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Jun 02, 2023

Corporate access: The view from Hong Kong on 2023 trends

Value of corporate access for both sell side and buy side ‘sits at the top,’ says Carol Kwok of Jefferies

Carol Kwok is senior vice president of Asia-Pacific equities and corporate access at New York-headquartered investment bank Jefferies. 

Based in Hong Kong, Kwok joined the firm 12 years ago, when the Asia-Pacific corporate access team comprised just two people. Today, the firm boasts a bigger team spanning different countries in the region, including Japan, Australia and India. The team has three different divisions covering non-deal roadshow origination, expert access and bespoke events. 

In a Q&A with IR Magazine, Kwok talks about the corporate access landscape in the region, highlighting changes and trends and sharing advice on how companies could improve their access to investors. 

Carol Kwok Jefferies
Carol Kwok, Jefferies 

How has the landscape of corporate access evolved in recent years and what trends have you observed within the industry in your region?

[Until] 20 years ago not too many people knew what corporate access was. The idea of having a team to connect corporates with investors was a vague concept and people thought it was something being done naturally. Today, the value of corporate access in terms of the hierarchy of how clients view the advisory portion of offerings from the sell side sits at the top. We are even seeing buy-side clients hire their corporate access team to arrange meetings with companies to backfill the massive need for this function. 

Before Covid-19, apart from face-to-face meetings, clients used conference calls. The pandemic has greatly accelerated the use of videoconferencing platforms such as Zoom, and this trend is here to stay.  

How well do you feel companies currently deal with corporate access?

I think corporates are keenly aware that corporate access is the bridge to meeting new investors and keeping existing investors up to date. Some depend wholly upon corporate access teams and others have specific needs, but very few – if any – will tell you it’s an unnecessary function. 

What makes for a good corporate access experience?

Being proactive, attention to detail and – simply put – making zero mistakes. We are initially focused on the ability to put [clients] in front of the right investors and then [to] seamlessly execute their logistics from start to finish. 

From your perspective, what are the main things companies could do to improve their corporate access?

Having a more regimented way to seek corporate access would improve efficiency, but there will always be the ad hoc times associated with corporates’ needs to meet investors and the need for banks and brokers, like us, to execute on these asks at the drop of a dime. 

How has digitalization impacted the way corporate access is conducted?

It’s reduced the amount of time needed to be on the road. And a video call versus a conference call has allowed for greater personability and connection with corporates and investors. 

Rawpixel, iStock
Rawpixel, iStock 

How has Jefferies adapted to the changing demands and expectations of corporate access?

We were at the forefront of the transition to Zoom during the pandemic and were one of the first out of the gate to transition back to face-to-face meetings leading out of the pandemic. 

Virtual, in-person, hybrid: what trends are you seeing in meetings?

We are seeing a greater proportion of virtual versus face-to-face [events] for non-deal roadshows, conferences and other ad hoc events. 

What kind of events are most popular in your region among your investors, and why do you think that is?

[Investor] conferences and site visits where clients can just stay in one location seem to be the most popular. A lot of investors want to get out of the office now that global travel is back on.  

When do investors prioritize in-person engagement?

When they compare whether or not it has the same outcome as a virtual meeting. I think clients don’t want to leave their desks for a standard company updates group meeting. They want to engage in in-person meetings if it’s a first-time engagement or a senior-level management meeting. I think when it comes to critical investment decisions, clients want to engage in meetings in person. 

Are there any upcoming or emerging trends in corporate access you believe will shape the coming years? If so, how is your firm preparing for these changes?

I think clients would still like to make use of digital platforms for corporate access. Corporates are more and more open to joining virtual conferences as it saves time in traveling to different continents. With sufficient corporate access activities in the market, more investors prefer a customized, personal, bespoke corporate access trip. Sometimes they rely on brokers to provide them with ideas on where to go and which companies to meet.