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Mar 18, 2020

Buy-side corporate access leaders praise IR flexibility amid Covid-19 disruption

Demand for meetings unchanged as investors praise videoconferencing

US corporate access co-ordinators on the buy side are not expecting in-person meetings to resume until mid-April at the earliest, as the industry strives to understand the effects of Covid-19.

The demand for corporate access remains the same, with banks moving their conferences to a virtual format, and issuers and investors initiating direct contact. The earliest that in-person meetings could resume is mid-April, according to one corporate access professional at a large US institution, while others suggest they’re preparing for late April at the earliest.

‘The sell side is doing its best to convert planned corporate access meetings to either conference calls or videoconference calls whenever possible,’ says Lisa Rubinger, who works in broker and corporate relations at Ashler Capital.

According to a survey of European investors last week, 76 percent of respondents are no longer attending investment conferences. This was confirmed by several buy-side corporate access professionals to be the case in the US. Shelter-in-place measures – which restrict all non-essential travel and meetings – began in the Bay Area on March 16 and, according to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, similar measures may be taken in New York before the end of the week.

Many financial institutions have enforced a work-from-home policy, while some others have separated their staff into working groups that aren’t allowed to meet physically for the foreseeable future.

Praising IR ‘flexibility and co-operation’

Amid this disruption, every corporate access professional interviewed for this article praises the efforts of the IR community, which has reportedly been stepping up to assist with corporate access.

‘We have seen unbelievable flexibility and co-operation from our issuer counterparts as we pivot toward scheduling more phone calls and rescheduling many other corporate access meetings,’ says Grant Bartucci, associate director of corporate access and broker relations at Point72 Asset Management. ‘They have really helped us put everyone’s health and safety at the top of the priority list and helped make this transition process as seamless as possible in such a volatile market environment.’

Rubinger agrees and urges IR teams to continue to be open and communicative: ‘The best thing issuers can do for the investment community is keep the lines of communication open and try to provide as much transparency as possible.’  

Even so, one corporate access professional tells IR Magazine that several IROs have been in touch to cancel meetings with individual portfolio managers. It’s not uncommon for a management team to meet with portfolio managers from the same firm within weeks of each other, and some IROs are asking for a more centralized approach that reduces the number of duplicate meetings by getting more people to attend one large meeting.

As investors adapt to the new reality, a consensus is growing that video meetings are favored over phone calls. Several corporate access professionals tell IR Magazine that their investment professionals have noticed little to no difference between video meetings and in-person meetings.