Investor Days can be one of the most effective and cost-efficient activities in your IR program – but only if you’re prepared. Anyone who has worked “behind the scenes” of an investor day knows that it can be a logistical headache. You not only need to anticipate all the possible hiccups of hosting a live event, but handle the more substantive issues associated with telling your company’s story to a roomful of investors and analysts.
Our Blog: The Podium
New disclosure rule presents an “apples and oranges” problem
As any communication veteran knows, every corporate “happening” creates a messaging opportunity. That is certainly the case with the impending round of pay-ratio disclosures. Starting this year, under an SEC amendment to Regulation S-K, which stemmed from a provision in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, most U.S. public companies will need to disclose the total annual compensation of their “median” employees, along with the ratio of that figure to the total compensation of their chief executive officers. Based on preliminary estimates, the highest ratios could exceed 350 to 1.
When faced with a crisis, even senior IR executives can benefit from an outside perspective, particularly when that perspective is based on years of experience. In the following conversation, David Calusdian, president at Sharon Merrill Associates, discusses crisis management issues and the most effective strategies to protect corporate reputation and credibility.
Q: Can you share some recent examples of your crisis communications work, to give readers a sense of the many issues that can ensnare a public company, and discuss how you solve them?
A: Today the potential for a crisis lurks in any piece of market-moving information that originates from somewhere other than the company. It could be a social media post about an impending management shakeup, an FDA product recall or a data breach. The potential scenarios are endless, but an effective response shares a few common themes:
When many management teams contemplate the quarterly earnings cycle, they think primarily about compliance – dotting the “i”s and crossing the “t”s. But while compliance is a major driver of financial disclosure, it should not be the only one – if it were, companies would file the 10-Q or 10-K and leave it at that. Take a more strategic approach to your next earnings cycle with these five tips.
We recently spoke with Baruch Lev, the Philip Bardes Professor of Accounting and Finance at New York University Stern School of Business. In “The End of Accounting and the Path Forward for Investors and Managers,” Prof. Lev and Feng Gu, associate professor at the University of Buffalo, propose a new system to improve transparency of corporate accounting. This system aims to make public accounting disclosures more useful to investors. They encourage investor relations professionals to begin discussions with management to increase the usefulness and relevance of company disclosures for investors.
Timing is everything. On Tuesday, one of the “Original Six” hockey teams fired its long-time coach Claude Julien, who in 2011 led the team to a Stanley Cup victory. The Bruins had underperformed in recent years, especially this one, and Julien, who had been the NHL’s longest-tenured coach, was shown the door. The announcement of the firing caused immediate backlash among the media and fans in New England.
What caused the uproar, however, wasn’t the actual firing of Julien, although he certainly had his defenders among Bruins fans. The problem was timing. The Bruins fired Julien two days after the New England Patriots had won Super Bowl LI in historically dramatic fashion. And in what is undoubtedly no coincidence, the announcement took place on the day of Boston’s celebratory parade and rally for the Patriots -- a day when hundreds of thousands of fans clogged the city streets to get a glimpse of their gridiron heroes. The city’s sports focus was most certainly on the Patriots. And that’s what the Bruins were counting on.
If you’re the CFO of a pre-IPO company, the months leading up to
your S-1 filing can be exhausting. You’ve read your registration statement so many times you have it memorized. And you cannot even begin to imagine a time when you won’t be spending every waking moment with your bankers.
Riddle, Mystery or Enigma? Winston Churchill was talking about the potential for Russian military involvement at the outset of World War II when he uttered that now-famous phrase. But the concept
also describes how many small-cap management teams feel about the process of obtaining sell-side analyst coverage. Some companies manage a full roster of covering analysts, while others struggle to maintain or attract just a few. The bank research business model is in considerable flux, and IROs increasingly find themselves in the latter situation, frustrated by the limited return on their efforts to attract coverage.
If you have ever tried telling a life sciences investment story, chances are, you’ve encountered one of three responses:
- “Wait. Slow down. I have no idea what you’re talking about.” This is sometimes communicated nonverbally as a blank stare.
- “Okay. That makes sense. So when do you expect commercialization?”
- “What’s the mechanism of action? And which disease are you treating? I haven’t heard of that study. Where is the research on that, so that I can read it myself?”
These examples illustrate a unique challenge for life science companies: How to communicate an investment thesis to three entirely different groups of institutional investors – generalists; life science investors less familiar with your specific market or science; and investors who are experts in your particular area.
Communicating That 1+1 = 3
By David Calusdian, Executive Vice President & Partner
A well-known portfolio manager once said to me that he loved diversified industrial companies “for their break-up value.” If you’re in the industrial space, this is the polar opposite of how you want investors to think about your company. For an industrial, it all comes down to ensuring that investors see your company as being more than a sum of its parts – not less. Here are four tips to ensure that investors believe your company is worth more than its breakup value.
Synergize! An industrial company’s collection of businesses can either be viewed as just that - a disparate group of autonomous operations individually contributing to the corporate P&L. Or they can be seen as interconnected, mutually supporting components of a single profit-generating machine. The first way to demonstrate that your company’s whole is indeed greater than the sum of its parts is to communicate how the portfolio management philosophy of the business fosters cross-selling throughout the organization, driving revenue growth. Also focus on how management realizes cost synergies across the enterprise, such as through lower fixed costs due to shared overhead or greater combined purchasing power.