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Salterbaxter - Directions Supplement - Online Investor Centres


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Examining best in class features of the FTSE 100 online investor centres

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Salterbaxter - Directions Supplement - Online Investor Centres

  1. 1. DIRECTIONS SUPPLEMENT JANUARY / FEBRUARY 08 TRENDS AND ISSUES IN THE WORLD OF CORPORATE REPORTING Examining best in class features of FTSE 100 online investor centres
  2. 2. Directions Supplement 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 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.”
  3. 3. 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. Cadbury Schweppes 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. Personalisation 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.”
  4. 4. Usability 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. 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 Unilever 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. Technology 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 BT plc 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 E-communications 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 Rio Tinto 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 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.
  5. 5. 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. 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 investor centres.
  6. 6. About us Salterbaxter advise companies on strategy, branding, corporate communications and design. Contact: Our clients are extremely varied and include Lucie Harrild FTSE 100 companies; some of the world’s most Tel: +44 (0)20 7229 5720 exclusive brands; independent, entrepreneurial Pavan Athwal businesses; world-leading educational Tel: +44 (0)20 7229 5720 establishments; law firms; private equity firms and media companies. The Directions Supplements support our main Directions We name companies, re-invent companies report and are produced every two months. The main and re-position companies. We help companies Directions report is published each year and is now communicate with shareholders and advise regarded as the UK’s most comprehensive analysis of them on how to address corporate responsibility. the trends and issues in CR We launch, brand and re-brand. communications. If you want a copy, call us on the number below or email A key area of our expertise is corporate reporting and we advise leading UK and European organisations on strategy and design for their financial and CR communications programmes. 202 Kensington Church Street London W8 4DP Tel +44 (0)20 7229 5720 Fax +44 (0)20 7229 5721 This supplement is printed on Think Bright and is supplied by Howard Smith. It is an FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified material and is 100% recyclable. Printed by CTD, an ISO 14001 certified and FSC accredited company. TT-COC-2142 ©1996 Forest Stewardship Council A.C