How Investor Relations Can Support the Buy Side’s Investment Process

By Dennis Walsh, Vice President

“Buy-side analysts truly value a company with a responsive investor relations program led by an informed IRO,” shares John Barr, Co-Manager of the Needham Growth Fund (NEEGX) and Manager of the Needham Aggressive Growth Fund (NEAGX).

Most strategic investor relations programs aim to increase institutional ownership with new long-term shareholders. But anyone who has ever worked in IR knows this is often easier said than done. Targeting quality potential investors and conducting outreach can be a major undertaking. Understanding the buy-side’s investment process for identifying long-term holdings is essential to your success. So what are the key elements of a typical buy-side’s stock picking process? At Needham, Barr’s research team sources ideas from a number of methods, including quantitative screens based on various financial metrics, reading trade publications, and talking to people such as buy-side colleagues. Barr says, “If your stock happens to be on our idea list and you call looking for a meeting then we’ll do it. If it’s not on our list, it’s unlikely that we will take a meeting.”

How can IR contribute? Needham analysts like to conduct their own research – it gives them an opportunity to develop their own point of view – so being undercovered by the sell-side is not always a negative. If your company is being considered as a new investment idea for a firm like Needham, a best-in-class IR program can support the due diligence process from start to finish. Consider these insider tips from Barr to help IROs better support the buy-side’s investment process. Continue reading

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10 Tips for Dealing with Shareholder Activism

By Maureen WolffPresident and Partner, Sharon Merrill Associates

For many companies, a looming activist shareholder is no longer the exception – it’s the rule. One reason is that an increasing number of hedge funds are using activism as a standalone strategy. Assets managed by activist hedge funds increased 42% in 2013 to $93 billion from $65.5 billion in 2012, according to Hedge Fund Research, Inc.

The swirl of activism has the C-suite and the board concerned. In a poll of executives for its recent Capital Conference Barometer, Ernst & Young reported that nine of 10 executives acknowledged that issues raised by shareholders have influenced boardroom agendas, with cost reduction and operational efficiency identified as the most pressing concern over the next 12 months.

The threat of activist investors encircling your company can be intimidating – unless you understand how to engage, respond and communicate. Here are 10 strategies to help you prepare. Continue reading

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Sharon Merrill President and Partner Maureen Wolff selected as 2014 NIRI Fellow

Maureen WolffSharon Merrill Associates President and Partner Maureen Wolff was selected as one of five new National Investor Relations Institute (NIRI) Fellows. NIRI Fellows are recognized leaders who represent the ideals of the investor relations (IR) profession, and have distinguished themselves on the basis of their integrity, leadership, involvement and contributions to the IR profession throughout their careers.

Sharon Merrill, Chairman and CEO of Sharon Merrill Associates said, “Maureen is extremely well deserving of this great honor by the National Investor Relations Institute. She has been a leader in the advancement of the investor relations profession for the past 30 years and an ardent supporter of NIRI. Congratulations to Maureen and the 2014 class of NIRI Fellows.”

In the NIRI announcement of the Fellows Class of 2014 , NIRI CEO Jeff Morgan said, “I am delighted to honor these five outstanding individuals who have been so important to the development of the profession and to NIRI’s success. NIRI Fellows are nominated by their peers, and represent the highest standards in the investor relations profession and in our community. We look forward to honoring them at the 2014 NIRI Annual Conference this June.” Continue reading

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Sharon Merrill’s Daughter Competes in Sochi Winter Olympic Games

Julia Marino

The Sharon Merrill Associates team is excited and proud to share our own unique connection to the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. Julia Marino, daughter of agency CEO and founder Sharon Merrill, will be competing for a medal in the Women’s Slopestyle Skiing competition.  Julia is representing her birth country, the Republic of Paraguay, as the first athlete ever to represent the South American country at the Winter Olympics. A student at the University of Colorado, Julia will be proudly carrying Paraguay’s tricolor national flag during the opening ceremonies at Fisht Olympic Stadium on Friday, February 7. The 2014 games mark the first time slopestyle, a freestyle skiing event featuring a downhill obstacle course consisting of jumps and rails, is included in the Olympics. The Women’s Slopestyle Skiing event is scheduled to air on NBC at 8 p.m. ET on Tuesday, February 11. Please join us in cheering on Julia as she takes on Sochi!

To follow Julia’s Olympic journey, find her on Facebook and Twitter.

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Sharon Merrill EVP & Partner David Calusdian Elected to NIRI Board of Directors

David CalusdianSharon Merrill’s Executive Vice President & Partner David Calusdian has been elected to serve on the National Investor Relations Institute (NIRI) Board of Directors. David will serve a four-year term, which began at NIRI’s annual meeting on December 4, 2013.  Calusdian continues a legacy of NIRI board leadership at Sharon Merrill as agency President and Partner Maureen Wolff served on the board from 2003 – 2007.

Jeffrey D. Morgan, president and chief executive officer of NIRI had the following to say of the four NIRI members elected to serve on the board: “These four individuals are representative of so many NIRI members in their interest in advancing NIRI’s mission and in their genuine passion for the investor relations profession.”

Sharon Merrill, Chairman and CEO of Sharon Merrill Associates, said “We are proud to continue our firm’s legacy of leadership on the NIRI national board.  After Maureen’s tenure on the NIRI board, culminating in her serving as Chairman, we are delighted that David is sharing his investor relations expertise as a NIRI board member. Congratulations to David and the newly elected directors.” Continue reading

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Shareholder on a Shelf: An Earnings Tradition

By Dennis Walsh, Vice President

The Shareholder on a Shelf is a new tradition that has become the holiday gift of choice for IROs to their executive management teams. The story of the Shareholder on a Shelf is as follows:

Shareholder on a Shelf

“Have you ever wondered how the SEC could know;
If you’re naughty or nice in making your reported revenues and margins grow;
For 79 years it’s been a big secret;
Which now can be shared, if you promise to keep it.

At reporting time the SEC sends me to you;
I sit in the shadows to watch and report on all that you do;
My job is an assignment from Ms. Mary Jo White herself;
I am her helper, a friendly scout shareholder that sits on a shelf. Continue reading

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Employee Training: From Reg FD to “Wall Street 101”

By Maureen Wolff, President and Partner, Sharon Merrill Associates

Wall Street 101When the SEC last month charged First Solar’s former head of investor relations with violating its fair disclosure rules, the announcement gave more than a few IROs pause. And for good reason. Lawrence Polizzotto paid a $50,000 fine for the violation. Although corporate IROs and the financial press have focused on the settlement with Polizzotto, perhaps more critical for public companies is the SEC’s treatment of First Solar itself.

Rather than charge the company separately, the SEC said it decided to forego corporate enforcement because of First Solar’s “extraordinary cooperation.” This included the company self-reporting the violations to the SEC and its “environment of compliance,” which First Solar developed through its disclosure committee and additional Reg FD training for employees managing the company’s public disclosure.

But how many public companies are actively training their staff in Reg FD, insider trading or even the general responsibilities that come with working for a public company?  For example, while instruction against insider trading is something every public company should be providing, there are numerous examples of public filers whose employees claimed they did not know they were violating insider trading laws.  Many companies expect their managers and reporting staff to understand what it means to be a public company employee, but may not take the time to teach it. And if it is taught, the training may consist of just a single session right before the IPO – perhaps never to be offered again. Continue reading

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