The Lasting Impact of COVID-19 on Investor Relations
After a year of remote work, virtual meetings, and vaccine anticipation, we’re beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel with respect to COVID-19. Vaccination campaigns are underway across the US and Canada, giving hope to many that travel restrictions might soon ease up and return to normal. Nevertheless, the pandemic has forced investor relations teams to go digital and there’s no turning back. We surveyed buy-side professionals across a variety of roles to better understand which remote investor relations best practices will outlast the pandemic. We’ll also share some tips from the sell-side for better virtual investor relations.
Are Virtual Meetings Effective?
During the pandemic, virtual meetings conducted via Zoom, Microsoft Meetings, and Google Hangouts became the norm. Phone calls, quarterly meetings, and roadshows were all replaced with teleconferences and webcasting. In an ideal world virtual investor relations wouldn’t replace in person conduct, but rather supplement it. We asked buy-side survey participants if they felt virtual meetings were effective in guiding investment decisions.
A majority of respondents (77.7%) did indeed feel that virtual meetings were effective for evaluating issuers. Here is what some of them had to say regarding the sudden shift to virtual events:
“They are very effective, we don’t actually feel we are losing that much by not sitting face-to-face with people. Obviously right now it’s the only choice, but it allows companies to stay in front of investors, which is very important.” - Lee Goldman, Senior Portfolio Manager at CI Signature
Another respondent echoed the sentiment:
“If you asked before the pandemic started, I would’ve said it was ineffective. However now I would say that it’s very effective. In the last 10 years there has been a big change and the buy-side has gotten a lot better at working with technology, so virtual events are a no brainer for any company trying to connect with investors during this current COVID pandemic.” - Gerard Ferguson, CEO at Jemmek Capital
In particular, many respondents also indicated that they prefer virtual meetings in the early stages of meeting with issuers. To some investors, virtual meetings were particularly effective to replace initial phone and email conversations.
“Effective. It will be ever-growing, it does change the reference point of phone calls. If I worked in investor relations, I would insist that all communications moving forward be virtual meetings” - Peter Man, Partner & Co-Chief Executive Officer at Grayhawk Investments.
“Definitely helpful, virtual events facilitate an environment where there is more information than if we were to just read about a company. “ - Sean Mcnulty, Principal at XIB Financial Inc.
If your company hasn’t been using virtual meeting platforms to connect with shareholders or new investors, it’s definitely time to revisit. Investors definitely appreciate the added layer of transparency that virtual meetings afford, as opposed to a phone call which doesn’t allow for face-to-face interaction. Additionally, a virtual investor conference can help you reach more people as you scale, especially if you’re looking to attract retail investors.
Tips For Virtual Investor Relations
We had the opportunity to ask some of our sell-side clients about their best practices for virtual investor relations. Some of the most important themes discussed include time savings, technological proficiency, and the importance of staying organized.
Take Advantage of Your Extra Time
One of the most noticeable benefits of virtual meetings are the time savings. Rather than flying across the continent and taking meetings in person, IROs are able to take meetings from the comfort of their own home. No airports, no traffic, and no commuting required.
So what should you be doing with this extra time?
In addition to obvious things like contacting more investors and booking more meetings, you should be using mutual time savings to accelerate schedules with investors. Instead of planning to be in the same city and hoping your schedules will align, you can cut out delays and have meaningful conversations with prospective investors much sooner. Perhaps you might host a virtual investor conference as a preliminary step, and then follow up with in person meetings after you’ve identified qualified investors.
Be Technologically Adept
After over a year, it’s no longer acceptable to be flabbergasted with virtual conferencing software. Hopefully you’ve been using some of that extra time to get comfortable with the changing technological landscape of IR. Not only is webcasting software here to stay, but sophisticated IR software has also earned its place as go-to technology.
When it comes to virtual conferencing, make sure you know your way around your platform of choice like it’s the back of your hand. You should never assume that the person on the other end of the video call is an expert on your platform, so you should be able to troubleshoot any startup issues. Additionally, many virtual conferencing solutions have features like screen sharing, annotation, and participant management that you should be aware of. Being able to confidently run a virtual roadshow will give your investors increased confidence in your company.
IR software has changed so much in the last 20 years, and yet there are still IROs using spreadsheets and Y2K-era software. With the investor landscape changing so much over the past few years, it’s worthwhile to check out what improvements have been made. Sure, you can still use spreadsheets and legacy software to do the job, but you’ll be much more efficient with a solution tailor made to monitor shareholders and find investors without hassles.
Najim Mosamand, Director of Investor Relations at KushCo, had this to say about using software to qualify investors:
I like to use Irwin's Investor Targeting function to pull a very targeted list of qualified investors who would be a good fit to invest in KushCo. From there, I can organize which ones I want to try and schedule meetings with.
Your investor relations management software (IRM) should allow you to take notes and draft follow-up emails in real time while you’re conducting your investor webcast. Ideally, you’ll also be making use of contact management so you and collaborators can stay on the same page. This will allow you to take a more targeted approach to selecting the right investors for your company.
It can be difficult bridging the gap between virtual meetings and in person meetings. You’ll need top organizational skills to bridge the gap in a hybrid model. Having a good organization system helps you be more prepared for meetings and ultimately puts you in a better position with investors. We asked Mal Karwowska, VP of Corporate Development and Investor Relations at Newcore Gold, about her strategies to stay organized with virtual roadshows. According to Mal, the best ways to stay organized come down to doing your homework on investors and knowing where you left off.
Before meeting with investors, either virtually or in-person, you should be doing your due diligence on who you’re speaking with. Over 89% of buy-side professionals believe that issuers don’t do enough due diligence prior to scheduling a meeting.
Luckily if you’re well organized, you can get ahead of this. When researching new investors, be sure to take notes in a centralized IRM. Even if a particular investor is not a good fit, having good notes will help you to circle back if circumstances change, or it could even help you rule out that investor in future searches. It’s better to spend some time getting to know what an investor wants to know in a preliminary phone or video call than wasting time on a non-starter during your next roadshow.
Additionally, leaving good notes is important for ongoing investor relationships as well. Not only can you note what that investor cares about and wants to hear in updates, but you can also keep track of items that help strengthen your relationship.
In this day and age, it's easy to always think about new investors. But you also have to remember to focus on your existing investors; keeping them up to speed and showing them a bit of love is important as well.” - Mal Karwowska, VP IR Newcore Gold
One of the best things you can do to stay organized is to create tags in your IRM software so you can quickly group together investors that share certain qualities. For instance, you may want to create a tag to identify all your ESG investors at a glance. Should you have pertinent news related to your ESG strategy, you can quickly identify the right people. From there it is quick and easy to invite all investors with an ESG tag to a virtual investor conference. This allows you to maintain a more open line of communication than relying on in-person meetings alone, and it allows you to get in front of any material updates. Not only does having a good system for virtual and in-person meetings help save you time travelling, it also helps you act fast.
Whether COVID-19 catapulted you into the digital age, or you were already taking advantage of technology, one thing is certain: digital investor relations aren’t going away anytime soon. You should consider using some of the time saved from travelling to re-evaluate your tech stack and whether or not it will help you stay organized and efficient when investor relationships become a hybrid of in-person and digital meetings.