With many US-based IR teams planning a trip to Europe this year, IR Magazine sat down with Lisa Traeger, partner and corporate relationship officer at Atlantic Equities, to get her thoughts on mounting a successful roadshow to the old continent.
Traeger, who supports US companies when they visit Europe, says the region’s investors are hungry for meetings. And IR teams should make the most of the location: informal chats in a British pub or French café are a great way to build long-term relationships.
How did the pandemic affect the work you do at Atlantic? And what’s the last year been like as people returned to in-person meetings in Europe?
We had to convert everything to virtual as everyone else did. It was a slow trickle in March and then by May/June 2021, we were full swing back to in-person meetings in addition to virtual meetings. There’s a huge appetite for European investors to see companies in person, because there can be Zoom fatigue with investors as that was the [only] option during Covid over the past couple of years.
I always give the example that London has pubs, Germany has beer gardens and Paris has cafes – people need to sit across the table from you, see the whites of your eyeballs, kick the tires and ‘sup with you’. It’s part of cultivating a long-term relationship with them. On that note, it takes a period of time meeting with Europeans to build up the relationship but the beauty of European investors is that once they feel comfortable enough to take a holding, they are much stickier, which makes the IR job much easier!
Are you finding work is returning to how things used to be done pre-pandemic or have any changes stuck in terms of how companies hold roadshows around Europe?
I think it’s a whole new world out there and we have a ‘new normal’ (overused phrase of course!). Hybrid marketing is here to stay and we have found that quite a few West Coast companies in particular prefer to do virtual non-deal roadshows, though they do come over in person for some conferences. It is a long way from Europe! It might also be a function of more remote working arrangements for San Francisco/Silicon Valley companies.
On the other hand, companies in the rest of the US have a slightly higher tendency to consider in person but that’s not a hard-and-fast rule. What is critically important is staying in regular contact with European investors, whether it’s a virtual or in-person non-deal roadshow.
When companies are planning a trip to Europe, how should they determine which cities to target and how much time to spend where?
It’s important to ‘follow the money’ and go to the money centers in Europe. The UK has more than 50 percent of the active money but there’s also Germany, Switzerland and Paris, to name some other large money centers. Also, some cities will have more of an affinity for a certain sector: Germany understands the chemical industry, with home-grown companies like BASF, while Switzerland is more attuned to pharma companies like Novartis. It’s important to confer with your broker in advance to determine where the strongest demand might be in order to use executives’ time most effectively.
Also, one thing to remember is that opportunistic visits can be very effective. If senior management members are over for other business – town meetings, customer meetings, even holidays – they can tag on one or two meetings or even a group breakfast, which can offer the opportunity of seeing existing and new investors without the slog of a whole week running around Europe!
How should companies think about IR-only versus including management in meetings and roadshows?
Naturally it’s always ideal to have senior management on the calls or in the meetings. Having said that, the IR role these days is very professional and IROs can answer fundamental questions about the business, which can be of great value to European investors. Interestingly, we have seen more senior executives coming over for the in-person non-deal roadshow (more than two thirds) whereas it’s about 50/50 for virtual non-deal roadshows. It’s much more important to focus on the cadence of contact. Having senior management is ideal when it works timing wise but don’t wait for senior management. If IR can accommodate other meetings, that works as well.
What are some tips for partnering with a firm like Atlantic?
As many know, the tricky bit about Europe is that the filing data is very opaque, as not all Europeans are required to file 13Fs. Hence, it’s difficult to have a true reflection of who owns the stock, how much they own and who the strong potential owners might be because the surveillance tools available in the US are simply less effective in Europe. Therefore, local knowledge is truly critical to ensure you and your senior executives are using time more productively, especially when they have made the effort to come across the pond and meet with investors.
It doesn’t do any good to meet with an index fund or an institution when the decision is based elsewhere. We always suggest working in partnership with your broker to refine the list of targets and also to work with it on the logistics as you want to ensure senior executives are spending more time in front of investors than traveling in the car! In addition, companies should expect good feedback when they make the effort to carve out time for an in-person or virtual non-deal roadshow.