Over the last 18 months, IR professionals have had to dramatically rethink their approach to investor engagement. While the goals have stayed the same – staying close to shareholders, targeting new investors and making sure the corporate story is well understood – the methods have had to adapt to the virtual environment we all now operate in.
As part of that shift, Nasdaq has witnessed an acceleration in the use of its ConnectIR platform, which streamlines the workflow and scheduling around investor events via the Nasdaq IR Insight platform. This October, the platform passed its 10,000th event booking, while the number of companies using the service has climbed by 260 percent since the start of the pandemic.
‘When you think about the processes and workflows that have been in place around investor events, many of them are fairly unchanged for a long period of time, potentially decades in some cases,’ says James Tickner, global head of product for IR Intelligence at Nasdaq.
‘Clearly, with any new technology, changing behavior takes time and patience on behalf of users. But I think what we have seen through the pandemic – in many areas, not just business and IR – is a willingness to embrace things at a different pace.’
IR teams have received an increased number of inbound meeting requests during the pandemic, notes Tickner, a trend that has encouraged them to review their internal processes. ‘There has been a necessity to look at how they are operating and think about whether they can be more efficient,’ he says.
The most popular use of the ConnectIR platform is for organizing meetings around the earnings cycle and virtual roadshows, says Tickner. It’s particularly useful for situations where companies need to co-ordinate a series of one-on-one meetings over a short space of time, he explains.
For companies just starting out with the platform, a good place to start is post-earnings calls because you are dealing with known contacts, adds Tickner. Once you are familiar with the technology, you can start using it to target new investors.
For Tickner, the biggest efficiency saving of the ConnectIR platform comes from the support it provides when scheduling meetings. ‘I think we’ve all had this experience of trying to find common time between people who are outside our company – the back and forth to find a slot that works can be challenging,’ he says.
‘Particularly, when you have a lot of people to cover, whether it’s consecutive one on ones or a group meeting, the idea that I can actually book my own slots at a time that suits me, and that all feeds back into the automated scheduling, is the biggest efficiency gain people see in the early days.’
Users of ConnectIR are also boosting performance by running campaigns through the platform and then reviewing the stats. IR teams can see how successful the messaging is and what’s driving people to book meetings, says Tickner: ‘For those who like to review that data, it can help you be more effective in reaching out to some of those lesser-known contacts.’
Other tech tools
Aside from ConnectIR, how else are IR teams using Nasdaq tools to support their engagement efforts? Ticker highlights two trends. First, companies are increasingly integrating Microsoft Outlook into their IR workstream.
‘Increasingly, there are more roles within the company that are engaging investors directly,’ he says. ‘Now we see a lot more meetings with the chief sustainability officer and corporate secretary so capturing everything that is going on across the company is something that is clearly important. If you are going to drive better engagement, first of all you need to capture everything you are doing.’
Second, Tickner points to the growing use of event reporting. ‘IR teams want to understand exactly how much time they have spent with everyone, including what kind of access they have had with senior management and other people in the company,’ he says.
‘For example, you want to check that all your top holders have had the right level of access. Allocating scarce resources is something IR teams have been grappling with for years and they are becoming increasingly data-driven and drilling down into the impact of particular events.’
Virtual versus in-person trends
Of course, all eyes are currently on when companies and investors can get back to in-person meetings in a meaningful way. While virtual engagement has provided many benefits, most agree that physical meetings are still the best way to build long-term relationships.
Nasdaq explored this topic in a recent survey of corporate and buy-side respondents. ‘The general consensus is that the in-person format is highly valued and will be part of IR programs in the future – although it will probably never get to the proportion it was prior to the pandemic – and companies will have to wrestle with the hybrid event concept, where you will have some participants in person and others joining virtually,’ says Tickner.
‘In terms of in-person meetings, what we’ve seen is that these are coming back fairly slowly and generally only for domestic meetings. That might start to accelerate. What we’ve heard from companies anecdotally is that next year they are planning for a larger in-person segment in their calendar.’
Executives who have managed to return to in-person meetings have been really positive about the experience, says Tickner, while the buy side is also keen, although there are many circumstances under which investors are fine with virtual. ‘There’s only one direction it goes from here – it’s just about where we find the balance,’ he concludes.