BC Tip: Levi Strauss & Co - the wrong sort of 501

Levi Strauss & Co returned to the stock market recently, but its IR site was not dressed as properly as it could have been

Levi Strauss & Co IR site home page

Levi Strauss & Co IR site home page

The Feature

Levi Strauss & Co shares started trading again on the New York Stock Exchange recently, after an absence of over 30 years.

The company’s Investor Relations site, separate from the other areas of its corporate web estate, carried regulatory news items relating to the IPO, including the final prospectus filed on flotation day.

Its Events & Presentations section was and remains, at the time of writing, totally empty. The section is promoted on the IR site landing page, leaving error messages visible to users arriving at the site.

The Takeaway

An IPO is a stressful time for any IR department and digital manager, and it can be easy for things to slip through the cracks on the IR site – especially if the site, or part of it, is new, and laws about what can and cannot be shown must be navigated.

But that does not mean that companies cannot do more to prepare for the day that shares float.

We suspect that the Events & Presentations section on the Levi Strauss & Co site was simply part of a standard template, but clearly it would have been better to remove it until the company had something to put in it; or to create a more elegant message advising users when materials would be available.

The prospectus is largely hidden, only available from the SEC Filings area of the site and not in, for example, Financial news. The company should at least point investors to this more obviously now the shares are trading. We would also expect material from the prospectus to be adapted for the website, to state the company’s investment case, in the near future as regulations allow.

Sometimes the IPO company has not thought about its IR site and who is going to run it, so that planning should be part of the overall preparations. We know that US companies, encouraged by their legal departments, can outsource their IR sections or sites. If this is the case, it should still be closely overseen by the in-house digital and IR teams.

For more commentaries, tips and downloads for online corporate communications professionals, visit our website.

If you have a query or for more information about Bowen Craggs, please contact Dan Drury: ddrury@bowencraggs.com.

BC tip: Nordea - Convenient fact sheets

A Swedish bank’s investor fact sheet has a useful mix of formats.

BC tip - Nordea.png

The Feature

Nordea’s online investor fact sheet page, located in the In Brief sub-section of Investor Relations on its corporate website, has an up-to-date share chart and key financial figures for the past three years, including charts for operating profit, earnings per share and market capitalisation. There is a succinct company description and contact information.

The responsive html page can be read on a mobile, and there is an option to download the page as a PDF.

The Takeaway

The fact sheet is simple, but effective, with relevant, current information about Nordea in a variety of formats. The share chart and information is completely up to date. Investors can read it on their desktops, smartphone screens or download it for printing.

The ‘facts’ are well-targeted for investors, as are the descriptive paragraphs about the company, and there is an absence of marketing language that plagues many corporate fact sheets and which investors are not interested in. Although this fact sheet is aimed at financial specialists, any company fact sheet could be prepared in the same way.

https://www.nordea.com/en/investor-relations/nordea-in-brief/fact-sheet/

Does your IR section sell your firm short?

Corporate giants can learn a thing or two from smaller firms when it comes to presenting an investment case online, argues Scott Payton.

 

I recently spent a week judging more than 50 candidates for two online investors relations awards – best digital reporting and best overall digital communications. 

Quoted companies of all sizes entered, from global giants to small-caps. I learned a lot from the exercise, and found plenty of interesting examples of good practice. 

But one thing stood out above all else: when it comes to using the web to make a compelling investment case, smaller firms have much to teach their multinational counterparts. 

FTSE 250 firm William Hill is an example. The UK-based bookmaker’s corporate site has a clear, detailed and engagingly presented Investment case sub-section of ‘Investors’. 

Intuitive click-to-expand panels contain cogent details of the firm’s strategy, market and performance. Informative graphics illustrate the firm’s business model and market share. Clear charts show key indicators covering the past year. A neat table summarises performance over the past five years. Simple, effective traffic-light graphics are used to show the likelihood and potential impact of various business risks. 

UDG Healthcare, another FTSE 250 company, takes a simpler and less detailed approach – but its Reasons to invest sub-section of ‘Investors’ still does a good job of clearly conveying overview information about the company’s financial and non-financial performance, as well as the market in which it operates.  

Compare this to the investor relations sections of the world's biggest companies’ websites – which often don't have an ‘investment case’ sub-section at all, or any kind of equivalent. 

There are some noble exceptions. BASF’s Investor Relations section includes a detailed BASF at a glance sub-section, for instance. It doesn’t explicitly try to ‘sell’ the chemicals company as an investment proposition, but it explains the company’s activities and strategy well. Similarly, Shell’s Investor Highlights sub-section is a treasure trove for financial professionals researching the company. 

But why is such material not more common in the IR sections of the world’s biggest companies? Perhaps many big-name large-caps think they simply don’t need to explain to investors who they are, what they do, what their strategy is, or why all this makes them a particularly sound long-term investment. 

Maybe their IR teams think such material is better off elsewhere on the website (in the About section)  – or tucked away in the annual report. 

If they do think this, I'd urge them to look at what the likes of William Hill are doing and think again about whether similar investment case sub-sections would work on their sites. I think that they would – very well. 

IR in France: who's top?

We held an event in Paris this week, at which we revealed the best among France’s biggest companies for online investor relations (our global ranking was covered by IR Magazine earlier this month).

The top French performers provide some useful lessons for IR and web teams around the world.

Joint-top: Sanofi and Total

Both of these companies excel in serving two IR audience groups: analysts researching the company (as opposed to those who already follow the firm); and individual shareholders.

Look, for example, at the clear, plentiful overview information about the business and its performance on Sanofi.com; and at the powerful data analysis tools in the accompanying 'Financial Reporting Center’.

Look, too, at the warm welcome that Sanofi extends to private investors, and the wealth of information in the dedicated Individual Shareholders section.

Over at Total, highlights include clearly presented historical data tables for institutional investors, and a crisply laid out individual investors’ Publications page, stocked with useful material for visitors looking for both quick overviews and deep detail.

Indeed, our French IR ranking highlights the fact that France leads the world when it comes to serving individual shareholders online. If you’re interested in how this can be done well, the dedicated retail investor sections from Air Liquide and L’Oreal are well worth looking at too.

Third: AXA

This insurance giant shines at serving a third audience group: analysts who know the company (and therefore want historical performance data, quarterly results materials, webcasts and the like).

Highpoints of this site include a polished quarterly results index with a wide range of resources, including Excel financials, transcripts and podcasts; plus an exceptionally elegant and well-executed webcast service.

Joint-fourth: Air Liquide and L’Oréal

Standout features here include...

·      An engaging ‘Why Invest in Air Liquide?’ section – a particularly sensible provision for firms that do business in areas that might not be self-explanatory (like ‘liquid air’).

·      Intelligent and effective use of video on L’Oréal’s Shareholders Corner landing page, in which private investors say ‘what they like about their relationship with L’Oréal’.

Conducting the research for this ranking uncovered some other interesting trends among French firms’ online estates.

For example, unconventional navigation systems are unusually common on French corporate websites. In some cases even the primary menus break with convention. Four of France’s biggest 20 companies have no visible primary menu at all, opting instead for a mobile-style hamburger menu even in the site's desktop ‘mode’. This undermines usability by ‘hiding’ a crucial navigation tool.

Tablet/mobile investor apps also remain more prevalent on French corporate sites. Four of the top five French companies in our IR ranking continue to offer an investor app for phones and tablets (L’Oréal, Air Liquide, Sanofi and Total), bucking the global trend away from corporate app development due to disappointing uptake among investors and others.

HTML annual reports also remain more common in French IR sections than elsewhere. Five of our Top 10 companies offer an HTML version of the annual report (Orange, Vivendi, Air Liquide, L’Oréal and BNP Paribas), even as many companies have been moving to abandon such services, to save money.

This may be a yet further sign of a very French devotion to relationship building with private shareholders. Though Bowen Craggs’ research – and that of the Financial Reporting Lab at the UK’s Financial Reporting Council – indicates that private investors actually prefer a simple, hyperlinked PDF to a whizzy HTML report. So when you’re trawling through French IR sections looking to cherry-pick ideas, it’s probably worth thinking twice before adopting all the fancy features you’ll find there.

Sue Harding, director of the Financial Reporting Lab at the Financial Reporting Council, kindly joined us in Paris for a panel discussion about what investors and analysts really want from companies’ online IR communications. Her team’s report on current use of digital media in corporate reporting is interesting and useful. Download it for free here.

Here’s our French online IR ranking in full:

Scott Payton