“The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.”
This quote illustrates the utter importance of an investor perception study for your business.
In your investor relations communications with shareholders and prospective investors, you will want to gain an insight into what they are thinking, but you can’t always be sure they are completely candid. And yet, that is what you need in order to best serve your current and future investors — full disclosure, understanding of what they think about your business and your industry, and solid intelligence about what you should be working on to better connect with them. This is all the more true during tumultuous times, such as industrial cycle evolutions.
Whether they are being polite with their responses to your questions or they have severe misgivings but don’t want to attach their name to their grievances, gaining a false impression of what investors want is no good for either party. However, an independent investor perception study, carried out by a third party that offers anonymity to shareholders, is the key to unlocking the tangible details that you can use to shape your communications strategy.
In this article, you will discover when and how to carry out your study for the maximum benefit of your organisation.
There are multiple reasons to perform an investor perception study. Below are the most compelling ones.
Enhance your capital market strategy during turbulent times
Market volatility is high today, following a string of destabilising events, and that is causing headaches for even the most experienced professionals. Being able to tap into exactly what investors think of your performance and your strategy is invaluable for doubling down on what they find attractive and rectifying the moves that may cause concern in the investment community. When planning a major move, such as a merger, the study can guide you on whether the market will support you.
Strengthen your investor relations and even ESG strategy
IROs can use the data from the study to inform how they approach shareholders and engage them. It gives them an insight into whether the company’s message is likely to be met with hostility or be welcomed. The study also allows the IRO to prepare methods of assuaging concerns about certain topics, whether the investor brings them up or not. Such studies will be increasingly valuable to acquire a better market perception of your ESG story too.
Understand your impact
Investor perception studies show you how the market reacts to your communications. By taking a study following an announcement, you can gain insight into the effect of the content that you release and the manner in which you disseminated it. This is helpful for developing your IR strategy. For example, you will find out what the view is of your financial reporting, and you can use that information to think about how you present your figures in the future for a more positive effect.
Show that you are listening
The act of carrying out an investor perception study is an indicator that you welcome and value feedback from shareholders. This is a positive sign for investors who want to know that they will be heard and that the company may act on their concerns. This helps you to avert a public challenge by activists, as you can pre-empt their concerns by asking for their feedback from the perception study.
When to do an investor perception study?
Aiming for an annual investor perception study allows you to track the metrics and sentiment to ensure you are moving in the right direction and addressing the outcomes of the previous study.
However, there is no set time period, and it will often depend on the organisation to decide what works for them and what they want to achieve from the audit. For example, you could choose to run a study in these circumstances:
Underwhelming investor response to an event
If you were convinced that investors would be interested in an action you took as a business, the study will help you uncover the reasons behind this. It will reveal what people thought of the offer and why they did not buy into it in the way you expected.
A planned or proposed change
Whether you are looking into a merger or acquisition, implementing a new strategy, changing leadership or any other major change, taking the temperature of the market makes sense. You will find out what the appetite is for this particular change and whether you need to rethink how you will present it to the public.
Euronext Corporate Services’ Post-Listing Advisory provides an independent perception analysis as the cornerstone of a yearly 360° listing diagnostic. This allows you to measure your progress and ensure you stay on track to meet investors’ expectations.
How to do an investor perception study
1. Hire an independent third-party perception researcher
CEOs, CFOs and even IROs have conversations with investors that, although ideal for building relationships and growing engagement between issuer and shareholders, are not always as candid as they could be. This is why it is essential that you use a third party for your study.
When dealing directly with a representative of an organisation, investors might be more likely to tell them what they want to hear. Or at least not tell them exactly what they need to hear. It is very difficult to completely open up about concerns about an issuer with someone so entrenched in that business. And, even if the investor is completely frank, it is a natural reaction for the insider to defend the company rather than really listen and absorb the information.
A third-party researcher is unbiased and has no connection to the organisation. They can remain neutral and encourage the shareholder to be honest without challenging them. This is, after all, an exercise to understand investor perceptions. Whether the perception is accurate is less important. If the perception is out there, you need to know about it so you can adjust your messaging accordingly and relay the truth of the matter.
2. Gather both quantitative and qualitative feedback
The perception study needs to collect both qualitative and quantitative feedback from investors, as that will provide the most wide-ranging view of how shareholders think about your business.
The quantitative aspect allows you to plot your progress in a variety of aspects relating to investor perception. You can create tables and graphics to illustrate the points and to provide a visual representation of where you are in relation to your perception goals and the actions you have taken on the findings of previous studies.
The qualitative part of the study drills down into granular detail and provides nuance to the results. It is difficult to compare qualitative factors, as there is no baseline number to order them in terms of a ranking. Still, it is essential to know the nature of the positive or negative feelings towards the company. The methodology of the research is key in terms of building the questionnaire and executing the analysis of the feedback. Using interviews rather than an online questionnaire allows the interviewee to provide open answers.
Once again, the results of the study often rely on feelings, which are difficult to measure, but with enough momentum, an overwhelming sentiment can affect your company’s future.
The report should highlight how investors feel toward the company and try to understand the reasons behind that.
3. Seek a broad view
When we use the term ‘investor perception’, it is shorthand for the investment community as a whole. This means shareholders, both past and present, analysts, market commentators and other stakeholders whose opinions can influence the sentiment of the market.
This is not just a tick-box exercise; it is a key piece of research into what the market thinks about your business and why these perceptions are prevalent. If someone is in a position to recommend or dissuade investors from your products, you need to know what they think and why they think it. Taking a broad view of who you interview in your study is essential.
4. Ask difficult and open questions
When you engage your researcher, you will work together to formulate the questions you want them to ask. You must use this opportunity to ask searching and potentially tough questions that will lead to answers that you might not want to hear.
You should be prepared to be challenged and receive honest feedback that does not chime with how you think about the company. But this is exactly what will prove most helpful. It is often the elements that you have not thought of or seriously considered that will provide the action points to really make a difference and help you super-serve your investors and other stakeholders.
Questions to ask investors for your investor perception study
What do they know about your corporate portfolio?
What products do they understand the most and the least?
Which pipeline products do they consider particularly promising?
Who do they consider to be your company’s peers and competitors?
Financial performance and valuation
What is their opinion of your recent financial performance?
Do they consider your financial guidance achievable? Why or why not?
What is their take on your company’s long-term growth profile?
What capital allocation do they prefer that you make (e.g., M&A, debt pay-down, organic growth efforts)?
Do they consider the company under-valued, fairly valued or over-valued? Why?
How do they rate your ESG performance?
What do they think of your ESG strategy?
Does the company adequately disclose ESG risks to their business model?
Do they consider there to be enough diversity on the board?
What do they consider your company’s strengths, weaknesses, and vulnerabilities?
What do they think of the leadership team?
What do they think of management transparency?
What do they think of your investor relations efforts? Are there any areas that need more attention?
What is a perception audit?
A perception audit is another term for a perception study. You deep dive into what your investors and other stakeholders feel about your offering, creating a document that lays out the results and from which you can adjust your strategy.
How many respondents should you feature in a perception study?
Targeting 30 to 50 respondents should provide a broad sampling of large and small funds, specialists, and generalists. It is recommended that you target between 10 and 20 per cent sell-side representation, with the rest of the group made up of those from the buy-side. This provides a multi-angle panel.
How do you evaluate investor perception?
You use a mix of qualitative and quantitative feedback to form an overview of investor perception. From these inputs, you can form an action plan for the future.
How Euronext can help
Euronext Corporate Services can perform a 360-degree investor perception study for your organisation and provide you with in-depth insights that help you understand how the market views your business.
An investor perception project takes approximately six weeks to complete and involves:
Designing a panel of respondents that represents a cross-section of your shareholding.
Drafting the questionnaire to ask about the topics you are most interested in.
Executing the interviews.
Aggregating and analysing quantitative and qualitative responses.
Creating a detailed survey report to inform the board’s decision-making process.
An investor perception study is key to understanding how the market feels about your company and helping you plan ahead to better serve shareholders and other key stakeholders. It can be tough to undertake a study, as you may hear views that challenge you, and it could present issues that you have not considered yet. But that helps you to gain that competitive edge by overcoming challenges, and you can’t do that until you understand what those challenges are.
At Euronext Corporate Services Post-Listing Advisory, our experts provide an investor perception study that utilises a proven methodology and a targeted approach. We deliver an in-depth analytical report, filled with insights drawn from statistical data, and qualitative feedback analysis, combined with an action plan based on the findings. Request a free demo for your business today.