Radley Yeldar and SmithsRatings: Neverending story on Rankings.

I would deeply question all paid rankings made public.

I think it’s a bad human habit to rank and order everything. But obviously there is a need for this: Producers of annual reports need to reason and measure their work to justify their budgets. Perfect ingredients for intransparency and dilettantism. Worst for me are those taking an entry fee to rank a report and then celebrate the results in a broad audience to please their sponsors.

Big agencies not only get high discounts for multiple entries, their reports are also ranked significantly higher, as they account for the big money! He who pays the piper calls the tune. And to add injury to insult these rankings are not covering all annual reports. As a result I would deeply question all paid rankings made public.

Recently two British agencies Radley Yeldar and Smiths have published their rankings on online annual reports.

Both of them are unpaid and covering all relevant companies following the FTSE-100 and FTSE-350 respectively. Two main reasons to trust in them and having a closer look! Both our UK clients again did very well (Shell #4 and #3, Legal & General #2 and #15). Nevertheless I am curious where these results evolve from.

  • Smiths #1 and #2 do not offer their financial statements in HTML but integrated them as simple PDF download. Searching or crosslinking within the entire report is not possible any more, a no go for us!
  • Last year Shell won both rankings and we even improved several things for this years reporting. Others must have done fabulous, or the criteria changed significantly?

The point is I can’t get a proper explanation on how the rankings are built. Radley Yeldar just mention on ‘How we did it’ four categories with some e.g. leaving lots of question marks for me, like how the criteria are weighted. In their ‘Methodology’ Smiths only mention that 22 separate points are looked at, not telling which points these are and no word about importance/weightings.

I totally agree with Paul Greenwood from the group who recently wrote in his blog: “None of this is to say that we’re against ranking of web sites or annual reports. But the process needs to be transparent and fair, especially if agencies want to avoid accusations of self interest.”

I am sure both agencies do very hard work with their rankings, I just think we should all add a little bit more transparency. Maybe we all could explore some common ground and learn from each others criteria? That would add a lot of trust and security for our current and prospective clients!


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  1. It is fascinating to follow the increasing amount of debate, comment and discussion around online annual reporting, which really seems to prove that this area of corporate communication has come of age.

    I do believe that the assertion that transparency is crucial is right and we are keen to engage with everyone who has an interest in online reporting at every level because this is a debate we are loving as much as our clients who see this analysis as highly valuable when preparing their corporate report suite for 2009/10.

    Simon Freeman
    The Smiths Partnership

  2. Thanks Simon,

    your offer ist much appreciated! I would love to start an open discussion on criterias for online reporting. Maybe we can present the outcome at a panel or IR Informer Breakfast together with the IR Society?

    Let’s discuss and spread the word!