Adriana de Roock, Managing Director Greymatter & Finch: Use reporting to improve business

“As a JSE-listed company you have to spend money on an integrated report. So the best thing you can do as a CFO is to use that money and leverage it to improve the business and to keep your investor network abreast of what your company is planning for the long term,” says Adriana de Roock, Managing Director at Greymatter & Finch.

Her fast growing company, born in the Cape but with an expanding footprint in Johannesburg, offers just that. "We do everything in-house. We interview executives, collect data, write the different sections, design the book, set the accounts and organise the printing. We also convert everything to digital formats and results presentations."

De Roock and her team of 47 people have a refreshing approach to the process of compiling and publishing an integrated report, a grudge spend for many CFOs. "I was part of the shareholder services team for Sanlam and worked on their annual report," she explains. "That is why GMF can avoid the things that irritated me as a client." When she left Sanlam in 2001, de Roock started her company (then named Imagine-BTLS) with her business partner, in the second room of her house.

She has clearly been doing something right, because now de Roock is running a R50 million company, with ambitions to grow the turnover substantially. "The plan is to cater for the South African market specifically. We have been gearing up and have taken a big leap in the last two years. The mothership remains in Stellenbosch, but the flagship is going to be Johannesburg."

To gain market share over competitors, Greymatter & Finch needs to convince CFOs - and sometimes company secretaries or even marketing departments - that reporting can be value-adding rather than a chore. "We have found that often, only companies that rely on reputation, like Woolworths or Sanlam, take integrated reporting seriously as a leveraging tool. There is still pushback from CFOs and CEOs. They are sensitive about competitive information and are reluctant to share hard targets, but they are starting to understand the value of explaining why you did or didn't do something. The competition will find out about your plans if they really want to, so there is nothing wrong with talking about your strategy process. Naturally, you don't have to give your tactical manoeuvres or information about your competitive edge away."

Greymatter & Finch specializes in producing and writing integrated reports for listed companies or organisations that behave as listed companies. "It is an environment that is incredibly statutory and regulatory driven, even before you start thinking about best practice," says de Roock. Recently the JSE has changed a fair amount of listing requirements that has impacted the reporting process. "It is, for example, no longer compulsory to publish your newspaper results in two languages," de Roock says. She doesn't expect a total move away from paper reports for now. "We do anticipate reporting to make the leap past laptops and straight to handheld devices at some point…."

De Roock says clients often do not understand the potential advantages of integrated reports. The famous line of many CFOs is 'we have been successful; we want to focus on making money'. An advantage of bringing in an outside service provider such as Greymatter & Finch is that while they compile the integrated report, they are able to pick up systemic gaps in the business. "For example we pick up if the strategy is not linked to the risk register or remuneration. CFOs can use our report to go back into the business and improve it. And make more money."

Later this year Greymatter & Finch will potentially announce a partnership offering with a known- brand firm offering a more extensive follow-up service to improve business processes. "More and more CFOs are starting to come around about integrated reporting. They are feeling pressure from international investors from European and American markets," says de Roock, who is also in the process of establishing cooperation with a top UK corporate communications, digital and brand agency. We have a staff turnover of 1 percent and our client retention is almost perfect. I think that says a lot."

If you also would like to share your ideas with the CFO community, you want to be part of the leading CFO South Africa Community or you want to know more about hosting a CFO South Africa event, you are most welcome to get in touch with CFO SA. Please contact Jurriën Morsch at [email protected]

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