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COVID-19: What Analysts are saying about Company Results Meetings

In just a matter of months, COVID-19 has fundamentally changed the way that listed companies, investors and analysts interact with each other, as virtual results meetings, online investor roadshows and closed-door AGMs have become the ‘new normal’.

MHP was curious to see how the analyst community has responded to these new ways of working, and what longer term impacts the pandemic will have on how they engage with Companies in a post COVID-19 world.

So, we surveyed more than 100 research analysts from across London’s leading investment banks and brokers to explore this theme further, and today can reveal the results…

In a world before COVID-19, nearly 60% of analysts always tried to attend results meetings and only 6% said that the virtual option was their preferred choice.

The current situation has forced us to do things differently, which could be the trigger for virtual results meetings to become more popular.

Meeting management in person remains the biggest reason for keeping physical meetings post lockdown, with 90% of analysts saying that the opportunity to speak to management – in an unrecorded and more casual environment – was the most important reason for attending.

Post-lockdown, innovation is needed to replicate management ‘face-time’ with other meaningful engagement forums throughout the year.

We believe that a genuine hybrid of virtual and face to face meetings can and will work better for both parties in future – possibly even a hybrid meeting for finals and a just a virtual one for interims.

During lockdown some of the advantages from virtual meetings have surfaced. The most common reasons given by analysts for a possible shift to virtual results meetings included better use of time and less travel hassle (particularly from those based in Canary Wharf), easier to multitask and take notes, with the overall benefit of producing research more quickly and efficiently.

“My office is in Canary Wharf which means I can barely read the statement in the office before having to leave for the presentation.”

Either way, virtual meetings will need to improve. Key frustrations lay in the connectivity of the technology and time and complexity when logging on. It is probably equally frustrating to be stuck in the security queue at the Stock Exchange, making you late for a real meeting, as it is to have to wait to be let in to a virtual meeting or to have connectivity problems .

 

And surely, all companies should now offer the option of a virtual meeting.

“It’s frankly beyond ridiculous that the small cap universe of stocks doesn’t webcast results as standard.”

“Video is fine if professionally done and simultaneous with live audience. During lockdown audio with slides actually works best. Don’t need to see presenter’s book collection with a jolty web connection.”

But the greatest issue was the ability to ask questions and easy access to slide decks, which were viewed as heavily favouring those in physical attendance.

“Should be able to input questions remotely at any time and have someone ask them at the Q&A to make it slicker”

“The slide presentation should ALWAYS be shared beforehand”

 

This survey has certainly given us some food for thought. Are unnecessary mass gatherings going to be a thing of the past? In a socially distanced world, maybe we need to rethink how analysts and management meet.

Most of the comments outside the formal survey questions were on what needs to improve.

 

These are the key takeaways:

  • Improve the technology and logistics – need to improve connectivity and registration process
  • Get the presentation to the remote audience in good time. If you can put a hard copy on a chair 30 mins before a meeting, you can easily email it out or publish it on your website in advance
  • Make it much easier to ask questions online
  • Allow written questions to be submitted during the presentation
  • “Leave the mike” with the online questioner so that they can ask a follow up question or get clarification
  • During lockdown, audio with slides can be a better option than a poor quality video. “Don’t need to see speakers book collection with jolty web connection.”

And an over-riding message of levelling the playing field “if you can’t get to the meeting you shouldn’t feel as though you’ve got a second class ticket or a seat in the upper circle with a restricted view.” Companies must make a special effort to look after people attending on line.

 

We finish with a thank you to all of the analysts who took precious time out to participate in our survey. We will be working with clients to ensure that the points raised are taken on board and the changes needed are implemented.