Mark Hynes - thoughts on corporate disclosure

Opinions on changing rules, changing best practices, and their effect on investor relations officers.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Virtual investor conferences?

Someone once said to me that being an IRO was a cross between being an accountant and a travel agent. The road show schedule of many an IRO can be punishing. So I was intrigued by 2 events this week.

First the research published by Brian Rivel on virtual investor conferences. As his piece in Bulldog notes, the technology is embryo, but nonetheless one out of four sell- and buy-side investment professionals say they have attended live video investor days. Compare that with only one in ten IROs who report that their companies have held this kind of live session in the past.

The second was a conference at which a colleague was invited speak. “Engage CSR 2010: The Growth of Corporate Social Responsibility in a Socially Connected World” was a great conference by all accounts, but the important thing is that it was virtual.

It included standard webcast presentations, but it also allowed for networking rooms, for one on one secure video sessions, opportunities for email and business card exchange, and booths for the product offerings.

So I wonder whether the day of the regular virtual investor conference is nearing. If so, who will organise it? Traditionally, real-world events have been broker-organised, with obvious spin off benefits for them. But how could a virtual event be run? What would a business model look like?
And if it could work for investor conferences, why not road shows? Potentially AGM’s as well, although in the UK the Companies Act does not allow that for the moment.

Given the investor focus on ESG issues (nice irony in flying to attend an ESG conference?) , cost constraints, the changing role of the sell side, and the emergence of appropriate technology, could we be looking at removing the “travel agent” from the job description? Or will the handshake still have to be paramount?


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