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Dec 03, 2020

Last word: Budgeting in the time of Covid-19

Laurie Havelock provides IR teams with advice on how to avoid a budget cut in the coming year

As the world continues to reel from the impacts the coronavirus pandemic has wrought on our lives – both professionally and privately – IR professionals might be forgiven for breathing a small sigh of relief when it comes to balancing their budgets for the coming year. Though it is clearly no replacement for meeting with investors face to face, logging zero expenditure for airfares, hotel bookings, dining out and roaming cellphone charges is certainly a win.

But before you hand in your much-diminished spending plans – 45 percent of IR professionals around the world have had budgets cut or expect them to be in the next few months, according to IR Magazine’s Covid-19 and IR report – consider that there may be alternative methods of splashing that cash that can directly benefit your IR efforts. In a time when innovative digital communications are more important than ever, this might be the perfect time to channel budgets into brave new technologies – which, depending on how quickly the second wave of the pandemic passes, could be evergreen solutions.

So here we run through some excellent ways to use up all of those spare dollars that are doubtless burning a hole in your company's treasury’s pocket.

Innovative site visits

With travel on lockdown, getting investors to visit offices, facilities or factories has been impossible – until now. With the aid of a 360-degree camera (starting at $100 for a simple model, up to $400 for the FITT360, a Korean model that fits into a necklace), you can take fully immersive footage of your company’s operations to give stakeholders the complete experience from their home offices.

You may also consider shelling out for an Oculus Rift headset ($400) to let investors explore your virtual recreation at their own pace. Just make sure to cover up any trade secrets!

Safe meetings

Though in-person meetings may seem impossible, a nursing home in Bourbourg, northern France, may have come up with a solution this summer: anti-virus plastic ‘bubbles’ that allow residents to see and touch loved ones through a hermetically sealed plastic sheet. Though costs are relatively high ($1,000 each), these can be set up in a neutral location for an afternoon of investor one-on-ones. For added safety, invite your chief executive to attend in an inflatable Zorb ball ($300).

A decent audio set-up

For the time being, however, the capital markets will center on virtual meetings, fireside chats or whatever new format the sell side can innovate. Calls are, however, still occasionally marred by muffled speech or tinny headphones at the best of times and random acts of neighborhood noise ordinance violation at the worst.

Why not extend that IR budget into a top-notch microphone like the Brauner VM1S ($10,800), favored by the world’s finest recording studios, and a pair of Tournaire Focal Utopia headphones ($120,000). While the former is practical, the latter boasts diamonds, gold and precious gemstones studded across the ear cups and headband – the perfect way of sending a message to your investors that times are good, even during Covid-19.

A new Zoom background

To match your new audio set-up, it might be worth considering a new background for your chosen teleconferencing software that really suits the new normal. With a simple green screen and camera set-up, you can be in front of anywhere in the world – from the salt flats of Uyuni in Bolivia to India’s Taj Mahal – at the click of a button.

You could go a step further, however, and make your surroundings a talking point: at one end, a commissioned oil painting of yourself, a loved one or a pet can start from as little as $1,000, up to prices nearing $6,000 if you’d like to employ one of the UK’s Royal Society of Portrait Painters’ artists.

The mega-caps among us could even turn to a big name: Banksy’s latest pieces start from a mere $800,000 at auction and could add just the right measure of austerity to proceedings.

This article originally appeared in the Winter 2020 issue of IR Magazine.