SFC report must meet needs of wide audience

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 02 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 02 November, 2011, 12:00am


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As a public body, the Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) places importance on transparency and accountability in the way it operates, which also includes the way the SFC produces its annual report.

'Our corporate values define the way we work, communicate and make decisions. To ensure that our organisational culture of being professional, proactive and collaborative is reflected in our annual report, we apply sound co-ordination and communication skills and expertise at every stage,' says Ashley Alder, the SFC's CEO, who points out the annual report project is cross-divisional and engages the entire SFC.

Selecting the theme 'revitalisation' to reflect the objective of regulatory reforms, the SFC says the report is designed to meet the needs of a wide audience ranging from industry participants to government officials, journalists, investors, prospective employees and students.

'Since regulatory work is, by nature, technical, in addition to chronicling our regulatory work of the past year, we strive to give our readers a simplified yet accurate overview of our roles and responsibilities in a meaningful and easy-to-understand way,' says Alder.

According to the SFC's External Relations Department (ERD), the 'revitalisation' theme aligns with efforts to rectify structural deficiencies, rebuild market confidence and revive Hong Kong's financial markets. Water was used as an analogy because it is recognised as an essential element for any life form. 'Water refreshes, revitalises and nourishes. Similarly, as they evolve, reforms are also vital in supporting and strengthening our financial markets,' says the ERD.

The ERD says to underline the importance of continuing to reinforce the SFC's regulatory model designed to meet market changes and challenges, the report goes beyond reporting past achievements and highlights regulatory vision and plans for moving forward. To achieve this, the SFC has introduced a new 'Corporate Outlook', chapter, which emphasises corporate priorities and plans to address changes and challenges ahead.

'Commitment to continuous improvement is reflected in the way various aspects of the report are fine-tuned, such as content structure, clarity of information and readability,' says the ERD.

To ensure the report is written in a style that is easy to read, the SFC believes effective internal communication and co-ordination play a key role.

'Given the diversity of our audiences, we adopt the litmus approach of writing for those who least understand the industry or our organisation. It is always a challenge to explain in plain language something that is legal or technical in nature. We strive to get better at it from year to year,' says the ERD.

Content contributors responsible for representing various units are thoroughly briefed on the process and are provided with written guidelines on how to present information. Questions and templates are also provided to help them think through the process and organise their input.

Contributors are also reminded to adhere to the corporate style rules to ensure consistency. When the initial drafts are completed, the editorial team in the ERD reviews and edits for clarity, content and readability.

To help readers conceptualise complex ideas, wherever possible graphics, flow charts, diagrams and tables are used throughout the report. The report also includes several new features such as 'Statistics at a Glance' to draw attention to key statistical indicators.

Meanwhile, the display of financial statements was redesigned for easier reading. Besides highlighting the columns containing figures of the reporting year, different shades of the same colour of paper were used to differentiate one section of financials from another. The annual report also includes a dedicated chapter on corporate governance and another explaining commitment to corporate social responsibilities.

For the first time, the SFC report is available as an interactive internet version.

'Our objective is two-fold, to facilitate information search by internet-conversant stakeholders and to reduce wastage of hard copies in support of a greener environment. In line with our effort to encourage the use of our online version, we reduced the print run of the annual report by 50 per cent,' says the ERD.