The New Paradigm in Technology for Investor Communications

By TMCnet Special Guest
Jeff Corbin
  |  November 05, 2013

The communications industry is a multi-billion dollar one that is slow to move and not prone to thinking outside of the box when it comes to the use of technology, let alone the creation of new technologies. This is particularly true in the investor relations industry, in which public companies communicate with their investors. And this is not surprising considering all of the regulations and legal constraints public companies face. Nevertheless, the advent of social media and the rapid proliferation of mobile devices as a platform to communicate create opportunities for public companies to establish a closer and more direct connection with their investors.

For the past 15 years, I have been a victim to the technological lethargy that has plagued the IR industry. As a consultant for public companies in their communications with investors, the last time there was something new in our industry was back in the late 1990s when the Internet was just becoming commonplace. It was then that public companies began to realize that the desktop to which they were imprisoned came loaded with a browser that could be used as a place to aggregate all of the content that was important to their investors via a website. This was a novel concept because now a company had the ability to preempt investor phone calls requesting information by being proactive and posting investor content such as press releases, SEC (News - Alert) filings, presentations, etc., to a single investor zone on the corporate website.

With the proliferation of mobile devices, there can be no question that people are less dependent now on the Internet via desktop computing. Personal computers lost market share in 2012, with shipments dropping 5.9 percent with 303.2 million units shipped, according to Taipei-based TrendForce, which together with research peer Gartner (News - Alert) says PC shipments will shrink another 4 percent in 2013. App analytics firm Flurry in April, 2013 reported that “more than a billion consumers are glued to mobile devices, and their apps impact nearly every aspect of their lives.” Flurry further reported that the U.S. consumer spends an average of 2 hours and 38 minutes per day on smartphones and tablets. 80 percent of that time (2 hours and 7 minutes) is spent inside apps and 20 percent (31 minutes) is spent on the mobile web.

Investors are not an exception to what is taking place in the mobile revolution. This group of professionals is now beginning to demand that the public companies and funds in which they invest communicate with them via mobile. They are requiring that the content that exists on the IR section of the corporate website also be made available to them on their mobile devices.

Financial news and analysis firm InvestmentNews in a study released in April 2013 said that 88 percent of top-performing investment advisors now use smartphones and 65 percent use tablets. And, according to a survey of 200 institutional investment professionals that was conducted during the first quarter of 2013 by my company, 83 percent of investors surveyed said they rely on their mobile devices rather than the desktop. 

The survey also revealed the following:

* 47 percent of investors said that the device type most conducive to obtaining information is an Apple device (iPhone, iPad or iPad Mini);

* 21 percent said the BlackBerry (News - Alert) was sufficient; and

* 7 percent rely on Android devices.

While many business professionals still rely on BlackBerry devices, especially for dealing with e-mail, 68 percent of those surveyed also purchased additional devices on their own to leverage the power of iOS and Android (News - Alert) to do their work. Interestingly, 41 percent of the respondents carry and use two devices (including the one provided by the employer) and 26 percent carry and use three devices (including the one provided by the employer).

So, how are investors consuming IR content via mobile? Public companies are now weighing whether to simply extend the IR section of their websites to mobile devices via responsive design or HTML5 coding or go the native app route. Many global companies have opted to go the latter and for the right reason. There is a world of communications opportunity that lies in a native app that just cannot be replicated by taking a website mobile. 

Take for example Marathon Oil which, similar to companies like Colgate-Palmolive, Walmart and Campbell’s Soup, recently published an IR app for both Apple (News - Alert) and Android devices. Marathon Oil’s IR app allows users to receive unique corporate information including audiocast conference calls, investor presentations, videos and other qualitative content directly to their mobile devices. Through a native app, unlike a responsive design website, this information can be pushed to their device in a very personal way considering the fact that those downloading the IR app have voluntarily chosen to do so. 

This table demonstrates the main points of differentiation between a native app solution and HTML5 responsive design websites.



An App on the App Store and Google Play; 80+ percent of the mobile market

Launched through a browser – not an app on the App Store or Google Play; 80+ percent of the mobile market

Doesn’t require strong Internet connectivity to perform well

Requires strong Internet connectivity to perform well

Able to have push notifications and offline storage

Not able to offer push notifications or offline storage

Free download for investors: no charge from Apple and Google for download

Not an app – no charge

Turn-key solution – not costly; custom solution – can be costly

Turn-key solution – not costly; custom solution – can be costly

Good for direct traffic – use when there is frequent use of a particular website or webpage

Good for intermittent traffic – use when website or webpage is not visited regularly and therefore not likely to be downloaded

As the founder of theIRapp, I am definitely biased when it comes to recommending a native app solution over an optimized website. However, as an investor relations consultant for more than a decade and a half, when thinking about the future of mobile technology, I believe a significant opportunity awaits public companies in their communications with investors that can only take place via a native app on the App Store and Google Play.

Apple and Google definitely have an agenda beyond apps representing fun and games. Indeed, Gartner in a recent Hype Cycle report stated that HTML5 is still 10 years away from becoming a suitable basis for businesses technology. While I am a gambling man, I am not one to bet against Apple and Google. Native apps present an opportunity to create an ecosystem of investor communications activity. Presently native apps are being used as a means to push important content to investors. However, greater potential exists and eventually will come to fruition. Given the nature of the mobile device, especially with regard to video and telephone, significant potential exists via the native app environment to create a direct dialogue and establish a closer connection with investors worldwide.

Jeff Corbin is founder of theIRapp (www.theirapp.com).

Edited by Stefania Viscusi