IR Magazine looks at companies’ reasons for doing or avoiding this
The S&P 100 is split exactly down the middle when it comes to listing a named contact on their IR websites, with 50 companies listing the head of the IR department and the other 50 listing generic contact information.
The companies that choose to list generic IR contact information normally have the name of the head of the IR department listed elsewhere on the company website, most often in the footer of press releases and earnings statements.
Coca-Cola is one of the companies that list a named contact on the company’s IR website: Tim Leveridge, the company’s director and vice president of IR.
‘When I see a generic name I feel less confident I’m going to get hold of somebody,’ Leveridge says. ‘I feel more confident [when] there’s somebody I can hold accountable to have some level of correspondence with. It’s not hard to find out who I am, so why wouldn’t we put it there?’
Often the companies that list a named contact still provide generic contact information. For example, Leveridge’s assistant answers the Coca-Cola IR contact number and then directs the calls internally.
One of the reasons for not listing names and direct contact information is to prevent a large volume of retail investor inquiries. But Mike McGuire, vice president of IR at CVS Health, who is listed on the company’s IR website, says it depends on the company’s shareholder base.
‘The vast majority of correspondence we get is from institutional investors,’ McGuire explains. ‘We have 85 percent institutional holding. The retail investors contact us only around proxy season or if they have a specific problem.’
Visa lists only generic IR contact information, which Jack Carksy, global head of IR at the firm, thinks does deter some people from contacting the company. ‘I’m amazed by how little correspondence we get in that inbox because people probably think it just flies into the ether,’ he says.
Carsky says his team is well known to Visa’s institutional investors, which is one of the reasons Visa feels comfortable listing only generic contact information. But he adds that it’s important to treat inquiries in the generic inbox as seriously as those from any other source. ‘The inbox is monitored all day long,’ he says. ‘I get back to [inquirers] as if they’d left a voicemail on my phone.’
Simon Ball, head of digital media solutions at Nasdaq Corporate Solutions, agrees. ‘The important thing is ensuring a response to those questions,’ he says. ‘Some of the big companies will rotate their IR officer every few years, so that could be a motivation not to list an individual.’
Whether or not a company decides to list a named IR contact, Ibrey Woodall, senior vice president of web communications services at Business Wire, says users should be able to find out who heads up the IR department within ‘one or two clicks’ from the IR site homepage. ‘This is investor relations – relations being the key word,’ she says. ‘If an investor can’t find the person to relate to, there is no relation.’
Woodall says IR teams, regardless of size, should spend time refining their FAQs to prevent a high volume of low-value calls. ‘FAQs are your biggest friend,’ she says. ‘That way you’ve empowered site visitors to get the information they’re looking for.’
Andrew Knapp, manager of client implementation at Q4, agrees the IR site should provide as much information as possible while also projecting values of transparency. ‘We put a lot of work into making sure a website is transparent,’ he says. ‘Within that, we want to include a variety of materials to limit the number of times someone needs to reach out to an IRO. If you make your website do the work for you, it acts as an extension of your team.’