One thing that may become apparent looking back on the Covid-19 pandemic is not so much how it created new trends in working practices, but rather that it dramatically accelerated nascent trends, forcing individuals and firms to abandon the traditional way of doing things and providing a vacuum for ideas such as remote working and virtual meetings to step into.
Initial responses to virtual meetings were positive, with IROs and investors being able to continue their engagement without any great disruption to the dynamic. Now, after two years of virtual meetings being the dominant method of engagement and with the return of in-person meetings, the question is: are virtual meetings here to stay?
In the last quarter of 2021 and the first quarter of 2022, IR Magazine surveyed IR professionals and members of the investment community on the current state of corporate access, including their views and practices regarding virtual and in-person meetings.
Findings from this study form the basis of two reports on corporate access, the first of which appears in the summer issue of the magazine.
In the second half of 2021, 93 percent of meetings held with investors were virtual: after more than 20 months since global restrictions were put in place, virtual meetings remained the overwhelmingly dominant format.
According to IROs, it takes an average of three meetings with an investor before it takes a position on the company. More than six in 10 IROs and more than half of investors say this is unaffected by whether these meetings are held in person or virtually. But around a third of both IROs and investors say it takes more virtual than in-person meetings before an investment decision is made.
It's clear from this that while there is no dramatic difference, in-person meetings do provide an advantage over virtual meetings in terms of IR. It is not that investors are put off by virtual meetings: there is a broadly even split between those who are more likely to take a virtual meeting and those who lean more toward in-person meetings. But where the difference clearly lies is in terms of engagement. While one third of investors say the format makes no difference to how engaged they are with meeting the company, nearly six in 10 say they are more engaged with in-person meetings.
According to Affryll Teo, head of IR and sustainability at Malaysian insurer Tune Protect, ‘one reason could be the intrinsic value investors place on face-to-face interactions. It potentially gives investors the opportunity to size up management and, on that basis, perceive management’s ability in steering the business before making an investment decision.’
With in-person meetings providing an edge over virtual meetings in terms of the depth of investor engagement, are there any areas where virtual meetings can provide an advantage over the in-person variety? One clear area is in terms of logistics. Even with the lifting of restrictions and the potential return to in person, virtual meetings are just much easier to arrange.
Improved access to senior management has long been a goal shared by both IROs and investors. As Peter Schuman, director of IR at US-based wireless company Cambium Networks, says: ‘Virtual meetings are more efficient and give investors more access to the executive suite. I’ve been waiting for a catalyst to switch to virtual meetings and Covid was that event.’
This is an extract of a feature from the Summer 2022 issue of IR Magazine. Click here to read the full article.
The first part of our research into corporate access appears in the summer magazine edition and is available to download for IR Magazine Essentials subscribers. The second part will be available to IR Magazine Advanced subscribers this summer.