Investor Relations (IR) app for iPhone, iPad and Android – theIRapp™


Mobile Technology and IR at the Citi ADR IR Academy

Last week I was fortunate to speak in front of a global group of investor relations officers at the CITI ADR IR Academy in New York City. As a former IR consultant and founder of a mobile technology company for communications professionals, I was able to blend my expertise on both subjects to provide the attendees with a ‘state of the state’ on mobile technology as it pertains to IR.

To put the discussion in context, I started my remarks by referring to my book Investor Relations: The Art of Communicating Value.  In particular, I reviewed the four basic steps that I believe are critical to building a successful investor relations program:

  1. Determine the investment proposition
  2. Develop the communications platform
  3. Target the appropriate investor audience
  4. Build relationships with investors

Mobile technology clearly is relevant to Step 2 (the communications platform) and Step 4 (building relationships with investors).  Research unequivocally demonstrates that mobile technology is everywhere and pretty much every worker has an Apple or Android device with them 24/7.   Investment professionals are no exception and therefore it would be prudent for IRO’s to add this “mobile platform” to their overall communications platform to communicate their story and investment proposition(s) to their targeted investor audience.

I then went on to un-confuse what many IR professionals find confusing – the various easy and cost effective options that exist to incorporate mobile into an IR program.  Viewing an IR website through a mobile browser is no longer acceptable.  IR websites originally weren’t created for the small screens of mobile devices and hence are illegible, not to mention extremely difficult navigate.  A responsive design optimized website is definitely a better alternative since it at least makes the IR website content legible.  However, even this does not fully take advantage of the capabilities available from Apple and Android-based mobile devices.

So what option remains?  Native apps.  These apps are software that can be found in the app stores and were developed specifically for the operating systems that are “native” to the mobile devices (iOS, Android and Windows for the few Windows phones out there).  Native apps allow for push notifications to inform investors immediately when new content is made available; the downloading of content for offline viewing and listening; and note taking on tablets.  To the extent investors proactively download a company’s app and opt-in to receive the push notifications to their personal device, this can go a long way towards building relationships with investors (Step 4), especially when content appears on the home screen of the device when it is in sleep mode.

I concluded my remarks by stating the following:  “There is a paradigm change that is happening right before our eyes.  The technology we have used for the past few decades is changing and will continue to change.  The way in which we use mobile technology in business is changing and will continue to change.  Behaviors are changing as are our expectations for the way things get done.  Mobile technology is front and center when it comes to investor relations – we can’t escape the fact that all of our investors have at least one mobile device – and it will only continue to become more important in the years to come.  So, regardless of whether our investors are specifically asking us to develop an app or to incorporate mobile into our communications platform, at some point soon, they will come to expect that we will do so.  We have a choice to make now – we can be proactive in our use of technology for our work, or we can wait until we no longer have a choice.”

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Meeting Investor Needs: Mobile or Bust

Mobile technology, and particularly the use of mobile devices in the workplace, is no longer a trend — it’s a reality. Just take a quick look at the partnership formed between Apple and IBM or the more recent announcement from Red Hat and Samsung, and you can see that some of today’s biggest companies are gearing up to deliver superior software solutions for the mobile device (otherwise known as “apps”). Yet, as investors and companies alike prepare for this quarter’s earnings season, we have to question how and whether this “trend” has yet to truly impact the work habits and communications efforts of the overall financial and investor relations community.

Taking a step back, 2014 marked a milestone for mobile. Giving credence to Mary Meeker’s somewhat shocking 2008 prediction (“mobile to overtake fixed internet access by 2014”), Americans used smartphones and tablets for more than half of their internet usage, surpassing PCs for the first time. A majority of that usage was app-based, and this trend is not limited to the United States, or even to developed economies. Consider this: In India, there are 120 million smartphone users. That number is double what it was less than two years ago. And in South Africa, which has an unbanked population estimated as high as 67%87% of individuals own mobile phones — 36% of those being smart phones.

When we look more directly at the investment community, the mobile stats are just beginning to catch up with general consumer consumption habits. According to Charles Schwab, roughly 725,000 clients currently use the firm’s apps while data from E*trade shows that 49% of all investors use an investing or trading app two to three times per week. Furthermore, in two separate studies of professional investors conducted by PR Newswire and theIRapp, 51.5% of investors use an iPad or similar smart mobile device and 83% of investors rely on mobile when it comes to their work, respectively.

Notwithstanding this, many public companies have yet to embrace the new technological paradigm of mobile.  But shouldn’t a public company’s communications efforts be in line with its investors’ consumption habits? The proof points for devoting time and resources toward a mobile friendly, if not mobile first, strategy are stacking up. Public companies looking to reach, engage, and compete at the global level need to take note of the fact that unlike ever before, they now have direct access to get their messages and information directly into the hands (and pockets) of their investors – and this can occur simultaneously and instantaneously anywhere in the world.

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Avon, Twitter and Fraudulent Communications

In only a few months, two prominent brands – Avon and Twitter – had erroneous news reported that they were the targets of takeovers. In the case of Avon, this was the result of a fraudulent filing that took place in the Edgar database of the Securities and Exchange Commission. Yesterday, a phony “look-alike” site containing the Bloomberg name reported that Twitter was being sold.

Whether someone is looking to reap some sort of pecuniary gain or this is the beginning of a trend to manipulate the financial markets, there is a serious lesson to be learned.  The Internet is a great thing and a great resource.  At the same time, it is dangerous if we don’t keep its value in perspective.

With respect to public company information, there are only a few places where you can be certain that the information posted is authentic.  Since we launched theIRapp three years ago, we have stressed the importance of a company’s IR website and IR app as the way to ensure that the public has instantaneous access to authentic, company generated information and content.  If investors and the media rely on other Internet-based sources (and even the SEC’s database), then look what happens – Avon and Twitter.

Nearly every public company has an investor section on its corporate website. This is the by-product of the advancement of the Internet and the SEC’s Reg FD more than 15 years ago (believe it or not).  However, as computing moves to mobile, things are once again changing.  Many great companies have embraced the importance of having a mobile IR strategy (search the app stores for “theIRapp, llc” and you will see who).  However, to the extent investors and the media are reliant on their smart devices for immediate information, shouldn’t all companies now have a mobile IR strategy?

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