Only one in 10 IR professionals have not changed their plans for in-person investor interactions due to the Delta variant and rising Covid-19 cases, according to audience polling during a recent IR Magazine Webinar.
More than one third (36 percent) of respondents have scaled back plans for in-person events and meetings, while 18 percent have cancelled all in-person interactions and 26 percent have been planning virtual interactions all along.
New Covid-19 cases in North America have increased sharply since July, with the US recording more than 210,000 cases yesterday (September 1), according to The New York Times.
‘Our recent conversations with clients suggest the spread of the Delta variant has certainly tempered the overall enthusiasm for in-person events in the back half of the year,’ Thierry Elmaleh, IR partner at Q4, said during the webinar.
He added that Q4 had expected about 35 percent of investor interactions to return to in-person during the second half of 2021, based on internal polling of clients, but that expectation has been revised down.
Changing plans after tentative return to in-person
Mary Turnbull, managing director for corporate access at Raymond James, explained that the firm had planned a handful of in-person events for this calendar year. It held two small in-person conferences during August in destination cities – one in Aspen, Colorado and one in Park City, Utah.
Raymond James did not require proof of vaccination, but took steps to safeguard attendees, Turnbull said. Conference attendees had their own six-foot table, to ensure distancing, and used microphones to speak. Sessions ran during the mornings and further networking took place outdoors during the afternoon and evening.
‘It was a thrill to be with corporates and investors and be actually interacting again,’ Turnbull said. But she noted that organizing an event at a ski lodge with ample outdoor space is very different from running a conference in a metropolitan area.
‘There’s a big difference between doing things in Aspen and Park City, rather than in a New York City hotel ballroom. Even given that we were outdoors a lot, we did have a lot of people who declined to come,’ she said. ‘The two biggest reasons were changes in corporate travel policies or people who have children at home who are not yet eligible to be vaccinated.’
More than one third (37 percent) of webinar attendees said they have a corporate policy that prohibits meeting and event attendance in person – either based on the size of the event or if the event would require travel. More than half (51 percent) of the audience said they do not have any corporate travel restrictions.
Turnbull said Raymond James has at least one in-person conference planned in 2021, but there are questions over whether it will become a virtual event. She noted the challenges of hosting an event in New York specifically, due to the city’s vaccination requirement at restaurants, hotels and event venues.
Grant Bartucci, associate director of corporate access and broker relations at Point72, said he has been facilitating in-person meetings for the firm’s portfolio managers since around May.
‘There is a preference for in-person interaction when we can get back to it but, at the same time, the opportunities to get in front of companies on a much more regular basis, and having more people being able to attend, have definitely been beneficial,’ he said.
Point72 has left it up to individuals to determine their comfort with in-person meetings, Bartucci added, but it has been recommending that the firm participates in meetings where everyone is in person or everyone is joining online.
Bartucci continued: ‘For the benefit of investors and the companies themselves, if they’re going to spend the time to go off-site somewhere and meet up, I think it would make sense for that meeting to be as valuable as possible for all parties. Having in-person and virtual in the same meeting, I think, would take away from the overall value of that meeting.’
Both Bartucci and Turnbull said their firms are not requiring proof of vaccination ahead of meetings. Turnbull added that she hasn’t seen any broker conferences requiring proof of vaccination, but she has noticed it at some industry conferences.