Paul Holmes 01 Dec 2002 // 12:00AM GMT
More than half of senior executives at multinational companies in the U.S. and western Europe believe their company should improve its level of transparency to investors and other stakeholders, according to the most recent PricewaterhouseCoopers management barometer survey. And while eight in 10 say their company now provides a high level of disclosure, about 40 percent say they would personally expect more information from their company if they were an outside investor.
Nearly all survey respondents agree that transparency is important to their company. Non-financial data such as customer retention and new product development, and information about business strategies head the list of disclosures they say could be improved.
“In the wake of corporate reporting scandals, better than 90 percent of top executives on both sides of the Atlantic recognize the importance of transparency for their company,” says Robert Eccles, PricewaterhouseCoopers senior fellow and co-author of the new book Building Public Trust—The Future of Corporate Reporting. “Likewise, they understand that lack of transparency can lead to negative consequences for the capital markets, ranging from a loss of investor confidence to weak economic growth.”
Nevertheless, just over one-half of U.S. executives, and 35 percent of those in Europe regard their company as “extremely transparent,” to independent directors. “Of course,” Eccles said, “the question remains whether directors, analysts and investors would agree that companies are as transparent as their executives believe they are.”
But even some of the executives themselves would agree that transparency could be improved. Asked how much information their own company would have to provide in order to achieve the transparency level they would personally expect as an outside investor, 38 percent in the U.S. and 44 percent in Europe said they would expect more.
“While most executives think their company does a good job in providing information to stakeholders, it’s noteworthy that so many of them admit they would expect a greater level of transparency if they were private investors,” Eccles said. “I anticipate that realization will add impetus to the movement for greater transparency in corporate reporting.”