‘Keep the deck fresh’: Advice from the South East Asia Forum

Dec 11, 2020
Virtual event sees almost 150 people attend from nine countries

This year’s IR Magazine Forum – South East Asia was, as with all things 2020, a virtual event. But the fact that travel is limited only sharpened the importance of such topics as where IROs should focus their attention as the Covid-19 pandemic continues, how to use ESG to shape your company into one that is more resilient and sustainable, and increasing engagement in a virtual world.

Talking on the panel, ‘How to adapt your equity story and get buy-in for the long-term vision of your company’, Elena Arabadjieva, chief operating officer and head of IR at Cromwell EREIT Management, Joshua Lee, senior portfolio manager at Bank of Singapore and Giovanna Vera, assistant vice president of corporate finance, IR, treasury and M&A at Century Pacific Group discussed how to get around ‘webcam fatigue’. The answer was unanimous: keep it short and sweet – and keep the deck fresh.

‘I have been in conferences where I see eight companies in one day – that’s eight hours’ worth of speech,’ said Lee. ‘So if IROs can keep whatever they say short and concise, that would be very helpful.’

Easily implemented changes, such as sharing points ahead of time, are helpful, he added, allowing investors to absorb the information more easily.

Arabadjieva said this was something she had done increasingly as the year went on. Echoing Lee’s thoughts on keeping things short and sweet, she told the audience that this year she had found herself ‘cutting and recutting investor presentations’.

‘In September, we probably did five events in one week,’ she recalled. ‘And we just kept on cutting the decks and making them shorter after every event, because the people on these calls have very short attention spans: if you’re not the one who’s speaking you tend to wander off, switch off your camera, go do something else.’

Vera agreed, explaining that in some cases, Century Pacific Group had narrowed its presentation decks to a single point per slide – as well as reviewing content if a question was coming up regularly.

‘Use investor feedback to tailor the message,’ she told attendees, explaining that if part of your story is unclear, you should address that for the next round. This review and renew process ‘also keeps our jobs interesting, right? It’s us who will be presenting that material over and over again.’

Keeping attention on what you’re saying – and staying memorable – is also about finding your voice, said Arabadjieva: ‘I know people talk about authenticity a lot but it’s very important. You need to find your voice, you need to find the voice of your company and the voice of your management.’

She also highlighted the importance of being adaptable to what your investors want to hear. Answering the question: what advice do you have for telling the long-term strategy when investors want to focus on the short term?, she said that ‘ultimately investors sometimes just want to be heard. They don’t necessarily call you because they want you to know all the answers. They call you because they want to talk to somebody from the company who is going to be honest with them.

‘If you don’t know [the answer], say that you don’t: there’s no shame in saying, I’ll come back to you.’

That doesn’t, however, apply to management on a presentation. No matter what the uncertainty, ‘no investor wants to hear management say, We don’t know what we’re doing,’ said Vera. So you still have to set out the assumptions you’re making as a company and what management is doing – despite the uncertainty. Then ‘investors and analysts can do their own analysis, whether they agree with your assumptions or not – that’s their call.’

The important thing, as always – but perhaps now more than ever ­ is transparency. You need to be transparent as to your decision-making process, said Vera. ‘If the exact outcome is still questionable, focus on the process, focus on assumptions [the company is making]’.

Lee agreed: ‘The role of IR is not to help investors make money, but to prevent surprises that come along that might rattle investors.’

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