Best-in-Class IR Websites: Balancing Accessibility, Creativity, and Compliance
29 April 2021
By Amy Statham
Your website is the most trusted source of information for investors. In Brunswick Group’s 2021 Digital Investor Survey, results showed that company-provided investor relations websites emerged as the most used and most trusted sources of information for investors. IR websites weren’t just the top digital source, they were the most used and trusted of all of the sources tested. This means ensuring your website is accessible to all, follows industry best practices, and meets today’s security standards is critical to providing investors with the information they seek, and the experience they have come to expect.
In a recent webinar, experts from Q4, Joe Di Bacco Sr. Director – Client Activation Q4, Vee Punia Director – IT & Infrastructure, Marnie McCall, Manager of Activations, Brayden McCullagh, Implementation Manager, and Kris Rivenburgh Chief Accessibility & Legal Officer EssentialAccessibility, came together to discuss what you should be considering as you develop your digital strategy in terms of IR design best practices, IT and infrastructure, as well as website accessibility.
Website Accessibility 101
Without proper accessibility features, you could be negatively impacting a visitor’s ability to engage with your website and content in a meaningful way and end up leaving people out. When determining where to begin when implementing accessibility best practices, Kris Rivenburgh, Chief Accessibility and Legal Officer at EssentialAccessibility, suggests starting with the team who is going to carry out your vision instead of diving into addressing accessibility problem areas; “Focus on the people component. You have to start organizationally because it’s not just one person within the organization that’s going to handle your accessibility efforts, it will be several people, one of which should be responsible for managing the program and the required people involved.”
From there, it’s about prioritization. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines set the international standard and have 50 success criteria, all with varying levels of impact in terms of someone being able to access—or not access—your site. With that in mind, you want to prioritize the success criteria that will make the biggest impact and benefit your visitors the most. Kris also added that while supposed quick fixes for accessibility might be tempting, cutting corners is not an option when making your IR website truly accessible, “There’s no quick fix for website accessibility. If your accessibility efforts don’t start at the code level, it won’t be reliable or provide sufficient accessibility.”
Best Practices for Modern IR Websites
It’s common knowledge for most that your IR website should act as an extension of your team. IR website best practices include clearly conveying your value proposition, providing the investment community access to relevant information and critical company details, and setting up your IR website intuitively so that information your investors care about is easy to access. To hold the interest of investors in an age of increasingly narrow attention spans, take the time to pare down your copy and only keep the information that is actually critical. Keep in mind that when someone sees a large amount of content, it can become overwhelming and you risk them skipping over the content altogether.
It’s never been more important for the information on your IR website to be clear and concise. Additionally, the tremendous amount of popularity and growth with retail trading apps is making a big impact. Marnie McCall, Manager of Activations, Q4, advises, “We will see companies start to revisit their content and messaging, making sure that it’s tailored toward both retail and institutional investors.”
Infrastructure and Security
Maintaining consistent and secure communication with the investment community is critical, which makes enterprise-grade security and maximum up-time a top priority for IROs who manage their company’s IR website. Although often handled by IT teams, it is incredibly important for IROs to understand the security and overall infrastructure of their IR website. One of the most important website security aspects to consider is SOC 2 and SOC 2 Type II compliance. SOC stands for “system and organization controls,” and is composed of a series of standards designed to help measure how well an organization conducts and regulates client information.
A SOC-certified organization has been audited by an independent certified public accountant who determined the firm has the appropriate SOC safeguards and procedures in place. Though there are various levels of SOC compliance, a company that has achieved SOC 2 Type II certification has proven it is designed to keep its clients’ sensitive data secure. Q4’s Director IT Infrastructure, Vee Punia, notes “SOC 2 Type II is tough to achieve – the goal is to have the right controls in place to secure customer data, some of the principles being confidentiality, privacy, and security. As an IRO, you need to make sure your IR website is secure behind the scenes.”
Learn more about the lesser-known aspects of website security and how to effectively navigate security as a part of your website and investor relations program, here.