William Hill’s Lyndsay Wright talks direct targeting
Lyndsay Wright has been director of IR and internal communications at UK betting and gaming company William Hill since November 2008. The firm targets a well-diversified shareholder register that currently sees 45 percent of shares held by UK investors, 40 percent by US funds and the rest by European investors.
In recent years, roadshows were expanded to include more travel to key European centers like Frankfurt and Paris but over he past 12 months there has been a refocus on core markets in London and on the US East Coast. ‘With limited resources and our CFO holding the interim CEO position, we’re making the best use of management time by prioritizing markets where we have the strongest relationships and the best understanding of the firm,’ explains Wright.
Those more specialized meetings are slotted in as ‘outreach’ opportunities to an annual schedule that allows for two major shareholder roadshows, one each after half-year and full-year results are issued. This means Philip Bowcock, interim CEO since July 2016, can see investors in London, New York and Boston twice a year, with IR filling in at dates in other cities. ‘The IR team – both of us! – also aims to ‘keep warm’ our contacts in other markets, including Dublin, Frankfurt, San Francisco and LA, by visiting each city at least once this year,’ Wright adds. ‘Hopefully we’ll be able to return to our schedule of two visits to each in 2017.’
Recently, Wright has stopped relying on brokers to guide her roadshow planning. ‘The broker relationships are still important to us and good corporate access teams are worth their weight in gold but many investors are quite familiar to us now so we feel we can get good traction by offering them meetings ourselves,’ she says.
The first opportunity to try this came in June at the firm’s New York roadshow where the IR team itself filled 80 percent of its meeting slots in the first 24 hours with its targeting efforts alone, before the remaining opportunities were passed to a broker to organize with what Wright describes as ‘logistics support’.
Wright says the key to making investor targeting work for William Hill is to make sure clear parameters are set. A key tenet, she notes, is to be ‘very clear about who you are and are not prepared to meet’ during your limited time. This is achieved at the betting firm through using brokers alongside an IR adviser to build targeting lists that are adhered to as closely as possible. ‘I won’t put the CEO in front of an investor I haven’t already seen unless the broker can make a very good case for breaking my unwritten rule,’ Wright says. ‘For me, that usually involves the analyst having had in-depth conversations beforehand. Even then I would prefer to have an exploratory call myself first.’
Another way to avoid a poor roadshow is to stick to tried and trusted brokers for particular markets. ‘Nothing is more frustrating than being asked to commit a few days to a roadshow only then to have the corporate access team come back with nothing,’ she explains.
To get that list of great sell-siders is an effort of time, trial and error but a valuable resource can be the wisdom of other IROs. Sharing experiences with your peers is, for Wright, a good idea and it’s worth staying open-minded about who you might use: ‘Sometimes it’s the smaller brokers that, often because of one individual, have the best traction in a certain market.’