What makes a creative, intriguing or visually stunning credit union or bank annual report?
Publicly traded banks are required to issue both an annual report and a 10-K. While the latter is strictly formatted by the SEC, the annual report has few limitations. Nevertheless, many banks don’t go beyond an uninspired document filled with numbers and statistics that is ultimately a drudge for anyone to flip through, let alone read. Many credit unions do the same.
To take this approach to an annual banking report is a missed opportunity — at minimum to broadcast a bank or credit union’s brand, if not to showcase some of the best highlights of the previous year.
There is no right way to style an annual report. At the least, a financial institution’s annual report should represent the institution’s overall mission. But it can also be a great way to tie together the various departments across a bank or credit union and engage the entire team.
The Financial Brand combed through hundreds of bank and credit union annual reports, to find those that raise the bar in terms of graphics, communication creativity and other factors. The majority of the annual reports shown below are for the 2021 year, although we included a select few covering the 2020 year.
Please note: You can click on any image in the gallery to enlarge it.
Corporate America Family Credit Union (CAFCU)
It doesn’t take heavy investments in photoshoots and digital design to create an annual report that will stand out in a crowd. Sometimes, all it takes is integrating unique fonts and translucent colored shapes over a photo to add depth.
CAFCU’s report is a strong example. There is a visual congruity throughout the report, starting with the cover and including the two pages highlighting notable facts from the year before, as shown above.
Simmons First National Bank
Talk about a unique way to demonstrate key facts about a bank. Simmons First — instead of presenting statistics from the year in a boring table — assembled its top data points in a captivating collage that is easy to read.
What adds depth to the infographic is that each fact uses variable fonts and point sizes. Also helpful are the red lines and icons that break up the text and data points.
Just about every annual report has pictures of people in it: doing banking, on their phones, running outside, laughing. It provides a human touch, but it is seldom that an annual report will stray from conventional stock photos, which often look contrived.
Barclays, on the other hand, found a way to add a human element to presenting data and text on a page by skipping the usual branch or office background and replacing it with a color screen, allowing both the people and data to really pop.
Evansville Teachers Federal Credit Union
Finding new and unique ways to advertise banking products is a financial marketer’s dream. Evansville Teachers FCU did just that by embedding marketing for its checking accounts and debit cards in its 2021 annual report.
Beyond the minimalist cover, the report offers compelling examples of how to present data on a page, show off awards received in the previous year and showcase products.
Every financial institution wants to grow and, when it does, its marketing director wants to show off the progress. A map in the annual report is an excellent way to accomplish that.
Bank OZK’s map was particularly effective because of its simplicity. The bank is in eight states thus far, but a reader can visualize the trajectory of the bank’s market expansion without needing to know much about the institution.
What better way to brand your annual report than with your own backyard? The sunset photos in Sierra Bank’s annual report — from the Sierra Nevada mountains, along the eastern edge of California’s San Joaquin Valley (the bank’s primary market) — are eye catchers.
However, the creativity goes beyond gorgeous photos.
On the right side of the inside opening pages is where Sierra Bank features its branch network, its mission statement and its unique “7 Key Strategies” — the bank’s internal success philosophy for its employees, shared here with investors and customers.
Integris Credit Union
Integris’ creative strategy is like Sierra Bank’s — picking up on the geographic theme of its market. The Canadian credit union, with its outdoorsy logo, has a consistent branding style that flows through its annual report.
Not every bank and credit union will have a strong visual connection to the land, but it can be a good team-building practice to find creative ways to infuse your financial institution’s community into your annual report.
More Ideas from Last Year’s Gallery: 29 of the Best Annual Reports in Banking
The first page of Uwharrie Bank’s annual report is simply good-looking. It outlines the North Carolina-based bank’s mission statement, bottled up in a series of statements over a picture of a misty forest.
Done poorly, this approach can be cheesy. Uwharrie, however, does it well and the page is a strong preface to the rest of the bank’s annual report.
First Interstate Bank
If your bank marketing team needs more map-oriented inspiration, look no further than First Interstate’s annual report.
Instead of showing where the bank doesn’t serve, their map highlights where the bank can be found — and not just by state. It reflects a glass half-full mindset. Anyone can open the report and find the closest First Interstate branch.
When the year has been productive, Marketing will want to show off the impressive data. But it’s difficult to compile it all into a neat package that isn’t number heavy, or overwhelmed by large amounts of text.
Fentura Financial’s annual report is a good example of how a bank or credit union can assemble statistics in a digestible way.
Note too the small icons, which add to the narrative.
Altra Federal Credit Union
Bold type can easily be overdone, but used judiciously, it has a strong impact in an annual report. Striking colors make the big type stand out even more, emphasizing the branding of the bank or credit union. That’s evident in the Table of Contents and ‘Our Vision’ pages of Altra FCU’s 2020 annual report.
Big type is mostly absent from the cover, however, where the credit union took a more conventional approach, reflecting the pandemic’s impact of that year.
A reader can flip to any page in Ally Bank’s annual report and identify the key motif the bank uses across all its marketing campaigns. The font, the color schemes and even the shapes Ally incorporates in the report are shared with the bank’s website, their mobile app and their ads.
The digital bank’s annual report is another strong example of how to simplify data points and visualize them in a way that doesn’t overwhelm a reader.
1st Advantage Federal Credit Union
Using a wider “landscape” format gives 1st Advantage more page space to work with — which its marketing team took full advantage of.
Another interesting point about 1st Advantage’s report is it is interactive when you view it on the credit union’s website. The two arrows and house icon in the upper right-hand corner are clickable, adding another layer of depth compared with most generic, downloadable annual report PDFs.
National Bank of Canada
National Bank’s annual report uses a crisp, clean and bold look to help gets its key messages across.
What stands out is the balance of colors — the red, with navy blue accents, works with the light blue and white backgrounds on the pages shown above and throughout the rest of the report. Using red to point out the ‘big’ numbers for people to remember establishes a precedent: What is in red is what you need to know.
What separates Scotiabank’s annual report from the crowd is its cover and first opening pages.
Interestingly the creative team at Scotiabank added some subtle sophistication up front. Note how on the cover there is an image within the logo suggesting rapid motion. On the next page, that same visual is used behind the statistics and opening thoughts as a background.
Even subtle things like this can make a creative difference.
Eastern Bank’s annual report is another great example of how to visualize operational data with clarity and simplicity. Through the use of a few bars with subheads, icons to section off the statistics and branded color combinations to offset traditional methods of data presentation, they achieved a distinctive — and readable — look.
Synchrony Bank’s annual report is an example of how to use pictures of people in different dimensions. The cover shows a woman stepping through a slim doorway created by the bank’s logo. It is another creative way of embedding a human touch without using a stock photo as is.
The use of an article format on the two informational pages pictured is a different take on how a bank can integrate product marketing into its annual report.
If Equity Bank’s annual report looks like a trip to the eye doctor, you’re getting the point. It’s a clever take on the year “2020.”
The theme wouldn’t work in 2021 or later, of course, but thinking outside the box creatively when you can is a great way to get customers and other stakeholders engaged.
Georgia’s Own Credit Union
Not every impressive annual report has to be color heavy. A grayscale — even minimalist — look can set you apart.
The opening spread of the Georgia’s Own annual report has numbers galore. However, the spacing makes reading the statistics easy and the contrast with the left page with its black background and white text is striking.
While a grayscale theme can be very effective, Republic Bank shows what can be done with well-integrated colors.
What makes their bold color scheme so effective is its association with goals and ideals the bank looks to highlight throughout the report. For instance, on the first page in the spread, one can see dark green is associated with climate action. On the second page, the reader can pick out which smaller goals are then tied into the larger ‘Climate Action’ goal.
Annual reports can run long — very long. There is a lot of information to pack into one document. A Table of Contents page can sometimes fall by the wayside and a reader could end up flipping through the report without any real purpose.
Access Bank’s annual report is a strong demonstration of how to design a Table of Contents to help customers and investors parse out what’s in the report. Be sure to make the page numbers interactive in the online pdf version.
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Not every page in an annual report has to be filled to the brim. A financial marketer can put white space to work for them. Commonwealth Bank used white space effectively in its 2021 annual report. Its marketing team also strategically used colors, particularly on the spread shown here, to bring attention to the numbers it wanted to highlight.
One mistake we feel Commonwealth Bank made with its report is leaving out its name on the front cover. The first time you see the Australian bank’s name is at the bottom of the Table of Contents in small print, although its logo does appear (the yellow diamond) on the cover.
First Internet Bank
Sometimes visualizing data works best as large numbers on a page. Sometimes, it’s with bars and charts and sometimes it’s a mix of the two, as above.
Although subtle, First Internet’s watermarks behind the graphics add depth to the two data pages and provide a nice offset from a plain, white background.
Not only does Buffalo, N.Y.-based M&T Bank avoid resorting to cookie-cutter stock art in its annual reports, it has a tradition of featuring works of artists from the communities it serves.
For 2021, it chose to include artwork from artists who are part of ARISE — an organization supporting people with disabilities. The large-format artwork illuminates the opening pages of the bank’s annual report.
Annual Reports Made For the Internet:
Before wrapping up, The Financial Brand highlights additional annual reports which are made to be interactive. What makes these unique is their formatting — all five of these were pre-formatted as interactive versions of annual reports. Readers can easily click through the reports like flipping through a book (one even plays the sound effects) while others move and shift as you scroll through.