The Work-From-Home Survival Guide for Investment Reporting
Daily life has changed, in more ways than one. These days, I find myself juggling my own work with helping my fourth-grade son keep up his schoolwork from home. I'm used to dealing with financial plans, not lesson plans!
As fund and investment reporting teams adjust, Workiva is rolling out videos and other resources in our Handbook for the New Normal of Accounting, Finance, and Risk. It's available to help you tackle immediate challenges while you work from home. If you prefer reading (or don't have headphones handy), here are a few of the biggest takeaways from my videos.
What COVID-19 relief is the SEC extending to investment fund reporting teams?
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is making deadline extensions available for certain investment funds' filings in light of COVID-19. While the extensions are nice, they should only be used in dire circumstances. If the latest disclosures and financial information aren’t available, investors (and the public) are working with inadequate information. This could affect the health of the company or damage trust in the marketplace. Not to mention, it could create a bottleneck for future work.
So, now is a good time for your team to smooth out the process of working together remotely while you get ready to file.
If your Form ADV, Form PF, N-PORT, or N-CEN were due before June 30, the SEC is giving you a 45-day extension to file if you meet certain requirements, the commission said March 25. Check out the SEC’s website for the latest updates and details, including what to put in your email to the SEC to qualify for the relief.
The delivery of fund prospectuses, annual, and semi-annual shareholder reports also can be delayed if they were due before June 30. You still need to send shareholder reports to shareholders as soon as possible and no later than 45 days after the original due date—and you must also file them with the SEC within 10 days of sending them to shareholders. Read the SEC's orders and announcements for the full details.
More broadly, coronavirus-related delays in SEC filings are already happening. "In March we saw an uptick in NT 10-Ks versus prior years," said Nick Mazing, Director of Research at Sentieo, the corporate and financial research platform.
"We are seeing almost 300 NT 10-Ks this March, versus 211 in the prior year. While some are filed for the 'usual' reasons for delays, we do see a number of COVID-related delays." They include a filer who cited "limited access to company records by employees and consultants," while another filer mentioned the lockdown in France where the headquarters and finance operations are located, he said.
"All of these examples really underscore the need for use of modern, connected technology for critical reporting and compliance functions," Mazing said.
How to prepare and file prospectuses and shareholder reports remotely
Filing season was stressful even before the new coronavirus pandemic, and things are only going to get more challenging now that we can't walk over to a co-worker's desk for help. Here are three things to help you collaborate more easily.
Gather all the information you need into a central location, whether it’s a shared drive or cloud platform that internal and external contributors can access (with the right permissions, of course). That limits the amount of time people spend hunting for data or documents.
Nail down how you will manage version control, since emailing documents back and forth can get messy. Consider using a cloud solution that enables real-time collaboration, so everyone always has the most recent version of a document.
Create standards and share templates and style guides, so when contributors enter information, it’s already in the format you need.
The name of the game is limiting the amount of manual, repetitive tasks you have to do, so you can spend time on more important tasks.
How to streamline reviews, signoffs, and approvals
In times like these, digital reviews are the way to go. The following tips are friendly reminders for those of us lucky enough to have these resources already in place—or an awesome wishlist to keep in mind while evaluating new software.
1. Ensure access
This is easy to forget, but make sure the internal and external people who need to sign off have secure access to the same tools that you do for a live review and commenting process. When a crunch happens, you don't want to be bogged down with technology issues.
2. Leave a trail
Look for tools that give you an audit trail of activity. This will help save time later, when someone needs to see who changed what and when.
3. Document change
Take advantage of blacklines—or redlines as some people call them—to quickly see what changed between two versions of a document. I have heard from some filers who outsource that it can take several hours for their vendors to deliver a blackline. Remember to build that time into your process (or explore how to create your own blacklines in minutes by using Workiva for investment reporting).
How to file to the SEC from home
If you don't know your CIK or your password to file to the SEC, this would be a fantastic time to track them down so you can file on your own, remotely.
While we're on the subject of planning ahead, I would say the more you can get done before filing day, the easier it’s going to be—especially if you're submitting documents for dozens, even hundreds of funds or annuities. Try to prefill and save most of the filing submission ahead of time.
- Make sure you have access to preview your EDGAR filing after every change, so you can see how it will look.
- To reduce the risk that a last-minute change results in the wrong version of a document being filed, it might be worth agreeing on a set date and time when no one is allowed to make any more changes. I can't count how often I've seen a financial reporting team, for example, make an edit that the legal team didn't know about.
Workiva is here—even from the couch
The Workiva platform was built for times like this, to help teams file whenever, from wherever. I’ve used Workiva to help people file when I was on vacation, 15 time zones away. I’ve even filed from an Uber!
Please reach out if you'd like to see how Workiva can help you centralize work, enable real-time collaboration, and give you back control over your filing process. After all, we're all in this together.