TSR report design

Responding to SEC regulation and improving investor communications






It has always been a requirement for funds to report their total shareholder return, however in late 2022 the US Securities and Exchange Commission adopted amendments to modernise investor shareholder reports.

“Shareholder reports are amongst the most important documents that fund investors receive,” said SEC Chair Gary Gensler. “These reports, however, often are more than 100 pages in length. As a result, a retail investor looking to understand the performance, fees, and other operations of a mutual fund or exchange-traded fund may need to sift through extensive financial information. Today’s final rules will require fund companies to share a concise set of materials that get to the heart of the matter. Further, today’s final rules are designed to promote transparent and balanced presentations of fees and expenses in investment company advertisements”

'The rule amendments will require funds to provide concise, tailored shareholder reports that highlight key information, such as fund expenses, performance, and portfolio holdings. The instructions for the revamped reports will encourage the use of graphic and text features to make them more effective.'

The process of adopting change directives, and proposing unique design solutions is something that we deal with often in the studio and in this case took the form of information design and data visualisation consultancy.

How can we propose a refined user journey that complies with SEC guidance, and is fit-for-purpose? 

The steps that we took in this project . . .

Define the content

We needed to cater to every eventuality to make sure our design solution met all requirements, particularly in a situation where the detail of the document has legal implications and real-world application may have unique use cases. We needed to ensure that we designed to a ‘worst case sccenario’, where the longest title, the shortest chart, every type of source detail could be included within a TSR structure that ensured that this templatic-approach would work well every time.

Provide a clear and concise structure

Ensuring a systematic reading flow was vital. A key step of the project, particularly in reporting where users will want to see topline information at a glance as well as a deep dive into the data – our team plotted the various content components so that we could present them in the best possible manner.Prioritising the content allowed us to ensure that the design led the eye appropriately and didn’t frustrate the user by hiding information that they might want to see upfront and centre. This is often a good stage to work with test audiences utilising qualitative research to infomr design decisions; helping us understand user needs, frustrations and more. This way we could ensure that in meeting SEC guidance we provided the correct user experience.

Design system

With all the information defined to deliver an effective communication suite, we set about building a design system that could work across all applications, meeting accessiblity guidelines and best practice.

Typography is hugely important with copy heavy elements, therefore providing a strong consistency throughout of heading styles, subheading styles, table styles, body text etc was key – all resulting in a better experience for the user. Consistency breeds familiarity for an individual and allows them to understand the flow and pattern of a document and therefore recognise the purpose of a content element quicker than otherwise might be achieved.

The role of colour is also a large part in delivering a successful communication such as this. There are considerations that must be made to the visual style that is being delivered, particularly when communications are co-branded. We built a wide-ranging colour palette that can expand and flex as required. Iconography is also hugely important as it can help signpost users to key information quickly. The structural planning work that was carried out earlier in the process really comes into play here as anything that is of high priority will more often warrant some kind of icon or signifier to draw the user’s eye. 

Delivery and testing

Each design will be interpreted by every user slightly differently and so if you have an audience available to test against, this is of benefit. Working with systems such as Usertesting.com we were able to sense-check our choices, working in an iterative manner to integrate improvements ensuring that the design was both engaging and functional. 

Making it green

Another driver for this change in regulation for the SEC was to make the process more green. Printing and sending 100’s of pages and thousands of reports to customers isn’t necessarily environmentally-friendly. However it is possible to take this one step further and serve users even better.  Our solution set about altering this approach, providing efficiencies to scale and the environment. Embracing a more digital user journey supports this movement, and was a key part of our process review.

Are you a fund brand or broker?

If you are looking to tackle the SEC challenge and refine how you communicate with investors we’d love to chat. Our team integrates directly with yours, supporting your change initiative. Speak with us today and learn how we can partner with you.