In our most recent Sefiani webinar, “Conversations with Experts about Communication that Matters”, Forum 360 CEO Rowland Hirst delivered excellent insights into how best to communicate with investors and shareholders during the pandemic and beyond.
Rowland is the founder of Forum 360, a next generation sales and distribution platform for money managers and advisers to engage virtually with their investors. He joined Sefiani Director Nick Owens in conversation – here are the highlights.
- We are living through vertical adaptation to virtual meetings, from your smallest investor through to the chair of the board. This is structural change.
- As we adapt, a National Bureau of Economic Research study shows that investors are looking for shorter meetings, held more frequently and with more people in those meetings. This supports the group virtual meeting format on which Forum 360 has built its solution.
- Investors want to move away from the showpiece events of the past to more frequent meeting opportunities where they have the opportunity to set the agenda. This leads to more inclusive meetings. That improves efficiency of time for both investors and the host which is critical now that managers are meeting in the domain of investors and advisors – their mobile phone or desktop.
- Fund managers who make themselves more accessible build trust more effectively and the research shows they will attract more assets under management than better performers.
- Now that we have adapted to virtual meetings, this becomes the minimum expectation for building and maintaining relationships. The leading money managers in the new world will deliver. They will also devote their resources to improving the measure of these relationships, knowing that group virtual meetings are far more data-rich than physical meetings. (Forum 360 helps money managers improve the measure of their relationships through value-added analytics and ensuring managers can continue to capture this critical data while working with their distribution partners.)
- A more inclusive and more direct investor communication approach is part of the governance component of an ESG strategy.
- Prior to COVID-19, environment was the biggest concern of ESG for a typical ESG fund manager. Virtual meetings have no more than 7% of the carbon footprint of physical meetings (UNSW) held in the same city, making them ideal for ESG advocacy. Since the start of the pandemic though, more emphasis is now being placed on governance. Investors will want to see more information from CEOs on governance and absolute transparency during this period.
- Management quality remains a key decision criterion for active institutional investors. Traditionally this has been about delivering shareholder value. The metrics by which investors hold CEOs to account is broadening, driven by the rise in ESG. So much so that the peak lobby group for corporate America, The Business Roundtable, changed the purpose of a company from delivering shareholder value to serving a broader suite of stakeholders.
How COVID-19 is different to the GFC
- Rowland observed that the GFC was a crisis of confidence across capital markets, from equity through to senior debt. Covid-19 is a virus stifling economic activity and very different to the GFC. As we emerge from Covid-19 we may see periods of high volatility and confidence issues in capital markets, and we may see austerity measures, like we witnessed in the GFC, that stoke this volatility. It took the US two years for real GDP to come back to levels seen prior to the GFC. There is a long road to recovery ahead.
- Financial advisers during the GFC established strong relationships with their clients by going above and beyond to ensure the financial wellbeing of their customers. The key lesson is that relationships are made and lost in periods of uncertainty, more frequently than in periods of low market volatility.
If you’ would like to learn more about how to increase investor engagement through your communications, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org