Following more than two years of restricted interaction with the investment community, reinforcing existing and building new relationships is the main priority for companies over the next 12 months. Companies are accelerating efforts to increase engagement with a broader investor base and are striving to refine their story and tell it through wider ranging channels. This is reflected in greater engagement with passive and retail investors, the continued popularity of Capital Markets Days, and the increased willingness to travel for investor meetings.
However, against the current market backdrop, effectiveness of such initiatives is far from guaranteed. In addition to making expectation management more challenging, the volatile external environment has proved a significant distraction for investors, prompting fund managers to adopt a top-down approach while navigating challenging macroeconomic and geopolitical events and conditions. 37% of companies report difficulties in gaining traction with their desired targets while, despite increased desire for in-person meetings, two thirds of companies continue to conduct more than 50% of their investor meetings virtually.
As market conditions continue to evolve, investment narratives too need to be adapted in response – 45% of our survey respondents plan to refine their investment case over the coming 12 months to reinforce differentiation. This exercise is likely to consider greater integration of ESG themes into the overall narrative given the growing practice of referencing non-financial achievements across results materials and ongoing news flow.
Despite the continued rise in the number of companies with a dedicated sustainability committee at board level, from 37% in 2019 to 57% in 2022, half of boards still do not have members with specific experience of managing sustainability issues. The connection between the ESG commitments companies make and how management teams are remunerated also remains weak. Three out of four of the companies surveyed have less than 10% of executive remuneration linked to ESG targets and of this, 42% have 0% of executive pay linked to ESG targets.
Slow progress in addressing this issue may be partly due to a lack of awareness regarding investment decisions taken based on ESG factors, with 95% of IR teams unaware of any divestments based on unsatisfactory ESG performance. Investor feedback and greater transparency regarding investment decision making could go a long way in accelerating change in this respect.
With so much noise in the market, it may seem like no one is paying attention, but the reputational risks of abandoning clear, consistent and authentic communications have never been higher.
CDR’s 14th Annual IR Survey incorporates feedback from 282 Investor Relations Officers (IROs) at leading companies across the world. Click here for full highlights from our report and the download archive.
By Sandra Novakov, Head of Investor Relations, London