Performance Perspectives Blog

Client Reporting: Needed or Not?

by | Jun 14, 2012

At yesterday’s TSG PMAR Europe III in London, Stefan Illmer (for) battled John D. Simpson (opposed) on the subject of client reporting standards: Stefan was victorious.

Stefan’s victory should not be interpreted as support for the standards, as the vote is intended to be on debating skills. After the “battle” we did a quick poll of the attendees, and it appeared to me that the group slightly opposed the idea of having such rules, though it was close. This marks about the fifth time we’ve surveyed a group on this subject, and on every occasion, the “nays” have out polled the “yeas.” In the past the vote was very much against, but this time it was definitely closer.

This battle was a “redo” of one that occurred last month in Philadelphia, during PMAR North America X, when Neil Riddles (opposed) defeated Frances Barney (for). Clearly, there are many who support the idea of reporting standards, but I believe most folks, when asked, do not.

At last year’s London conference, Stefan provided some details on the standards; he is the chair of  the committee (working group) that has been charged with developing these rules; the expected date of their arrival is year-end ’12 or early ’13.

Whether these will be

  • Standards
  • Guidelines
  • or “Best Practices,” whatever that means

is still to be determined. While I am okay with guidelines (as appear to be most folks we’ve surveyed), I oppose standards, for reasons which will be detailed in this month’s newsletter.

The CFA Institute is sponsoring this effort, and their motives should always be viewed as admiral. But that being said, I question the need for this effort, since there are no common problems with client reporting. As Stefan mentioned yesterday, occasionally we hear of individuals who “need guidance,” but there’s quite a distance between “guidance” and “standards.”

Once more we hear words which too often miscommunicate what is really being provided: “best practices.” What this will no doubt be are the opinions of a select group of individuals, not the thoughts of the industry at large. And so, this should be (but probably won’t be) stated as “the opinions of the working group as to what best practices are or should be.”

Speaking of the working group, its makeup remains a secret, which I find curious and to an extent, troubling. We have made a few attempts to learn the identities of these individuals who were handpicked to participate in this effort, but the names have not been provided. Why not? It appears to resemble the Manhattan Project, as no clues have been forthcoming and may not be until the document is released.

While there are many things I look forward to, the delivery of these standards is not among them, as their arrival will be unwelcome by many, I am sure.

  • reporting guidelines: yes;
  • reporting standards: no.

It remains to be seen what arrives.

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