By Phil Marchant
2017 is the twentieth anniversary of Webranking by Comprend, the world’s longest-running analysis of corporate websites across the globe. The criteria are unique as they are driven not by our views but by those of your most important website audiences – we survey a dedicated focus group of investors, analysts and business journalists on what they want to see on a corporate website and produce and weight the criteria accordingly.
Unsurprisingly, the sector of this focus group that we get asked most about are the analysts. So we thought the anniversary was a good time to increase our reach and partner with YouGov to interview in depth 50 fund managers, analysts or equivalent executives who have control or influence over investing in individual companies with at least £100m funds under management.
The objectives were to discover how relevant corporate websites are in their work, why they access them and if they thought MIFID II would have any impact on any of this. 82% of respondents manage funds of more than £100m, 8% of which manage over £5bn. 72% manage global equities, and 24% are dedicated to UK funds only.
1. Analysts regularly use the corporate sites of the companies that they invest in
90% of the analysts say they visit the corporate site of a company they are invested in at least once a month – and over half visit a website at least once a week. It’s been a debate raging for years – certainly one we have engaged in with IROs – do your most important investors actually go to the website of the companies they are invested in? The answer is emphatically yes. And not only do they visit, they return regularly. And of the 10% who don’t – 60% of those get a member of their team to go to the website for them.
2. Visiting corporate sites before investing is a key part of their due diligence process
76% said visiting a company’s corporate site was an important part of their fund’s due diligence process before investing. 90% of the analysts also say they would look at least once at the corporate website of an organisation they are thinking of investing in. This is an important point – your website doesn’t just need to keep your current major investors happy – it also needs to do its best to encourage others to invest in your stock too. 56% said they looked frequently (at least three times or more) at the sites of companies they were considering investing in. 76% said that visiting the site was an important part of their fund’s due diligence process.
Visiting the corporate website of a potential investee company is an important part of my or my fund's due diligence process
3. Having a poor corporate site does make a difference
58% say that a poor corporate website can raise concerns on how well a firm is run. The implication is clear – over half of the analysts interviewed said that having a poor experience on a corporate website raised concerns about the company itself. And a damning 74% agreed that a bad website made them think that a company was not serious about looking after its investors and stakeholders.
4. Analysts want quick access and timely upload to documents, investor presentations and much more information on strategy and business history
89% want fast access to the annual report, 69% investor presentations, 56% governance information. The analysts in our Webranking focus group have always shown a keen interest in the most significant documents such as IR presentations and the annual report. This is backed up by the analysts group that YouGov spoke to, but both studies also agree on another key point – that analysts want greater depth and coverage of strategy and business history, especially on companies that they are considering investing in.
5. The sites need to be easy to use and navigate, with a good design
The most common gripes on corporate websites were poor navigation and design. It may be an obvious point that your site needs to have a clean design and a simple, intuitive navigation system, but it is one that can often be forgotten after the initial euphoria of a new site launch. Check back a year later – has the navigation stood the test of time and the upload of a massive amount of new content?
6. Analysts believe that MIFID II will mean they visit corporate sites more regularly
70% of the analysts stated that they will need to use corporate websites more often if MIFID II leads to less research. At Comprend our researchers speak to a lot of key stakeholders, and we are consistently hearing that the IR section of the corporate website is going to become even more important once MIFID II is in place. The majority of the analysts interviewed here believed they would need to visit corporate sites more often.
Generally corporate websites will have to provide a lot more up to date information to bridge any possible gap that could occur if there is less research written about them
The findings are very clear – across a significant number of high-value analysts – that the corporate website plays a key role in their decision making, both for companies they are already invested in and ones that they are considering doing so.
With MIFID II only adding to the urgency, perhaps it’s time to take another look at the IR section of your website. Are your strategy and investment case up to date and shown in full detail? Would your most important shareholders come away with a positive experience of your company or not?
This article was published in in the latest edition of the IR Society's magazine Informed.