One of the catch phrases from the Paul Newman/Robert Redford movie “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” was the question “Who are those guys?” asked by Butch to Sundance as they were being relentlessly pursued by lawmen following a train robbery. I bring this up not to prove that I am a fan of old movies (I do admit that I will watch almost anything with either Paul Newman or Robert Redford in it), but rather as a way to think about how shareholders may feel about the people running their company if some efforts are not made regarding management visibility.
Modern corporations are complex organizations and it is understandable that management should feel that it is the entity and not individuals that should garner the attention of investors. And to a degree, I think this is correct, as one does not want to cultivate the cult of the CEO as the be all and end all of the firm. Yet investors are people, and people relate to other people, not a faceless business entity. So some effort should be made to introduce management and the board to investors. Putting a name and face to the people in charge of running the enterprise is a simple thing that companies can do to help humanize the investing process.
One very simple approach to this is taken by Associated British Foods.
Accessible from a list of links on the left hand side of their main investor page is a link to “Key management biographies”, which takes you directly to a page, shown right, with the biographies of the Chief Executive, Finance Director and the Board of Directors.
Following the classical economics theory that “More is better”, my personal preference is for companies to show more of the management team than just the chief executive and the finance director. After all, a finance director usually doesn’t know much about marketing or sales.
I find that when companies offer an expanded list of management, they place the listing in a separate section, usually within the “About Us” section and labeled “Our People”. I don’t wish to seem dogmatic about investor pages being the center of the company’s website, so this approach is perfectly acceptable as well.
Set out right is an example of an “Our People” page from Marks and Spencer’s web site. Clicking on each individual brings up a short pop-up biography of the member of the management team, and it gives you a good sense of the experience underpinning the management of the company.
As a final thought, I think that a simple link on the investor main page to the Our People section would allow investors to quickly navigate there and to have an expanded list of management, although I have not seen this approach used.
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