With a ventilator in view and one of its heated humidifiers – used to improve the outcomes of coronavirus patients in hospital – running in the background, management at Fisher & Paykel Healthcare, a firm that plays a crucial role in supplying respiratory equipment used to treat Covid-19 patients around the world, took investor meetings from a lab decked out to look like an intensive care unit.
‘We didn’t want to provide a typical CEO-sitting-in-a-boardroom experience for our virtual roadshows,’ explains Marcus Driller, vice president of corporate at the Auckland, New Zealand-based company. The firm has laboratories that look like ICUs, so a lot of video calls were done from these ‘usability labs’.
The thinking, says Driller, was that while ‘we can’t give investors the face-to-face experience of meeting with management, what we can do is help investors understand the business a bit more and how our products are helping patients.’
A year into the Covid-19 pandemic, the impact on corporate access has been significant. In an instant, meetings, roadshows and conferences were either cancelled or flipped to virtual, with most companies holding fully virtual AGMs and roadshows for the first time. As companies have become more comfortable with the technology enabling the world’s meetings to go ahead – and the new etiquette of virtual – those planning the roadshows have learned and made changes to help keep things fresh.
As well as holding meetings from its labs, Fisher & Paykel Healthcare played with multiple cameras. For example, it had one focused on management and IR – so investors ‘could clearly see our faces’ – and another that could be switched (by a technician) to the wider view.
Touches like this certainly help companies stay in the mind of investors, but IR teams have also been tweaking their roadshow logistics with management in mind.
Making it about what works
Caroline Dawson, investor relations manager at UK utilities giant National Grid, says virtual has certainly been a success for the company, allowing management to meet 116 investors across 19 cities for the full-year results roadshow in June 2020.
It followed that with 99 meetings across 16 cities for the half-year results roadshow in November.
For that first fully virtual roadshow in June, Dawson scheduled meetings across a period of just over two weeks, with the goal of not making it too intense for management. ‘But what happened was that [managers] then did lots of other meetings as well,’ she explains. ‘They ended up having this feeling of extremely long, exhausting days and the sense that the roadshow was going on and on and on.’
When the half-year results roadshow came round in November, Dawson brought all the meetings together into the space of one week. It meant earlier starts and later finishes – though not on the same day – but she says it helped with fatigue and gave the feeling of something that was ‘done and completed quite efficiently, rather than just dragging on.’
Another thing that changed for National Grid’s second all-virtual roadshow was that Dawson essentially ditched time zones. ‘Originally, I tried to keep the regional approach that I would use for a traditional roadshow, where I would keep all my East Coast investors to the same day and then keep all the Australia ones together, grouping meetings together by time zone,' she explains.
‘I did away with that this time around. Because we were really condensing the roadshow, my focus was on what worked for management and for the investors. That did mean a bit of jumping around geographically, but in the end it didn’t really matter and what we found was that investors seem to have a consistency of questions, regardless of their region.’
Two ESG days were also added to National Grid’s November roadshow – a first for the company. ‘We did an ESG day for North America and an ESG day for Europe, which were really popular. So I think we’re going to build on that next time, and hopefully do more regions,’ Dawson says.
The company decided the time was right to add ESG days partly because of increased investor interest but also because it had published its Responsible Business Charter in October, holding a virtual ESG seminar to go with the launch.
‘That was extremely well attended, with lots of interest from across the globe,’ says Dawson. ‘There were just so many questions, and we realized that an ESG roadshow was something that was going to be popular with investors.’
This is an extract of an article from the Spring 2021 issue of IR Magazine.