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May 28, 2021

IR teams preparing for tentative return to in-person meetings, poll finds

Continued mix of virtual and in-person meetings for the foreseeable future

Almost two thirds (63 percent) of IR professionals plan to attend at least one in-person investor event during the second half of the year, according to poll results from a recent IR Magazine Webinar.

The largest proportion of respondents – 42 percent – said they haven’t yet scheduled any in-person events, but plan to during the second half of the year, while 16 percent said they plan to attend at least one in-person conference they’ve already registered for. A further 5 percent said they will meet with investors in small group settings. But 37 percent of respondents said they expect to remain virtual-only for the remainder of 2021.

Nick Mazing, director of research at Sentieo, said that based on a review of public company discussion of a return to in-person events, wording around event formats in the coming months is understandably cautious. Phrases like ‘level of in-person attendance to be determined’ and ‘the event will take place… contingent on health and safety guidelines’ are common in event announcements, he noted.

Earlier this month, IR Magazine reported on a OpenExchange survey that found three out of four investor conferences during the second half of 2021 will be entirely virtual, while nearly 70 percent of all investor events in 2022 are expected to be hybrid or virtual-only.

In-person earnings calls

In February, IR Magazine heard that Karen King, senior vice president of investor relations and corporate affairs at Alcon, and Mark Kinarney, senior director of investor relations at Lantheus Holdings, have been getting together with management to hold earnings calls – in a socially distanced manner – in the office.

Almost one third of respondents during last week’s webinar said they are doing the same, while another 7 percent said they will begin conducting earnings calls in-person from next quarter onwards. But the majority (63 percent) said they haven’t held an in-person earnings call and don’t plan to during the next quarter.

Speaking during the webinar, Matt Latino, vice president of investor relations at Xylem, said his management team had been meeting in person for the Q&A portion of earnings calls for the duration of the pandemic. As a safety precaution, and to spend less time together in the same room, Latino said Xylem started pre-recording the prepared remarks.

‘It’s amazing how much of a game changer it was once we made the move to pre-recording,’ he said. ‘Then when we were together for the Q&A, we tried to be as safe as we could – it was just myself, our CEO and CFO in a large conference room together… Probably a lot of [IR professionals] are control freaks at times, but especially around Q&A you want to be there to help guide and orchestrate how we answer. That was something we couldn’t do virtually.’

Latino joined the webinar from his office, where he has been spending more of his time recently. While Xylem doesn’t have a formal return-to-the-office policy yet, he said it will likely afford employees greater flexibility than it did before the pandemic.

Almost three quarters (73 percent) of the audience said their company plans to return to the office with reduced capacity later this year, while 11 percent said they’re back in the office already, 2 percent said their company is now permanently remote and 13 percent said their company has not yet announced a formal return-to-work policy.

Mazing noted that banks and asset managers have been the most bullish in discussing formal return-to-work plans in regulatory filings and on earnings calls.

Ben Ashwell

Ben Ashwell

Ben Ashwell is the editor at IR Magazine and Corporate Secretary, covering investor relations, governance, risk and compliance. Prior to this, he was the founder and editor of Executive Talent, the global quarterly magazine from the Association of...