On September 15-17, Q4 held its first IR conference, Power Up. More than 100 IR professionals from the United States, Canada, and Europe joined us in South Beach Miami, to network, knowledge-share, and prepare for the future. Over the course of two days, there were 35 speakers spread across 17 general and breakout sessions – in addition to a rare opportunity to connect with members of the buy-side Corporate Access (a first for the industry).
Not Your Average IR Conference
From the start, it was clear that Power Up wasn’t going to be your “usual” IR conference. Q4 CEO Darrell Heaps kicked things off with opening remarks about the present and future of IR. According to Darrell: “It’s clear that the market and investor relations are going through a large amount of change. With the decline of the sell-side, along with the rise of buy-side corporate access, passives and ESG, the opportunity for IR leaders to deliver strategic impact to their companies has never been greater.”
A key differentiator of Power Up was providing the platform to dig into one of the largest changes in today’s market — the movement of the corporate access function from the sell-side to the buy-side. In the highly attended session, “Navigating Buy-Side Corporate Access,” a panel of buy-side corporate access managers including Elizabeth Librizzi, AllianceBernstein, Lindsey Reardon, Wellington Management, and Megan Capay, Surveyor Capital, shared how the buy-side and corporates are working together, with insights into how to market and drive success in this new world. Attendees also had the unprecedented opportunity to meet one-on-one with buy-side members.
Elizabeth described the opportunity as “a really fantastic experience,” adding that the buy-side is keen to help corporates understand how to engage with the new teams being built out in a post-MiFID II world. It was obvious that several attendees were looking for guidance around corporate access — how to own more of the process and be less reliant on their sell-side analysts through their own targeting and outreach. Q4’s VP Head of Solutions Engineering, Mike Coffey said that, “it was really eye opening for most of the IROs that buy-side corporate access folks even existed.”
According to Seth Frank, VP Treasury and IR at Hanger Inc: “There’s a big awakening around how we’re going to be interacting with the buy-side and institutional investors. It was very helpful to get to meet the corporate access folks at the big funds and learn how they’re going to be working together directly with us. It’s going to be a big change.” Another attendee commented that “the exposure to the buy-side corporate access teams was one of the most valuable resources for IROs attending the conference.”
In fact, 100% of survey respondents said that meeting with the buy-side corporate access teams enabled them to connect with buy-side members they wouldn’t have otherwise met and take away “extremely valuable insights.”
Tackling IR’s Biggest Challenges
With MIFID II radically changing the game and IR teams shrinking in size, Power Up offered attendees actionable insights to tackle some of IR’s greatest challenges. Karen Greene, IR Partner at Q4 observed that the conference offered her clients “actionable, insightful and future thinking content that inspired them to change how they are doing things.”
Ruth Cotter, Senior Vice President (SVP), Worldwide Marketing, HR and Investor Relations at AMD, was a key player in a number of different panel discussions. When asked for her thoughts on the conference’s program, she had this to say: “I am grateful to Q4 for hosting such a cutting edge event. What you are doing is differentiated and you’re making a positive and long lasting impact on the profession. Even a seasoned IR professional such as myself left your event with some key takeaways to bring back to my teams and implement a fresh new way of thinking.”
In her highly-attended break-out session, “Turning Big Data into Action,” Ruth joined Annie Leschin, VP of IR at DocuSign, along with Q4’s Darrell Heaps and seasoned analyst/ VP of Advisory, Jeff Myers, to discuss new strategies and tools for targeting new investors, enhancing shareholder engagement, and increasing international share. The consensus was that IROs need to trust more in big data and get proactive (and creative) about looking for information sources, both internal and external.
With the mind-blowing volume of data available to IROs today, another key insight was the growing necessity to filter out the noise and synthesize the data to drive a company’s strategic initiatives. Annie advised her fellow IROs: “Listen to your audience and the data sets they’re paying attention to.”
Overall, there was also “a palpable sense of urgency to accelerate efforts around how corporates are going to meet the demands of ESG,” observed James Benum, SVP of Product at Q4. Chad Spitler, CEO of Third Economy and specialist in building sustainable capital markets, led a session on “Trends in ESG and Sustainable Investing.” Underscoring the importance of implementing a strategic ESG disclosure and engagement program, Chad said that the key is “articulating how ESG factors impact your long-term strategy and pivoting that story to different types of investors.”
It was clear that IROs need to take an increasingly active role in ensuring their companies formulate clear ESG policies, understand their ESG scores, as well as showcase their ESG policies, scores, and ESG teams on their IR sites. Matt Tractenberg, IR Partner at Q4, noted: “ESG has been on the agenda for years, but is now gaining real traction and moving up on the priority list. There is both appetite and anxiety, especially around ESG reporting.”
Connecting with Peers and Sharing Best Practices
“Building relationships and connections was one of the best things to get out of Power Up,” said Nate Schultz, Finance Manager, Investor Relations at Whirlpool Corporation. The overall consensus was that Power Up offered an intimate setting to meet with peers and connect with new IR professionals — to exchange ideas and share best practices.
Matt Tractenberg commented: “Gathering thought leaders, both from Q4 and attendees, brought experts into the same room. From there, we were able to identify key transitions taking place, and hear about innovative approaches to navigating those transitions.”
One attendee observed: “Q4 is differentiating itself by bringing the IR community together for networking, education, and IR best practices. I think Q4 could even be the firm that hosts investor conferences, bringing together the buy-side and IROs from a corporate access perspective.”
Looking Ahead to the Future
Conference attendees walked away with more confidence and actionable insight to proactively face IR’s uncertain future. Ruth Cotter of AMD summed up: “The conference brought together mindful thought leaders to share and gain and grow through that sharing.” In fact, 100% of surveyed respondents said that they would attend Power Up again.
When asked for his final thoughts on the conference, Darrell Heaps concluded: “I personally came away with a deeper understanding of how we can work more closely with our clients to achieve their goals. I’m already looking forward to next year’s conference!”
And that’s a wrap for Power Up 2019. A huge thank you to all of our attendees and speakers for joining us in South Beach and for helping us get closer to solving IR’s biggest challenges. We hope to see you next year! Pre-registration is already open, so sign up for Fall 2020 today. It’s going to be the must-attend event of the year.