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. 

BC tip - William Hill: Gambling on a grid

A UK betting company’s home page overwhelms visitors with image panels.

The Site

William Hill’s corporate website home page has a series of image panels below the scroll line, with the invitation to ‘explore’ the company’s press releases, corporate announcements, features, etc.

On a standard desktop monitor, the image panels are arranged in a three-column grid, collapsing to a single column when the responsive site adjusts to a smartphone screen. A filter lets visitors select categories such as Financials, News and media, Responsibility, Innovation and About William Hill.

The Takeaway

The topic grid, which appears to be modelled on news sites such as the BBC, misjudges how corporate website visitors find information. Some corporate audiences, such as analysts, want direct routes to the pieces of information that they need, and will use the primary navigation. Pushing corporate messages to them in a complicated grid below the scroll line is unlikely to work.

Even corporate website audiences with more time to explore and get to know the company, such as jobseekers, are unlikely to be impressed. The grid is below the scroll line, making it harder to see; the number of panels is overwhelming and not differentiated enough; and the headlines are uninteresting, based on internal categories such as ‘media releases’ rather than things audiences will be interested in.

News sites can get away with panel grids because visitors come there expecting to browse; corporate websites need to be more creative to draw people in.