iPad apps for IR finally come to North America

Jan 09, 2012
<p>Avion Gold the first to offer investors Q4&rsquo;s new low-cost, low-upkeep app</p>

IPads are everywhere. So where are all the IR apps? Europe, that’s where. Until today.

Switzerland’s Nestlé paved the way with an iPad app for investor relations in late 2010, followed by Unilever, BP, Shell, Marks & Spencer, SAP, Kingfisher and a few dozen others.

With the UK’s Investis building most of these apps, Europe has been stealing a march on North America.

No longer. Avion Gold Corporation, a mining company with headquarters in Toronto and a market cap around $750 mn, will soon have an iPad app available in Apple’s App Store.

It is surely the first Canadian company to launch an iPad app for IR and probably the first in North America. Soon to follow will be Connecticut’s Stanley Black & Decker and others are in development.

The new wave of North American apps is being ushered in by Toronto’s Q4 Web Systems, which, as an IR website developer, has itself has been stealing a march on larger competitors like Thomson Reuters and NASDAQ OMX’s Shareholder.com.

With its origins in building a new breed of auditable IR websites for Canadian gold mining companies, Q4 now has a strong international client base. It is especially well known for its social media savvy, epitomized by its founder, Darrell Heaps.

Q4 only recently began seeing demand for iPad apps among clients and today’s launch is meant to be a first step. ‘It’s going to continuously evolve – like our web product,’ Heaps says.

Low cost, little work

Custom-building an iPad app from scratch can cost $50,000 and up. Investis charges £10,000 to £15,000 ($15,500 to $23,000). So Q4’s off-the-shelf solution, at $7,000 for setup and $500 a month afterwards, should appeal to a wide audience.

Plus, hardly any maintenance is needed since the app pulls existing information off a company’s website (even if it’s not on Q4’s platform) and from social media channels.

Heaps says even popular IR apps seem to have attracted only a few hundred downloads, so it’s hard to tell how widespread acceptance is among investors and analysts.

A buy-side analyst once told IR magazine that he would have no interest in hundreds of different IR apps strewn across his iPad because he already has one app, a web browser, that gives him a window on all the companies he covers.

But Heaps says an app that includes push notifications creates an instant connection between a company and its investors and draws them closer than a mere web page.

‘There’s truly real-time contact. The distance between a company’s content and the investor gets shorter,’ he says.

He agrees that an analyst wouldn’t want 100 apps for 100 companies and foresees a ‘super-app’ that will aggregate information from many companies.

Following Q4’s iterative approach, a super-app will depend on the take-up of today’s first generation app for individual companies.

Widgets to give designers more freedom

In the meantime, Q4’s other product launch today, Q4 Widgets, will also help bring IR information to iPads, other tablets and smartphones.

Q4 Widgets rely on JSON feeds to access financial and social media information, which basically unleashes the front end presentation from the back-end content management system, so designers can build corporate websites any way they want along with mobile sites for smartphones and tablets.

‘The new architecture is flexible, letting us push content to any type of device,’ Heaps says. ‘The key thing is that designers can do a lot on Q4 that they can’t do on Thomson.’

Q4 is offering online tours of its iPad app and Q4 Widgets. @darrellheaps and @q4websystems are tweeting heavily today while blogging at q4blog.com.

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