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Dec 19, 2023

Vesta’s Fernanda Bettinger talks nearshoring, listing in the US and her biggest IR challenges

Industrial site operator is well placed as multinationals shift supply chains to North America

Vesta, the Mexican commercial real estate company, is riding a wave of investor interest thanks to ‘nearshoring’, whereby companies bring operations closer to home.

The firm’s industrial sites around the country are in demand as multinationals seek to shorten their supply chains with the US market, a trend driven by geopolitical tensions, the impact of Covid-19 and favorable trading rules.

Below, we talk to director of IR Fernanda Bettinger about her career path, the impact of nearshoring on IR and Vesta’s recent listing on the NYSE, the largest US IPO by a Mexican company for 10 years.  

Tell us about your background and how you arrived in your current role

I started working at a private equity fund during my last semester in college, and I stayed there for around one year. After that, I decided I wanted to change course, and I stumbled across IR at Vesta. What got me into accepting the job was the team and the values the company had. I started to work at Vesta around 2016 as an analyst and was named IR director in 2020.

Fernanda Bettinger, IR director, Vesta
Fernanda Bettinger, director of IR, Vesta

When I finished college, I didn’t know what investor relations was. In college, I studied finance and accounting and I thought, I’m going to end up working in a bank or private equity. That was the target. I don’t know about other companies, but at Vesta the journey has been really fun. Our CEO has a lot of ideas and we constantly do different work, like the IPO in the US and public and private bonds. I have done more things than if I was working in a bank.

How is the IR department set up and what does the calendar look like?

Vesta has always had two people in the IR department. When I was promoted in 2020, however, we were unable to fill the analyst role for two years due to Covid. I learned a lot during those two years, but it was a lot of work. Now we are back to two people: me and an analyst, Mariana Dominguez. Recently, my role has pivoted a bit more into strategy projects like the US IPO and sustainability.

Our calendar is super-busy. Vesta has really active market outreach and communications and we try to go to as many conferences as we can. We have one or two site visits per month and also try to do one or two non-deal roadshows per year, alongside all the calls and meetings with analysts and investors. It’s a pretty tight calendar.

What impact has the nearshoring trend had on IR activities and investor sentiment?

Vesta is one of the best-positioned companies for exposure to nearshoring. That’s why we have so many site visits: all our investors want to get their feet on the ground. If you’re doing a heavy investment, you want to know that the buildings are not [just created] on PowerPoint. You want to see the buildings and know there are clients.

With our site visits, you don’t just go to the park and see the buildings from the outside. You get inside the manufacturing and logistical facilities, and you get to talk with regional directors, who have so much insight about what is going on. I think that’s a really big differentiator for Vesta.

Investors are starting to see that nearshoring is a long-term trend. It’s nothing new for us – we have been talking about it since 2019, but back then investors weren’t sure whether it was happening. I had meetings with investors and they would say, Tell me the name of a company coming to Mexico. And we would reply, Here – let me show you.

It takes a while for companies to relocate, and that’s why we’re just at the beginning of this trend. Mexico has a lot of potential to bring supply chains to North America.

What are your three biggest IR challenges?

The biggest one is time management. The stock has so many investors – our company’s free float is almost 95 percent – so we need to efficiently address all investor questions and concerns, and have a balanced approach. We would love to do everything but we can’t.

The second challenge – also related to resources –  is when and how to spend the budget. And the third, following our listing in the US, is the need to meet US market standards. We have always been really focused on elevating our standards to global best practices. But there is always room for improvement.

Vesta’s US IPO in July raised $387.5 mn. How was the listing process?

We’re really proud. I handled all the aspects of the filings, including running all the required numbers and metrics. I also worked closely with the banks on the logistics for the testing-the-waters meetings and roadshows.

As an existing public company, we already had established best practices in the company. This made it a smoother process than perhaps for other companies doing an IPO for the first time. But we needed to adjust our accounting to meet US standards. The auditors required a lot of information to ensure accuracy. Along with the filings, I think that was the most challenging part.

In terms of the experience, it was amazing, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. And the hard work, the team effort we put in, ended up showing great results. I think everyone in the company is extremely happy about the offering and the demand we received.

We tried to take the whole company to New York. We’re 90 people, so we’re not super-big, but half the company had visa struggles so we ended up with around 45 people traveling to New York for the bell-ringing ceremony at the NYSE.

If your IR budget was doubled, what would you spend the money on?

At Vesta we have a pretty good budget already, which allows us to do a lot of activities. But if it was doubled, I would invest in digital IR tools. In Mexico, and in the US market as well, it can be hard to know who your investors are – you know the big names, but you don’t have a complete list. The support of digital tools that give you insight into who’s buying and selling would really help IR understand where to allocate resources. And, of course, we would attend more conferences and non-deal roadshows.