive boards have been subject to many changes in recent years as regulation and digitalisation impinge on their role.

While discussions have already been had about the concept of changing a quarterly report to a more regular one, this applies only to publications aimed at stakeholders, offering greater transparency and engagement.

For the board of directors themselves, though, problems have also arisen when it comes to dealing with the huge mass of data they are expected to sift through.

Charlie Horrell, managing director for Digital Boardbooks, recently suggested that making use of a board portal could make it easier for executives to grasp the salient points of the information they are presented with.

Writing in Financial Director, he pointed out that many directors have major travel commitments and often serve on more than one board, meaning they are expected to disseminate hundreds of pages of facts each month.

"With a secure board portal, users have the convenience of getting board materials on their iPad or browser - with content tailored to their specific roles, committees and boards, ensuring higher relevance, not to mention tighter security," Mr Horrell declared.

There is little doubt that the increased public scrutiny on boards, as well as the tendency of stockholders to become edgy and concerned in the current economic climate, is placing pressure on directors to know their stuff.

In the Financial Reporting Council (FRC's) latest report, published in June, it stressed that it is keen to focus on its key priority of ensuring investors can benefit from effective boards and well-informed directors.

The organisation hopes to learn from Lord Sharman's review suggesting that too much corporate governance remains 'mechanistic', and encourage auditors to produce more accessible and engaging accounts.

To what extent digitalisation has a role to play is uncertain, but it's clear that finance professionals can no longer get away with only knowing how to turn on their calculator.

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