Profiles of four new online corporate access platforms
Rather than cutting brokers out of the equation, CorporateAccess.net aims to be the brokers’ best friend. The application, which went live in January last year, is free for brokers, while investors ‘pay an annual subscription fee,’ according to founder and former Goldman Sachs sell-sider Ben Burnside.
Burnside and his team ‘take the calendars of events from brokers, upload them into a database and tag them by relevant field: sector, geography, market cap or event type,’ he explains. ‘Then investors on the other side of the application can search by those fields. If, for example, you’re a European tech analyst sitting in London, it will whittle down that wider list of events to the ones that really matter to you. So [investors] can basically switch off and relax until CorporateAccess.net says, We have identified an event that matters to you – would you like to go?’
Then it’s in the hands of the broker. ‘Brokers are best placed to host events between firms and management,’ adds John Cowdry, director at CorporateAccess.net. ‘We believe the knowledge and relationships they have built up over the years offer a valuable service to both parties.’ With this in mind, CorporateAccess.net doesn’t arrange meetings or events, preferring to leave it to the brokers.
While Burnside – like many alternative corporate access providers – is keeping costs under wraps for now, he says client costs ‘depend on the number of users a company would have – we sell packages of annual subscriptions.’ Cowdry, meanwhile, stresses that charges are not levied on a per-user or per-event basis.
‘There’s so much noise,’ says Cowdry. ‘There’s such an extraordinary amount of information out there that to filter it and manage it is an almost insurmountable problem. I think this platform solves that for both sides.’
The CorporateAccessNetwork from Phoenix-IR isn’t strictly speaking a ‘new’ service. Instead, explains Adrian Rusling, partner at the Brussels-based IR consultant, ‘it’s a new name we’ve stuck on our existing platform’.
‘The team at Phoenix-IR has been delivering corporate access across Europe for more than 20 years,’ says Rusling, explaining that when the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) started shining a spotlight on corporate access, ‘we thought we would create CorporateAccessNetwork and give a little bit more visibility into what we were doing.’
This has obviously worked well for Phoenix-IR, with Rusling noting that between rebranding this aspect of the firm’s services at the start of 2013 and May this year, the CorporateAccessNetwork has received more than 23,000 meeting requests from 682 institutions for 931 corporations. ‘We’ve had 51 requests so far today from seven different investors based in London, Zurich, Geneva and Amsterdam,’ Rusling says of one day in May. ‘That’s an average of seven companies per investor. We’ve been able to cover everyone on the buy side from the very biggest of the biggest – whether that’s Fidelity or Blackrock or whoever – all the way down to the smallest minnows.’
The CorporateAccessNetwork is essentially a ‘freemium’ service, explains Rusling, so companies can get a basic level of service – alerting them of an investor’s interest – without parting with any cash. Once an investor registers its interest in a stock on the online platform, the firm is notified, and can use that information as it sees fit. ‘It can organize the meeting directly itself or mandate Phoenix-IR,’ Rusling says. ‘The important thing is that companies take action and respond to investors.’
Even for paying clients – made up only of corporates, because the service remains free for the buy side – the annual subscription fee is ‘extremely low,’ according to Rusling, who doesn’t reveal precise costs. Furthermore, some clients that already use Phoenix-IR’s services on a retainer contract also receive access to the Corporate-AccessNetwork as part of a bundle of added extras, he says.
Ingage, which launched in January with some high-profile clients – including Fidelity and Nestlé – already on board, seeks to change what founder Michael Hufton calls a ‘suboptimal’ corporate access model. Having consulted closely with the FCA, the company sells its service as one that ‘fully complies with FCA regulations regarding the use of client commissions’.
Signing up to the platform, which alerts institutions about upcoming meetings that fit their investment profile, as well as keeping companies up to date about interested institutions, costs between £6,000 ($10,300) and £120,000 on the institutional side depending on the size of the investment house and its needs. Corporates must also pay a set annual fee of £6,000 (discounted to £3,000 for early adopters), which gives them access to the platform as well as ingage’s own meetings and roadshow service, though Hufton explains that the cost of the events themselves are also covered by the companies.
Ingage allows users to access a host of technical features – for example, investors can register their interest in a firm regardless of whether a roadshow is planned or not. Other benefits include a fully encrypted notes system, with details on when a meeting with any specific investor or company previously took place and how it went, the ability to filter meeting feeds to suit individual fund managers at big investment houses, and detailed itineraries all inside the app.
An upcoming feature could prove a useful IR tool, Hufton says. ‘One of the things we developed for Tullow Oil, Travis Perkins, ArcelorMittal and Croda is a little ingage ‘button’ you can put on your IR website, with a message like, If you’re a professional investor and would like to meet us, click here to submit your request via ingage, which manages our corporate access.’
Ingage has the potential to cut brokers out of the equation but Hufton says ‘we are not asking for a monopoly’ and will incorporate full schedules, even if a firm is using a broker to organize its roadshow.
WeConvene, which officially launched in June 2014 – announcing that it had bought Extel from Thompson Reuters at the same time – offers a ‘direct connection between the buy side and the sell side,’ says CEO Radek Barnert. His aim is to ‘build a global corporate access community that is open and transparent. We decided to build a platform that enables the sell side – and content providers – to distribute all of their corporate access events in real time to their buy-side clients.’ The service also benefits the buy side by allowing portfolio managers to ‘search, find and book meetings’ and ‘track and rate all their corporate access interactions easily and in one simple workflow,’ Barnert adds.
After setting up a profile of their ‘coverage universe, based on the countries, sectors or stocks they cover, or any particular interest they have’, results are filtered to return those most relevant to their investments. As well as offering this ‘click-of-a-button-access’, where Barnert hopes all players will eventually be involved, the service looks to what he sees as the future of corporate access. ‘Where we think the market will go is a situation where a buy-side customer can see exactly what is available: what slots and what times are being offered,’ he explains.
Like CorporateAccess.net, WeConvene doesn’t provide for meetings or roadshows, instead offering another ‘freemium’ online service, with Barnert explaining that ‘everything people do today for free in the real world – like looking for events, sending emails, booking events’ – remains free within WeConvene for both the sell side and the buy side. Though he also wishes to keep costs confidential for the time being, he says ‘there are then enterprise-level services for which we charge, such as administrative controls, the ability to create and manage users’ for large organizations, or the extraction of data into other systems used by clients.