Survey: trends in corporate reporting.

For the third time in a row, we have asked stock-listed companies to give us their opinion on the most important trends and developments in corporate reporting.

(Zur deutschsprachigen Version)

What are the major trends and developments in corporate reporting? The answer to this question can be found in our survey “Corporate Reporting Insights”. For the third time in a row (2009, 2014, 2019), stock-listed companies in the DACH region were asked about important developments in corporate reporting. This year the study was carried out by nexxar in cooperation with the Vienna University of Economics and Business Administration (WU Wien).

In 2019, our sample of the German DAX, MDAX and TecDAX companies was expanded by the Austrian ATX and Swiss SMI companies. The survey took place between July and August 2019. 60 companies from a total of 141 companies across the mentioned indices took part in the survey, resulting in a quite high response rate of 42.6%.

This article summarises the main findings of our survey. You can request the full study (15 pages, in German language) free of charge via email:

Four most important trends

1. Moving away from the printed report

In earlier days, printed annual reports were of great importance. They were used as giveaways and seen as the pride of the company. This status has clearly changed in the course of the years resulting in a massive decline in print runs. According to our long-time study, a company from the DAX30 printed about 30,842 copies back in 2009. Today – ten years later – print runs have been reduced to an average of 1,856 copies. This corresponds with a decline of 94 percent. The same tendency is also observable in MDAX (-86.0%) and TecDAX (-81.0 %) companies. 62.0% of all respondents moreover assume that the print runs of their annual reports will decline significantly within the next five years.

Annual report print runs in Germany

Source: Vienna University of Economics and Business (2019), nexxar (2009, 2014) | N = 2009: 51, 2014: 37, 2019: 49

2. Digital as leading channel

What was formerly printed on paper is now published in the medium of this century: the world wide web. Not surprisingly, since this is also the place where readers are. In comparison to their printed counterparts, digital reports still reach thousands of readers – and potentially even more. In this context, the study clearly shows a tendency towards digital reporting formats, of which PDF, the reporting standard XBRL and digital annual reports (HTML) are said to have the greatest potential and importance. 59% of all respondents even assume that in the future, reports will only be provided in a digital format. Five years ago, this was only assumed by 34% of all respondents.

Current and future importance of reporting formats

Source: Vienna University of Economics and Business (2019) | Basis: all valid answers (mean values) | N = 50-58

3. The paradox of report communication

Even though the environment of reports is becoming more and more digital, the reports themselves are seldomly thought digitally. Among others this becomes apparent in the lacking active communication of the report, the so-called Push Reporting. Companies are investing loads of working hours and big sums of money in project parts such as planning, editing and design but forget about the report communication after publication, contrary to all other communication products. For most respondents, the annual report project is completed with publication. Only 36.8% of all respondents communicate content pieces from their reports in the months after publication.

4. XBRL – the (un)known future

It is clear from the results of the study that the importance of the reporting standard XBRL is growing the most. This does not come as a surprise, since the majority of respondent companies are obliged to provide parts of their annual report content (in particular the financial statements) in this new format by FY 2020. Even though this development has been predicted for quite some time now, not all companies seem to be prepared: Around 35% of all companies have either not yet dealt with the topic sufficiently or are not familiar with the term XBRL at all.

This article summarises the main findings of our survey. You can request the full study (15 pages, in German language) free of charge via email: