With more than 150 senior IR professionals present from across Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand, the IR Magazine Forum & Awards – South East Asia heard how to ‘light up’ investors’ screens, get retail on board and what lies ahead for ESG reporting in the region.
Here are five things we learned from the forum.
- Don’t wait for investors to find you
The first session kicked off with a conversation around how to sit at the top of investors’ lists when they are ready to invest. Jason Paltrowitz, director and executive vice president of corporate services at OTC Markets Group, summed it up: ‘stocks are sold, they’re not bought,’ he told delegates.
‘Companies that think they can just list in their home market and people will find them? That tends to not work,’ he continued. ‘There has to be a really good mix of going out there, being aggressive and telling your story – but doing it in a way that lights up the screens where the US investment community is in a way that’s consistent.’
Nicole Chen, head of investor relations at CapitaLand China Trust, said that when it comes to communicating in a challenging environment, ‘the first thing you need to think of is how your company is aligned to the macroeconomic conditions, or the long-term growth of the company or the country that you’re in.
‘We can never ‘IR’ our way out of bad results, no matter the color of the font, the pretty graphics that you’re putting in. If your results are bad, it’s bad,’ she said. ‘I think there must be some form of strategy that you will adhere to, but at the same time, try different ways to reach out to investors.’
- Leverage retail investors
In the second session of the day, panelists offered insights into leveraging alternative data to engage with investors, particularly those on the retail side.
Francis Rego, senior vice president of finance at Mega Lifesciences, explained that his company attracts a lot of retail investors: ‘They are like the youngest sibling in the house, who keeps you on your toes,’ he said.
‘So, in a way it helps us to keep us more aware of what needs to be communicated [and] how quickly it needs to be communicated, which is actually good for us.’
Highlighting the importance of keeping retail investors happy, Manoj Gurbuxani, deputy chief financial officer at Mega Lifesciences, added: ‘[retail investors] are very important because they bring a lot of turnover into our businesses.
‘The key message here is that your investors are really aligned to the strategy of your company. They are the ones who will stay with you from a long-term perspective,’ he added.
- Step up during crisis mode
Discussing the greatest value an IRO can offer during difficult times, Elena Arabadjieva, chief operating officer and head of investor relations at Cromwell European REIT, spoke on a panel exploring best practice in both crisis management and how to measure the success of your IR efforts. Arabadjieva noted her experience in this area, telling the audience that Cromwell European REIT has been operating in ‘what has been a crisis for the last four years’ since the start of Covid-19.
In crisis mode, IR can’t just play a reporting role, she stressed. ‘We are so much more than that’. Instead, for Arabadjieva, IR in a crisis requires a different mindset. ‘Investor relations in times like that are actually the infantry [communicating] back to the generals. We hear firsthand from investors. Even if we don’t want to hear it, they’ll write to us.’
- Get to grips with sustainability reporting
Elsewhere, a session on developments in the regulatory and framework space looked at the top issues affecting the way investors, issuers and key stakeholders in the ESG ecosystem consume data produced by public companies.
Discussing what the sustainability reporting roadmap looks like in Singapore over the next few years, Bong Yap Kim, senior technical director and sustainability reporting office at the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority, noted that if a company is listed in Singapore, ‘you will be doing climate reporting, in accordance with the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB), as early as 2025’.
The ISSB will also become mandatory for non-listed companies with annual revenues of more than S$1 bn ($752.3 mn) in 2027, she added.
Summarizing how companies can improve their ESG reporting in the context of evolving international reporting standards as well as more local rules and recommendations, Kim said companies should keep their reporting sharp, short and simple.
‘Sharp in the sense of focusing on your key stakeholders and focusing on what they need for their decision making,’ she added. ‘It’s not about just painting a rosy story, but giving them the complete information for their decision making.’
- Secure a trusted tech ally
The closing session at the forum put the focus on technology, shedding light on the current landscape of investor engagement strategies in Asia.
Panelists in this session described technology as pivotal, sharing innovative IR solutions both pre and post-pandemic. These ranged from leveraging social platform livestreaming (including Facebook and YouTube) for wider outreach to delving into virtual reality, artificial intelligence-powered presentations and comprehensive online access for AGMs and company briefings. These advancements aimed to enhance investor experiences, speakers said. However, they stressed the importance of thorough preparation and testing to proactively address potential technical challenges as well as how crucial it is to find the right platform for your company’s needs.
‘You should be concentrating on the message that’s going out, not worrying about webcasts and platforms,’ said Oliver Bampfield, managing director at Lumi Global.
In summary, the session concluded that successful investor engagement in this hybrid realm demands a delicate balance of technological skills, adaptability and a steadfast commitment to fostering meaningful relationships beyond the virtual realm.
To find out more about the IR Magazine Forum & Awards – South East Asia click here.