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Oct 15, 2020

The world’s top companies for online IR

With physical investor events off most agendas for the foreseeable future, investing in the IR section of your company’s website has never made more sense. So which companies offer the best examples of how to do this?

Every year, Bowen Craggs reviews and ranks the websites and social channels of the world’s 200 largest companies by market capitalization. Each company is scored across a range of metrics, from navigation and visual design to the service provided for journalists, jobseekers, customers, CSR professionals and investors.

UK energy giant BP comes top for serving all these audiences in the 2020 ranking, followed by Nestlé, GSK, Bayer and Unilever. You can find the full ranking here.  

But which companies are best for online investor relations? And how can IROs in other companies emulate the leaders’ success?

Lessons from the leaders

Anglo-Dutch energy group Shell is the global number one for online IR.

Standout features of the investors section include:

  • A rich, well-organized quarterly results archive, which displays clearly on both desktop and mobile devices. Unusually, Shell provides clear results highlights information directly on quarterly results pages of the website, rather than burying it in PDFs. These pages also include extensive quotes about quarterly performance from both the CEO and chairman, plus a video of the CEO providing further insights. There’s a lesson here for IR teams at other companies: don’t just provide PDF results materials on your website – offer richer commentary and multimedia content directly on web pages, too
  • Encyclopedic background materials for analysts researching Shell as an investment proposition. Notably, this includes a dedicated sub-section on ESG information – something that remains a relatively rare, but valuable, inclusion in an IR section. As ever-more mainstream investors and analysts continue to factor ESG metrics into their decisions, IROs at other companies would be wise to include ESG data in their own site’s IR section – rather than silo it in a separate ‘sustainability’ or ‘responsibility’ section
  • Exceptionally detailed information about the IR team – including biographies of each IRO, plus details of the languages he/she speaks. Touches like this are not only useful for analysts but also convey a powerful impression of openness and transparency to all website visitors.

Shell's IR contact page

HSBC is number two for online IR in Bowen Craggs’ 2020 ranking.

Exceptional features of the investors section of include:

  • An unusually user-friendly ‘download basket’ that allows users to select multiple documents to save onto their computers. Unlike similar tools on other sites, HSBC clearly explains to first-time users how this tool works, via a pop-up panel. There’s a broader lesson here for IROs: make the menu labels, navigation and other tools in your IR section as self-explanatory as possible – investors and analysts will always be grateful for this
  • A visually and editorially rich ‘our investment case sub-section, which clearly articulates and quantifies the reasons for investing in HSBC. This includes summary facts and figures – illustrated by crisply designed interactive charts – as well as prominent signposts to more granular detail on company strategy. The takeaway for other IR teams? If the investors section of your company’s website doesn’t have a ‘why invest?’ area, that’s a missed opportunity to make your investment case on your own terms
  • Direct phone and email contact details of all IR team members, as well as their names, photos and job titles. Analysts new to the company will greatly appreciate such specific contact routes.

HSBC's investment case

Two Swiss companies – Nestlé and Zurich – share third place in Bowen Craggs’ online IR ranking. Standout features include:

  • An ‘understanding Nestlé sub-section, which is dedicated to explaining the company’s business model and strategy. Bowen Craggs’ website visitor research shows that many investors and analysts come to corporate websites looking for exactly this – so it makes sense to include it in the investors section of your company’s website, rather than solely in the separate ‘about us’ section. Like HSBC, Nestlé also has a ‘why invest?’ area, which sets out the company’s investment case
  • Zurich’s elegant tabbed table of financial results materials, where users can click on a year to instantly view all results documents, organized by quarter and format. This is an excellent model for any company’s results archive. Zurich’s inclusion of Excel data downloads among other results materials is another plus-point.

Understanding Nestlé

Zurich's financial results table

The tools and features outlined above are sound investments in any climate. But as lockdowns around the world continue to scupper physical IR event schedules, they’re investments IROs can ill afford to avoid.  

Scott Payton is managing partner at Bowen Craggs, a London-based online communications consultancy