Closir chosen to be founding member of Innovate Finance

Closir joins UK’s Top 50 to launch Innovate Finance, the City of London’s new financial tech industry body.

George-Osborne

Closir, the global investor relations platform, today joins Innovate Finance, an elite industry body backed by the U.K. government, as a founding member. Other founding members cover a range of global financial institution including HSBC, Barclays, Visa, Lloyds and Santander.

U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne officially launched the initiative in London and highlighted the importance of Financial Technology as an industry in the U.K. He also outlined a number of government initiatives to support this rapidly growing sector.

Claire Cockerton, CEO and Director of Innovate Finance stated, “Closir aims to streamline and simplify company disclosure, by creating an efficient and dynamic platform for investors and companies to engage with each other. By leveraging the power of technology, Closir is building a tool with truly global potential.”

“We are excited to be joining Innovate Finance as a founding member. We feel it is an extremely timely initiative as global financial institutions are increasingly looking at technology to provide solutions for their clients” stated Michael Chojnacki, CEO of Closir. He continued, “As an innovator in the industry, joining Innovate Finance as a founding member is a natural step for us.”

According to FTI Consulting, 78% of investors believe there is increasing competition for capital across borders for companies. “Closir is a competitive advantage for companies looking for new sources of investment and investors searching for global opportunities” stated Mr. Chojnacki.

About Innovate Finance

Innovate Finance is an independent membership-based industry organisation that aims to advance the UK’s standing as a leader in financial technology (fintech) innovation – both domestically and abroad. Members range from the world’s leading global corporations to the UK’s most promising fintech start-ups and, through Innovate Finance, will receive a single point of access to policymakers, regulators, investors, customers, educators, talent and key commercial partners. Membership is open to all businesses that have a technology-centric approach to innovation in financial services and a presence in the UK. The organisation has a current roster of over 50 member companies, which are pioneering new digital products and services across the following sectors: insurance, retail and investment banking, payments, remittance, crowdfunding, cloud computing, big data, analytics and alternative finance. Innovate Finance is supported by the City of London Corporation, as lead sponsor, in addition to the Canary Wharf Group and membership fees. For a full list of members, member benefits, workshops and events please see http://www.innovatefinance.com and follow us @innfin.

For media enquiries about Innovate Finance, please contact:

Radha Ahlstrom-Vij
innovatefinance@lansons.com
+44 20 7294 3665

 

Innovate Finance and its relevance to Investor Relations

Yesterday marked the launch of Innovate Finance, a London based industry body promising to be the ‘voice of UK fintech’, with more than 50 founding members onboard and the backing of the government.

Innovate Finance aims to make the UK the centre of this rapidly growing market, bringing together diverse  FinTech scene; startups and big banks under one umbrella to promote the industry’s interests and foster collaboration.

Closir is proud to be a founding member of Innovate Finance and  we wanted share a few thoughts on what we think this initiative means for us as well as for companies and investors globally.

What is the role of the technology sector in today’s economy and what relevance does Investor Relations (IR) have?

While many think of technology as a niche industry in itself, we would argue that innovation stemming from the tech world is increasingly the foundation for competitiveness for most industries today. Therefore, we have a lot to gain by making our own companies more competitive in global markets by supporting young entrepreneurs and their ideas very early in the product cycle. We are seeing the evidence of this by watching the significant rise of “strategic investment” teams at most large financial institutions today. Bringing us all closer to each other, through initiatives such as Innovate Finance, can only be positive.

In terms of Investor Relations, we believe that investors, whether those invested in private or public companies will continue embarking on the current trend of researching and investing in companies outside their home market and on a global basis. This means hugely increased opportunity pool for both. For instance, for a company listed on the Moscow Stock Exchange, the the number of potential institutional investors with ‘Emerging Market’ mandates are now in tens of thousands, rather than in thousands five years ago or hundreds ten years ago. With limited resources, how will companies be able to capitalise on this opportunity? How will London’s Venture Capital investors research and engage with interesting opportunities in, foe example, south of Turkey? We feel strongly that Investor Relations tools based on technology will be part of the answer.

Engagement aside, rapidly moving developments in trading, fund raising, distribution landscapes will surely provide interesting perspectives and opportunities relevant to mainstream Investor Relations.

In terms of IR, is there anything private companies and startups can learn from the their counterparts listed on global stock exchanges ?

Absolutely. We would  argue that the increasingly strategic role that IR plays within our world of public companies is already paramount in the world of start- ups… perhaps without it being immediately apparent. Many of the elements that make up a sound IR strategy for public companies, such as formulating an appealing investment proposition, creating an honest and consistent two-way channel of communication, and managing expectations, require skills that we in the IR profession have been perfecting for the last 15 years or so. This is also where we believe we have a lot to offer our more junior counterparts who deal not with institutional investors or sell-side analysts, but with angel, venture capital or private equity investors – all of whom demand the very same level of excellence in IR. In addition to that, there is a great deal to be learnt by public companies  too. When was the last time an IR Officer of a FTSE 100 company had to do a 90 second ‘elevator pitch’ for a prospective investor?

Where do you see London fitting in global tech scene?

With many of the team having lived and travelled extensively in the Middle East, Asia, Europe and the US, we believe that London possesses many of the characteristics required for success as a start-up hub: with some of the top universities, it has been successful in attracting talent from across Europe and beyond; from an infrastructure perspective, it is well connected to other major cities across the world and operates in a convenient time zone. It also has a clear competitive advantage in certain sectors, notably in banking in finance, which I believe can go a long way to benefit the young and growing community of FinTech entrepreneurs. To put it into context, within the five miles that span the west edges of the City and Canary Wharf, we have the largest concentration of banks, investors, and brokers anywhere in the world. This has to be positive for small companies with innovative ideas to bring into the marketplace, especially during the time of profound change for the industry. The development of entrepreneurial communities around relatively new initiatives such as Innovate Finance can only accelerate London’s ambitions to become a global technology hub. This also backs the UK and EU economies and helps existing companies become more competitive globally.

We look forward to playing our part in supporting the movement.

Corporate Governance Summer Series: The Investor Forum

Welcome to our  Corporate Governance Summer Series of posts, where we will aim to talk about some of the today’s ‘big picture’ developments that are shaping discussions around governance and engagement in today’s rather rapidly evolving capital market. Many of the initiatives we touch on such as the Investor Forum, the Kay Review, Integrated Reporting framework or the Stewardship Code converge the worlds of Corporate Governance and Investor Relations as we see it and therefore are worthy for us to examine in little more depth. Despite the fact that many of the developments we talk about are UK or US centric, we feel the implications, over time , will be global for both institutional investors and listed companies.

Today we look at the establishment of the UK’s “Investor Forum”, a group of global long-term investors seeking to promote greater strategic engagement with public companies listed in the UK.

Background

The Investor Forum was created by the Collective Engagement Working Group. This Working Group was set up in London in April 2013 and supported by Insurance, Pension Fund and Investment Management trade bodies in the UK. It was formed in response to the Kay Review on equity markets and long-term decision making. Its objective was to identify how investors might be able to work together in their engagement with listed companies to improve both sustainable, long-term company performance and overall returns to end savers. The recommendation to create the Investor Forum, as well as proposed structure and mandate were outlined in their December 2013 report. Consequently, the Investor Forum was formally launched on 2nd of July, 2014.

What are they key conclusions of this working group? 

  • Cultural change is needed.  Asset owners, asset managers and companies need to develop a shared sense of partnership, with the objective of promoting long-term strategies for prolonged competitive advantage at companies. This should lead to sustainable wealth creation for all stakeholders.
  • For companies: Major listed companies will be asked to hold an annual strategy meeting for institutional investors, outside the results cycle, where investors and company executives can link governance to the company’s long-term strategy without the focus on short-term results.
  • For investors: Engagement on governance issues should be integrated into the investment process.

What is purpose of the new Investor Forum? 

Broadly speaking, the purposes of the Investor Forum are to improve long-term returns from investment in companies by :

  1. Promoting the value of long-term approaches to investment to match the long-term objectives of the individual savers who are ultimately the beneficiaries of the long-term returns delivered by investment management
  2. Promoting cultural change throughout the investment chain – encompassing asset owners and their advisers, as well as asset managers and investee companies.
  3. Forming Engagement Groups to drive constructive change when there is a critical mass of support among Forum participants that a company is failing in some way that might compromise long-term returns.

Proposed Structure

Screen Shot 2014-07-27 at 23.31.06

With the recent FCA legislation banning the use of dealing commission to pay for corporate access, the UK will be an interesting test case and if effective, may herald a cultural paradigm shift in the world of international investor relations. A shift which calls for strategic engagement, transparency and focus on the ‘long term’. The culture change may take a while to catch on, but it can only spell progress for both companies and investors.

Overall, closer collaborating and better engagement has been shown to be key in investor relations and good corporate governance. The long-term approach has to be understood as having a different meaning to each investor, however, with the new engagement framework being championed by the Investor Forum and others, this mutual understanding can be sought.

Sources: Investor Forum, Investment Management Association

12 Steps to Best Practice ESG Reporting

We spotted this in F&C’s Corporate Governance Guidelines document published earlier in the year, and took the liberty to share. Particularly interesting for IR teams responsible for communicating ESG matters to investors.

Basic: 

  • Identify significant ESG risks and opportunities for the business
  • Establish and explain board accountability for ESG issues
  • Set out policies for significant ESG issues and explain how they are implemented and monitored
  • Establish and disclose targets and Key Performance Indicators for significant ESG issues covering global operations
  • Describe systems for training board members and staff on ESG issues
  • Report on performance against policies

Best Practice:

  • Explain how ESG policies link to key operational and financial drivers
  • Describe procedures for consulting key stakeholders and provide feedback on the range of views
  • Discuss challenges and set-backs as well as success stories
  • Describe procedures for verifying data including external verification
  • Take account of widely-accepted reporting standards such as the Global Reporting Initiative
  • Describe how ESG objectives are embedded into the corporate culture, including how they are reflected in remuneration policies and other performance management tools

Source: F&C, Global Corporate Governance Guidelines, January 2014

3 steps to make the most of your digital IR Strategy

There were many trends and topics covered during this year’s annual conference of the National Investor Relations Institute (NIRI) in June 2014 in Las Vegas. From social media to corporate access, there was significant interest from IROs on how to navigate the changing world of IR and the potential role that technology can play.

As the number of institutional investors with global mandates continues to expand, IR teams are presented with new opportunities to engage with new investors around the world.  However, the traditional means of discovering, accessing and engaging with thousands of new investors will not be sufficient to address this rapidly growing opportunity.

So how can IR teams use today’s digital tools to manage their workflow and ensure they are accessible to the increasingly growing investment community? We present 3 steps for you to consider.

1) The first step is to maintain a best practice digital presence of your company to investors. This process starts with understanding available tools and creating a digital IR toolkit, which may consist of a combination of the IR website, email distribution list, social media channels and potentially a mobile app. The digital strategy should also encompass monitoring your company’s presence on data platforms such as Thomson Reuters, Bloomberg or Yahoo! and Google Finance. The following six questions need to be considered;

  • Have I considered my target audience and clearly set out the objectives behind the digital strategy and respective metrics of success?
  • Have I identified the appropriate digital channels for my IR strategy?
  • Have I considered the resource implications involved with each digital tool?
  • Is the information on my corporate profile correct and up-to-date on key financial data platforms?
  • Am I leveraging digital media to stay up to date with institutional investor views? Am I keeping track of thought leadership material and comments published by important  investors?
  • How is my IR team staying ahead of developments in technology? Do we have a process to evaluate new digital platforms?

2) The second step is to understand, in as much depth as possible, the dynamics behind the company’s digital activity. This means understanding the profile of investors viewing the various components of your equity story through respective tools. It is also important to be aware how the patterns are changing over time in order to draw meaningful conclusions which may impact the overall IR strategy.

  • Do I understand the activity behind my IR page (ex. total number of investor views per month, profile of the investor, breakdown of unique versus returning, geographical profile, average time spent on page, most frequently visited sections)?
  • How closely am I monitoring engagement via social media channels?
  • Do I know what is the most (and least) frequently viewed or downloaded material?
  • Can I easily quantify the return on investment of my digital media strategy? How often do I review this?

3) Finally, after analysis of underlying analytics over a period of time, it is important to draw meaningful conclusions and seek alignment with broader IR strategy.

  • Do the results from my digital media plan fit into my broader IR goals? How often do I assess this and what metrics do I use to reach conclusions?
  • Are my resources focused on digital media allocated efficiently?
  • How often do I review my digital media plan and make necessary adjustments?

Regulatory update: IR Guide to MiFID II

Last month the European parliament approved MiFID II, an ambitious piece of EU law, which will have meaningful implications on how shares are traded, cleared and reported. We aim to provide some insight on developing issues, with particular reference for Investor Relations teams around the world.

Since its implementation in 2007, MiFID has been the most significant piece of regulation shaping capital markets across Europe. The goal was to reinforce the European financial market and harmonise regulations by enhancing marketing transparency and improving investor protection. MiFID has provided the framework for the rise of ‘multilateral trading facilities’ (MTFs) and other alternative trading venues, which collectively narrowed spreads and decreased fees for investors. Today anywhere between a third and half of trading of European large cap companies happens off-exchanges and on MTFs. Consultancies predict that a further 5-15% of trading happens on Dark Pools and Crossing networks (explained below).

Why is it being revised & what exactly is MiFID II?

Following the implementation of MiFID I, few could have predicted the rapid rise in algorithmic and high-frequency trading (HFT). Unintended consequences of this have included a much more divided (across venues) trading landscape and migration to so-called ‘dark pools’, which help conceal volumes and identity of traders. Regulators also worry that demand-supply dynamics are distorted: dark pools move trading increasingly away from exchanges, despite the prices remaining inextricably linked (dark pool transactions settle at mid point of bid/ask from exchanges). Other instruments, most notably derivatives (contracts which draw value from underlying assets) have been largely neglected in MiFID I.

MiFID II will target transparency for pre- and post- trade of equities, ETFs, bonds and derivatives as well as seek further investor protection through a number of measures including the alteration of market structures. All asset classes will now be subject to open and transparent trading – not just equities targeted by MiFID I. The proposed MiFID II seeks to ban brokers’ crossing networks in an attempt to force trades onto ‘lit’ exchanges. Caps will be placed on dark liquidity volumes. ESMA has estimated that 20% of European trades by value are algorithmic/high-frequency and traders will now be forced to register their proprietary formulae with regulators. Post-trade data sold by exchanges are also under review in an attempt to promote accessible transparency. Clearing houses will be allowed to process trades for multiple exchanges through the ‘open access’ regulation encouraging competition in the derivatives market.

So to summarise we can expect:

  • Dark Pool caps
  • High-Frequency Trading rules
  • Data Fee rules for exchanges
  • ‘Open access’ regulation for clearing houses

The alternative venues in a little more detail

Multilateral Trading Facility (MTF): A European regulatory term for a non-exchange financial trading venue. Typically these are electronic, and allow trading of exotic products where no exchange exists. MTFs compete with exchanges on technology, lower cost base, and trading incentives for brokers. Example of this is ‘maker/taker pricing’;  ie paying brokers to trade on platform as long as the trade adds liquidity rather than take it away liquidity and price. Examples: BATS Chi-X Europe, Turquoise

Crossing network: A non-exchange electronic matching mechanism for buy/sell orders connecting brokers and dealers without the need for a public exchange (not anonymous). Examples: Liquidnet, Pipeline

Dark Pools: Private off-exchange financial trading venues often used by institutional investors with large orders who want to hide their order size (anonymous). Examples: Goldman Sachs’s Sigma X, Credit Suisse’s Crossfinder

How can I find out where my shares are traded?

All major financial data platforms will have screens, which try give you this information. There are also a number of free sources online to your disposal. One of our favourite is Fragulator. Below is are two screen we ran for Vodafone’s Ordinary Share:

Screen Shot 2014-05-27 at 13.31.26

 

Screen Shot 2014-05-27 at 13.31.40

Source: Fragulator, 27 May 2014

Will MiFID II impact everyone or just European companies?

MiFID is specifically designed for European implementation and thus will only directly affect European capital markets. However the regulation will impact any global issuer who has a share listing in Europe or a Depositary Receipt programme listed or quoted in London, Frankfurt or Luxembourg.

What are good resources to keep up to date with developments?

There are plenty of interesting sources online. Some of our favourites are:

Check list for Investor Relations Teams

1.     Do I have a solid understanding of where my shares are listed, quoted, and traded? Do I roughly know the average daily trading volumes in each venue?

2.     Do I have a one-page management report on the subject ready in case I am asked for it?

3.     Am I working enough with my advisors and counter-parties to try to understand who is behind those trades? Am I connected with those investors on Closir?

4.     Am I aware of the three alternative ‘venues’ where trading of my securities can take place?

5.     Am I clear as to why the original MiFID has been revised?

If the answer is still no to any of the above, that’s OK, we are here to help. Just send us a note and we will find a time to go over all of this with you.

Team Closir

Flash Update: UK Corporate Access Shake-up

Corporate Access, a service usually offered by investment banks / brokers that brings investors and corporate management teams together, is going through a radical shake-up in the UK. These developments could potentially impact not just UK-based companies but any listed company with an investor base in the UK.

Update:

After a period of lengthy consultation, last Thursday the UK’s financial regulator, the FCA, has issued its final say on the use of dealing commissions, previously used by investors to pay for research, corporate access and  trade execution. As of the 2nd of June, UK investment managers should only use client dealing commission to pay for ‘substantive research’ and costs related to executing trades. Using dealing commission to pay for access to senior management at companies they invest in will now be explicitly banned.

The FCA estimates that up to £500 million pounds of dealing commissions were spent in 2012 to arrange such meetings. The new rules emphasize that costs for research can only be passed on to clients if they lead to a “meaningful conclusion”. Naturally, nothing is stopping investors from paying brokers for corporate access themselves from their own management fees (rather than passing it on to their clients), or organizing their meetings themselves without a broker.

Impact:

These current developments have been widely expected by the market and its participants. It is too early to assess the precise impact on the industry however we can anticipate a few emerging trends.

  • Institutional Investors will place a greater scrutiny on how they organize their roadshows and most importantly, the business model behind it. We would not be surprised to see investors setting up their own Corporate Access departments to facilitate dialogue between companies they are interested in.
  • Brokers will most likely continue to offer corporate access service to investors, however the nature of the services is likely to change. Focus will be on access to new, unique, and valuable investment ideas priced at a point which investment managers are prepared to pay for themselves. As a consequence of this, and looking on the other side of the coin,  brokers will likely be more selective of which companies they offer this service to.
  • From a company’s IR perspective,  the magnitude of the impact will certainly depend on both macro and company specific factors, as well as the size of company’s investor base in the UK. Broadly speaking, we expect companies assuming more responsibility for investor targeting and engagement, and over the longer term expanding the resources of their IR teams, to accommodate new requirements.
  • We expect the regulation to present opportunities for independent providers of corporate access. The challenge those companies will face is access to investors, comparatively weak relationships, and perhaps access to resources to provide ‘seamless logistics’ which play an important role in any meeting.

Further reading: New FCA rules on use of dealing commissions