Corporate Eye

What Makes for Effective Investor Relations Sites? Part 17: Make the Individual Shareholder Feel Welcome


Customer relations (and I use the term loosely) has undergone a number of iterations over the years as companies have sought to satisfy the ever increasing demands of customers for information in a cost efficient manner. During my lifetime I have seen a variety of solutions attempted, ranging from customer service teams onsite (expensive, and usually with long wait times), touch tone telephone service systems (usually with incomprehensible choices) to banks of operators standing by in some country you’ve never heard of.

Generally speaking, the economic solution has been to attempt to substitute the use of capital and technology for high cost labor. None of these have yielded optimal results.

It has been the same with shareholders. It can be very difficult and frustrating to get an answer about your stock. And yet most companies wish to have a large component of their shares owned by individual shareholders.

The advent of the internet has allowed companies to attempt to solve this problem by putting access to more information than ever in the hands of shareholders. This means that shareholders can look things up for themselves at the time of their choosing without being reliant on someone to look it up for them. Further, given the bandwidth of the web, web sites don’t have long waiting times during busy periods, such as tax filing time.

The challenge to companies is to design a page that clearly directs shareholders to the information they need to find. One site that does a good job of this is Centrica plc in their Shareholder centre page reproduced below. The page lays out the most common pieces of information sought by individual shareholders in a very easy to follow format. If a shareholder wants to find dividend information, it is clearly labeled. There are clear links to commonly requested pieces of information such as current and historic share prices. In short, the company has enabled the shareholder to easily find pertinent information.

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John Palizza

John recently retired as a Lecturer in Management at Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Management, where he taught investor relations. Prior to that, John was in charge of investor relations for Sysco Corporation and Walgreen Co. He holds a MBA from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University and a law degree from Loyola University of Chicago. You can learn more about John’s thinking about investor relations at his blog, Investor Relations Musings.