TRENDS AND ISSUES IN THE WORLD
OF CORPORATE REPORTING
best in class features
of FTSE 100 online
January / February 08
Welcome to the new edition of Directions Supplement. In this
issue we examine the emergence of the online investor centre as
a point of contact between a company and the wider investment
community. When done well an investor centre provides an
informative, clear and engaging communication channel for all
stakeholders. But with a variety of audiences, changes in legislation
and a bewildering array of new web technologies available how
are the leading companies approaching their investor centres?
Salterbaxter’s Head of Interactive, Rob Newham, reviews the
FTSE 100 companies and identifies some ‘best in class’ features.
What makes a good investor centre, what purpose
should it serve and how should companies approach
this valuable communication resource?
Online stakeholder communication is playing Overall, all FTSE 100 investor centre sites
an increasingly important role in investor were good at what we might term basic
relations. But the core aim remains the same: hygiene factors: up-to-date information;
to communicate relevant and up-to-date archived information to allow users to access
information to the investment community. a company’s performance over time; and
IR contact information with phone, email
Investor centres are not simply a repository of or address details.
figures and financial data but neither should
Rob Newham they be approached purely as a marketing tool. All sites contained reports and accounts
Head of Interactive The key is balance. The most successful sites with 26% including basic PDF versions only
Salterbaxter become portals through which companies can and 65% also offering an additional HTML
firstname.lastname@example.org interact with their stakeholders; communicating version for more convenient browsing online.
strategy, performance, direction and culture, (Of interest, 17% of sites provided sectioned
in ways specifically intended to be more PDFs as an alternative way of viewing and
accessible for all stakeholders, large and small. printing large documents.)
Research overview But while broadly speaking our research shows
In order to get a clearer picture of the that all the FTSE 100 provide similar online
approach currently taken by leading companies content, companies do differ widely in the
we reviewed the FTSE 100 online investor way they choose to present information about
centres. Our aim was to understand the themselves – ranging from minimum levels
different stakeholder communication options of statutory compliance to more creative
available and to highlight the successful and engaging forms of communication.
features across the sites that deliver the most
effective user experience. Conclusion
In summary, over and above the statutory
We analysed all the sites against a number requirements, there is a marked difference in
of criteria, including: a clear overview of the the manner in which information is presented.
company’s strategy; a strong investment The availability of new web technologies and
case; content tailored to both private and changes in e-communication are fundamentally
institutional investors; good usability; altering the way companies can interact with
appropriate use of technology; and clearly their stakeholders. But these innovations are
signposted e-communications. only effective when used appropriately to
enhance a stakeholder’s overall experience or
understanding of the company. The sites that
we have chosen to highlight as ‘best in class’
“Investor centres are not simply a all provide good examples of companies that
have achieved the right balance of providing
repository of ﬁgures and ﬁnancial useful information in the most accessible and
engaging manner possible. We hope you agree
data but neither should they be – but, as ever, let us know your views too.
approached purely as a marketing
tool. The key is balance.”
Company strategy / KPI overview
We were interested to find that only 34% of Centrica plc
the sites provide an overview of the company’s ‘Our Vision’: a clear and simple
strategy or aims. Although on further overview of the company’s
investigation this information was usually strategy and aims. It is content
found on either the main corporate sites, driven, using plain language to
or deeper within the investor centre, we felt convey its message, without
that its usefulness was lessened. recourse to technological
Centrica gizmos. This site also contains
There was a wide range of ways in which an efficient summary of the
strategic information about the company wider marketplace to allow
was presented: ranging from text-heavy investors to form a fair
descriptions to more accessible overviews, judgement about the company.
which contain a mixture of text, graphics, Also of note:
animation, and even video, to explain the Cadbury Schweppes plc,
strategy clearly. Cadbury Schweppes (Our Imperial Tobacco Imperial Tobacco plc,
Purpose and Values), Centrica (Our Vision) and Smith & Nephew plc
Imperial Tobacco (Group at a Glance) are good
examples of sites that successfully combine
such features to make strategy clear.
The Investment Case
It’s essential not to assume that stakeholders BP plc
already know about a company prior to visiting ‘Investing in BP’: a key feature
the investor centre. However we found that of a consistently strong investor
only 13% of the sites surveyed provided a centre. It contains all relevant
clearly labelled case for investment. And while information in one place and
many companies do touch on the subject by acts as a portal to greater detail
including prominent positioning statements deeper within the site. The
(such as Imperial Tobacco’s ‘We’re committed ‘Learn about Investing’ tutorial
courses are a particularly useful
to creating value for our shareholders’) they
tool for the retail investor.
don’t go far enough. BP plc
Also of note:
It’s not a case of the hard sell. In the best Aviva plc
examples it’s used as a platform for a member
of the senior management team to communicate
one-to-one with stakeholders. For instance,
Aviva feature a clearly signposted and powerful
investment case on the homepage and give an Aviva
overview of the key reasons to invest in the
company by the CEO, David Moss.
Online investor centres provide the ideal means Aviva plc
to cater for different audiences – private ‘Your Page’: the most powerful
investors, professional and institutional example of the potential
investors, analysts, media, regulatory bodies opportunities of Web 2.0 and
and government – through the provision of personalisation. The site allows
tailored information. Although only 14% of the users to create their own
sites currently provide personalised content bespoke investor page
containing content tailored
there is little doubt that this will increase as
specifically for their needs.
Web 2.0 technologies continue to be used.
Aviva Other features include personal
The sites using personalisation most effectively alerts, reading lists, bookmarks,
contain prominent homepage navigation calendar and notes pages.
features to allow different stakeholder groups Cadbury Schweppes Also of note:
to find information specifically relevant to ICI BT plc, Cadbury Schweppes plc,
them more quickly. For instance, on Centrica’s Centrica plc
homepage a button to prompt users ‘What do
you want to do?’ gives drop-down options for
browsing deeper within the site. Other good
examples of effective personalisation can be “Innovations are only effective when
seen on the homepages of Cadbury Schweppes used appropriately to enhance a
(‘I’m interested in…’), BT (‘Useful resources
& links’) and ICI (‘Right Information For You’). stakeholder’s overall experience.”
We found that 79% of sites provided convenient “The most successful sites become
highlights and quick links on the homepage
to allow users to navigate to more detailed portals through which companies can
information quickly. Good examples of this interact with all their stakeholders.”
are the intuitive layouts of the Centrica,
Imperial Tobacco, Shell and Unilever investor
centres. Of interest, 37% of the sites reviewed Unilever plc
could not be found via a user-friendly URL A winning combination of
(e.g. www.vodafone.com/investor) when good design, clear content, and
entered into a search engine or browser. simple and effective navigation.
Unilever’s investor centre also
It’s also essential that online investor centres conforms to a minimum of W3C
are accessible to all stakeholders, regardless Level A compliance throughout
of their physical or technological capability, allowing all stakeholders to
and where possible should adhere to W3C extract relevant information
WAI’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. quickly and easily.
We were interested to find that 21% of sites Also of note:
do not yet even include a basic accessibility Imperial Tobacco plc
statement. The inclusion of simple tools such
as navigation shortcuts, access keys (keyboard
shortcuts that replace the need for a mouse)
and font resizing for visually impaired users
(as seen on the British American Tobacco
homepage) ensure company information is
accessible for all.
Our research confirms that Web 2.0 BT plc
technologies and rich media have been BT is the only site in the FTSE 100
enthusiastically employed by the FTSE 100 which uses video on its investor
companies: 69% of sites now contain centre homepage to enhance the
webcasts, vodcasts or podcasts alongside the quality and transparency of its
more traditional PowerPoint presentations. investor relations.
46% of sites surveyed also include online tools Vodafone plc
(either provided by a third-party or embedded Vodafone’s interactive analyst
tool is representative of a
within the site) such as the interactive analyst Vodafone
general trend and allows
tools provided by Aviva, Cadbury Schweppes
shareholders to interact with
and Vodafone. We were interested to see the
performance figures in real-time.
increasing availability of information via mobile
devices as seen on the Aviva, J Sainsbury, Also of note:
Rolls Royce and Shire sites. J Sainsbury
Aviva plc, BP plc
With amendments to the Companies Act 2006 Rio Tinto plc
allowing wider e-communications we were An effective initiative to
interested to note only 12% of the FTSE 100 incentivise shareholders to
actively promoting the benefits of electronic receive communications
documentation. Where companies do, Centrica’s electronically linked with
‘Electronic Shareholder Communication’ the company’s sustainable
section is representative of the approach taken development agenda. If users
by highlighting the advantages of the switch register for the scheme, Rio
Tinto buy a sapling to be used
in terms of benefit to both the individual
in the Woodland Trust’s tree-
shareholder (‘improved efficiency, ease
BT planting project, which aims to
of access and online voting’) and the help plant 12 million trees in
environment. We would also note the use of the UK over the next 5 years.
incentive schemes such as BT’s online share
Also of note:
management services (including prize draws
BT plc, Centrica plc
and online portfolio management) or
environmental initiatives (such as Scottish
& Southern Energy’s tree planting scheme).
For links to all the sites highlighted please visit www.salterbaxter.com/directions19
Methodology: The research is based on a review of FTSE 100 online investor centres. All research was conducted by salterbaxter
and every effort has been made to ensure that the data is accurate.
the presentation of online annual reports
Making best had made little progress on the previous
year. There was a feeling that companies
were waiting to see what the next moves
use of online should be, particularly in respect of the new
e-communications requirements introduced
Michael Mitchell communications by the Companies Act 2006.
General Manager It is interesting to see from this survey
The IR Society When the Investor Relations Society first that the majority of companies have still
introduced its Best Practice guidelines, to develop their e-comms policies.
websites were still regarded with some We expect to see continued innovative use
suspicion as an investor communications tool.
We wanted to encourage companies to use
of websites to communicate with existing
the new medium to best effect and therefore stakeholders and potential investors
we developed the guidelines as a way of next year and anticipate considerable
encouraging this. Today the website is the first improvement in online annual reporting.
port of call for most investors and analysts
and it is absolutely essential that companies To this end we are revising and updating our
keep up to date with the opportunities that best practice guidelines and these will form the
developments in the design and capabilities basis of the awards for 2008 which will be
of the internet present. A company’s website announced in November. Whilst we will be
is now its shop window to the outside world. looking at how companies make best use of
The look and feel of the site reflects directly technology, including interactive tools such
on the company. as webcasts and podcasts, we will not be
neglecting the requirements for excellent
In the 2007 Best Practice Awards, the judges communication of those aspects which time
were impressed by the increasing breadth and again the users of accounts say they are
To view the IR Society’s and depth of information held in the investor looking for – namely strategy, outlook and the
Best Practice website relations sections of entrants websites – link between performance and directors’
guidelines please visit particularly in small FTSE and AIM listed remuneration.
www.irbestpractice.org companies – but somewhat disappointed that
With the increase in the amount of
potential information which companies
may wish to disclose online, we will also
be looking for clarity in the content and
structure of such communications. The
IR Society welcomes this review as a very
useful contribution to the continued
development of online communications.
“ Today the website is the
ﬁrst port of call for most
investors and analysts.”
Turnover to see salterbaxter’s
pick of the best in class
features of FTSE 100 online