Winners in the overall ranking

Tribute to 2nd place
Dirk Ruschmann, BILANZ editorial board member

When it comes to the subject of banks, there are definitely two tribes within my own field of business journalism, and maybe only sports reporting polarises opinion quite so strongly. Basically, those on the inside absolutely love it. And those on the outside wouldn't touch it with a bargepole.

Because banking is a unique and complex business with its own terminology and – whether intended or not – it appears daunting to a lot of outsiders. However, the Liechtensteinische Landesbank's annual report shows that things can be different.

Here is an extract describing the business model – one of the key points in any annual report: “The LLB Group’s business model is based on three high-profit market divisions”, “Retail & Corporate Banking covers the universal banking business in the domestic markets of Lichtenstein and Switzerland (...). Personal and corporate customers thus have the full range of services offered by a universal bank at their disposal.” The second division, Private Banking, includes “investment advice, asset management, asset structuring, financing and finance and retirement planning”.

Even a non-banking journalist like myself can understand what is written here.

Compare this with a passage from an annual report of another of this year’s winners; again, this is about the business model: “Creating added value is (...) central. The company’s business model is based on three phases of value creation, transforming the various resources into innovative, sustainable solutions and generating added value for all stakeholders” – and this “holistic value creation approach” is communicated “in the three dimensions of performance, people and planet”.

You immediately begin to get an idea here of what this company’s employees spend their whole day doing.

The Liechtensteinische Landesbank thus stands out because of its clear information policy and matter-of-fact written style. But there are other highlights: the LLB provided a written specification of its financial objectives to the end of 2020 – the kind of courage to make such a statement is rare, and the jury's financial analyst was particularly delighted to read this. The excellent clarity of the report was also praised; it provides a detailed organisational chart, including people’s names. Unfortunately, this is a praiseworthy exception rather than the norm. Typographically, the printed report is very neat; it has a clear, minimalist layout and not a single poorly designed graphic.

The clarity continues online. Readability is exemplary and a numbers tool enables users to compare all possible financial KPIs over the last five years, with just a few clicks.

However, some aspects could also be improved. The jury had a long discussion about the dialogues of bank employees with outsiders on the subject of excellence. The printed version had photographs and quotes set in speech bubbles; the online version had the transcription of an interview and film clips. Some of the judges found this a bit "staged" or wondered where the connection was with the bank’s business.

There was also some unintentional humour: in the pictures of the Board of Directors and Group management. The photographer clearly made some of the subjects loosen up their poses with a few gestures – as if they wanted to explain something. But unfortunately, although most did as they were told, their gestures did not communicate anything. It certainly increased the entertainment value.

However, the fact remains that the Liechtensteinische Landesbank clearly provided the best annual report compared with other banks. A member of the jury summed it up nicely by pointing out that this company has been at the forefront for some years and keeps getting better.

On that note, congratulations to the team at the Liechtensteinische Landesbank for coming second in the annual report ratings 2018!