Evolving IR Best Practices

Summary: Evolving IR Best Practices

IRC Domain 4: Investor Marketing and Outreach


Jonathan Spitzer, CFA, Senior Director, Investor Relations, Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc. Deb Wasser, IRC, Vice President, Investor Relations, Etsy, Inc.

Moderator: Karla Kimrey, IRC, Managing Director, Lincoln Churchill Advisors

  • To state the obvious, COVID-19 and its associated meeting restrictions have driven most investor relations contacts into virtual formats – both video and standard telephonic conference calls. Beyond taking part in selective virtual sell-side conferences, Etsy conducted video earnings webcasts and an April “fireside chat” with its CEO to preannounce stronger-than-expected estimated gross merchandise sales (e.g., face masks) and other effects of the pandemic. Jay Spitzer said Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA) has found value in holding conference calls that pull in additional members of its global senior management team who would not have been able to attend in-person meetings.
  • On video calls, the IR officer (IRO) and/or corporate access contact often must remind investors “we would appreciate it if you turn your video on” – they want to see management but may multitask unless they’re on camera. Both panelists expect post-COVID investor meetings to be a hybrid of relatively few in-person meetings and a larger number of video/phone meetings.
  • Both Etsy and WBA withdrew their annual guidance in March/April due to the uncertainty of future macroeconomic conditions as a result of the pandemic. Etsy has not provided new guidance for the full year 2020, but “temporarily moved” to provide additional color (e.g., category details) and guidance on year-over-year growth in gross merchandise sales and revenue, as well as adjusted EBITDA margin, for the second and third quarters of 2020. Deb Wasser said some investors consider the company’s guidance to be overly conservative (“the pandemic has been transformative for e-commerce companies”) but doesn’t expect difficulty in ratcheting back Etsy’s level of disclosures once conditions are more certain. WBA’s fiscal year ends Aug. 31, so WBA’s third quarter release reinstated fourth quarter guidance with a wider range.
  • Both panelists said investors are increasingly interested in hearing more about ESG and a related topic, diversity and inclusion (D&I). As ESG is an important component of the European investment thesis, this topic is especially important for WBA, which has a higher percentage of non-U.S. shareholders because it formed in 2014 in a merger between European company Boots Alliance and Walgreens. WBA’s corporate responsibility section of its corporate website hosts the D&I report that is currently featured as a news release on the IR homepage. Etsy publishes an integrated annual report that includes its “impact strategy and progress,” which is reported using company-specific goals and Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) metrics.