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Mar 08, 2022

‘I try to stay away from hybrid in the same meeting,’ says Cowen’s head of corporate access

Swaroopa Desai notes greater appetite for group meetings after Covid-induced lack of contact

Even as markets began to cautiously open up, with more companies starting face-to-face meetings again, research showed that hybrid was still seen as the long-term solution for corporate access. Citigate Dewe Rogerson’s IR survey late last year found that 69 percent of IR teams had adopted a hybrid working model and expected that to be the long-term meeting solution. But what does hybrid mean in practice?

Swaroopa Desai, Cowen
Swaroopa Desai, Cowen

For Swaroopa Desai, managing director and head of corporate access at Cowen, hybrid depends on the client’s needs and goals.

‘Hybrid means very different things to different people,’ she tells IR Magazine. ‘We really look at it on a case-by-case basis. We speak with every company about what it wants and what it prefers – and also what it has been doing and what it would like to achieve overall. We really try to personalize each experience based on the goals and objectives of that outreach.’

For her, though, having some people in a meeting physically and others virtually can be a challenge. ‘What I’ve been trying to stay away from is hybrid in the same meeting – I feel the setup doesn’t allow for a quality discussion when you’re trying to keep two audiences engaged at high level.’

An appetite for group meetings

Something Cowen is seeing is a trend toward more group meetings, with Desai noting that many likely miss those old opportunities to hear from their counterparts. ‘Some investors may still prefer the one on ones,’ she says. ‘But groupthink, conferences and the impromptu exchange of ideas was always part of the overall research process – hearing people and watching body language was valuable insight for some investors.’ 

She adds that companies are trying to be smarter about the ways in which they’re traveling, although she stresses that many firms did this before Covid-19 as well.

‘If they’re traveling for business purposes and have a reason to be in a city, we may add a few investor meetings to the schedule while the opportunity allows for some in-person discussions,’ Desai explains. ‘This approach may not allow for management teams to see all investors in a single day in a given geography but will allow executive teams to maximize overall time and business commitments.’

Flexibility is key

Even as markets move toward more in-person corporate access, Desai says flexibility will remain key – but she says both corporates and investors have become accustomed to and accepting of this new need for flexibility.

‘There will be situations where a meeting may require last-minute changes because either the corporate or the investor can no longer travel to the location of the meeting – there might have been exposure to Covid-19 or an office or child’s classroom might have shut down temporarily,’ she says. ‘This past summer, we had a number of schedules impacted because someone had been exposed and, as a result, became restricted for several days.’

The risk of last-minute changes isn’t just down to the pandemic – this was always a roadshow possibility, Desai notes. ‘Over the last two years, however, everyone has lived in a constant state of adaptation and I suspect this will remain as we move to more in-person meetings,’ she concludes.

Garnet Roach

An award-winning journalist, Garnet Roach joined IR Magazine in October 2012, working on both the editorial and research sides of the publication. Prior to entering the world of investor relations, her freelance career covered a broad range of...