Corporate Eye

Investor Relations Location

Most publicly traded companies have an Investor Relations page on their website.  This page gives the company an opportunity to provide information to all manner of investors whether current shareholders, or those researching a potential investment in the company.  Sometimes, though, finding the Investor Relations page can be a bit of a challenge.

The “Standard” Location

It has become a bit of a de facto standard for US companies that the investor relations page resides behind the link to “Company Information” or the “About Us” page.  Another common location is behind the “Contact Us” link which can be even less intuitive to those who are seeking information, not a person to talk to.  These site positions allow the company to focus the homepage on customers while still providing important information in a location that most investors are likely to find.  But, what about giving the investor relations link a little more prominent display?

Investor Relations on the Homepage

Consider the homepage for utility provider ComEd.  By slipping a link into the toolbar, ComEd is able to display a homepage that is fully focused on its clients, while still providing a prominent position for its investor relations material.  Such a display conveys the image that while ComEd cares about its customers, it also cares about its investors, a good message to send.

Investor Relations displayed on the home page.

By providing a link right off of the front page, a company increases the chances that ALL of its investors and potential investors will find what they are looking for.  While the semi-standard locations in the Company Information sections are no doubt good enough for those who are both savvy investors as well as savvy Internet users, such a location may prove difficult to find for those who do not frequently access such information.  For example, an estate attorney trying to look up information regarding paper stock certificates found in a deceased’s estate may not be familiar with the “standard” location.  Likewise, for older investors who may not be familiar with where a “normal” website keeps information.

Even younger technologically experienced investors who are used to a more Web 2.0 design where everything is presented in a dashboard style format may not expect to find investor information behind an About link.  After all, on many websites that area is reserved for basic information like addresses and phone numbers.

Perhaps most importantly to many companies would be employee shareholders who have loyally built up positions in company stock over the years.  These former employees and their families can be counted on as faithful shareholders and yet, they may not be able to find the basic information they need because they do not directly own shares of other companies, and therefore are unfamiliar with where companies usually put such information.

Is the Homepage Right for Your Company?

A homepage redesign is obviously not something undertaken on a whim, but perhaps now is the time to begin thinking about whether or not a more prominent location for the Investor Relations page would benefit the company.  Engaging in conversations with the right people in public relations and information technology would provide insight into the issues involved and the feasibility of implementing such a change.  The time to start such talks is now because the lead time to such a change can be significant.  However, the increased visibility of the Investor Relations section will be worth it, even if it takes a few months to make it happen.

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Brian is a small business owner, consultant and freelance writer. Brian began his professional career in the computer industry as a consultant where he became keenly aware of the internal workings of companies from Fortune 100 giants to small two-man shops. While working with a mutual fund company, Brian developed a strong interest in finance and became a Certified Financial Planner. As a financial professional, Brian specialized in working with small business owners. Brian is the co-founder of ArcticLlama, LLC a premier business writing and consulting firm. He also runs a real world personal finance blog. Brian lives in Denver with his wife and daughter.
 
Comments

“It has become a bit of a de facto standard for US companies that the investor relations page resides behind the link to “Company Information” or the “About Us” page. Another common location is behind the “Contact Us” link which can be even less intuitive to those who are seeking information, not a person to talk to.”

This statement, which is the premise for this post, is false. Our own research of 535 companies finds that 90% have a visible link to Investor Relations on their corporate homepages. The “de facto standard” is the exception, not the norm.

And we have never seen an IR section located behind Contact Us.

I’m sure you will agree that in a area as heavily regulated at investor relations that it is vital to publish accurate and reliable information.

It should also be noted that ComEd is not a public company, but rather a subsidiary of Exelon. The investor relations section that the example points to is for Exelon, not ComEd.

Thank you for your corrections Dominic; I appreciate you taking the time to comment, and agree that we should have checked this more carefully.

Dominic,
Thank you for your comment. I appreciate the feedback.

You may have a point that “de facto standard” could be a bit of hyperbole, but such placement is far from rare.

I’ve not done a formal analysis, but during the years I was a financial advisor, I helped plenty of people figure out what to do with paper stock certificates that turned up in files or in a late loved one’s estate. It was during this time that I learned that if there was no investor link on the front page to try under Contact Us or About Us.

For examples, you need look no further than some of the biggest companies in America.

Bank of America for example does not have an Investor Relations link on its home page. (The investment links on that page are for their investment services, not for Investor Relations.) Click the Contact Us link on the top menu bar, and you’ll find Investor Relations.

AT&T goes the About Us route. (Now you have one for your study :) Again, no Investor Relations link on the front page, but click About Us and you’ll find it there in a list of links under “Our Corporate Profile”.

Other examples include Disney (under Corporate Info in the tiny link section at the bottom of the page), and American Express (under About American Express).

Further, although I didn’t touch on it, just because a company has a link on their home page to the Investor Relations page, doesn’t automatically qualify the site as friendly for Investors. Take a look at Comcast’s home page. Yes, there is a link. It is at the bottom in tiny font along with the legal disclaimers. One could hardly characterize such placement as inviting.

There are many more. It is my belief that the larger a company is, the more likely a good placed Investor Relations link becomes. A search of companies from one of the small cap indexes would likely yield a higher percentage of companies with their Investor Relations links buried than a similar search in the DJIA.

Regarding ComEd, you are correct that it is a subsidiary. All the more reason to applaud such Investor Relations placement. For someone who is interested in investing in a large utility such as ComEd, but who is unaware of its subsidiary nature, a well placed Investor Relations link would lead them to the right place as quickly as possible. After all, ComEd is the well known household name, not Exelon.

Brian,

I just checked and Bank of America’s IR site, which we include in our survey, is not accessed via Contact Us. It is accessed via About Bank of America in the top nav.

As I said, 90% of companies have a visible link to Investor Relations on their homepages. We define that to mean no user action is required to see a link to investor relations (no cascading menus). That means 10% do not, and you have listed a few of them. Almost all of those that do not will place IR under About Us. Apple Inc. is an anomaly in that you will find IR by going first to their Media site.

Companies that hide IR usually are companies with consumer-facing commercial sites where most of the traffic to the site is people wishing to conduct a transaction or to obtain news or other content.

I’m not disagreeing that IR should be prominent, it should be in most cases. However, your statements about the norm being that IR is hidden is not true in the vast majority of cases (90%) of the companies in our survey.

Upon further reflection, it occurs to me that perhaps I didn’t answer the central point of your comment, which is that the premise of the post is that most companies do not provide a link from their home page. That actually is not the premise of the post. The premise of the post is that companies which do not provide a useful link from the home page should reconsider.

I am dismayed that my turn of phrase caused you to draw a different meaning from what I hoped would be a gentle wake up call to those who are responsible for investor relations to both defend their position on the homepage if they currently have one, and to fight for such a spot if they do not.

The remainder of the post is meant to address some of the common objections that might arise to such a premise. The ComEd example is meant to show that a homepage can have a prominent Investor Relations link without adding clutter or interfering with the important “business” of the page.

The hypothetical investors described toward the end are meant to answer the objection that it doesn’t matter where the Investor Relations section is because everyone already knows where to look.

And finally, an acknowledgment of the realities of the business world in which a highly visible item like a company’s homepage cannot be changed on a whim, so that if one agrees that a move to the homepage is the right thing to do, then the time to lay the groundwork for such a move is now.

Hopefully that helps clear things up.

Brian,

Bank of America’s IR site is not accessed via “Contact Us.” It is accessed via “About Bank of America” in the top navigation bar.

Our surveys of 535 IR websites finds that 90% of companies have a visible link to “Investor Relations” on their homepages. That means 10% do not, and you have listed a few of them. Almost all of those that do not have a direct link to IR will place IR under “About Us.” We have never seen primary access provided via “Contact Us,” which you said was “common.”

The premise of your post was that companies were generally not making access to IR information prominent on their IR homepages. But that isn’t true. While I (and 90% companies) agree that it is not good practice to make access to IR difficult, many of the 10% of companies not providing access to IR on their homepages will provide you with good reasons for their practices.

Your post was not based on sound research and made claims that are not supported by the facts. That’s why I corrected the post.

Dominic,
You’ll find that The Bank of America IR site can also be accessed under Contact Us. I did a simple Google search to find some examples relevant to our discussion and I listed a few that I found. I chose big well-known companies because I thought that those would provide the best examples.

At this time, I’m not sure what it is that you are trying to say. It sounds like you agree that Investor Relations pages should whenever possible be linked from the front page of a corporate website instead of hidden behind other links.

If what you are saying is that I’m not allowed to encourage companies and their employees to keep their front page links or to move such links to the front page, then I must respectfully disagree. Good ideas are good ideas whether you have a PhD or not, or whether you have done a 500+ company survey or not. I drew on my own personal experience that finding Investor Relations information can be frustrating at times, and that more often than not, such information was in one of two places if not on the front page.

Either way, thanks for reading, and I look forward to your comments in the future.

(By the way, it looks like there is some sort of time error on the comments. Did you post the same comment twice at different times, or did the system here confuse the times?)

Brian,

All I am saying is that your post said things that were not true or substantiated.

Please stop putting words in my mouth and making this about anything more than getting facts straightened out.

You’re written more in your comments than in the post itself.

Dominic,
I have written more in the comments :)

I appreciate a spirited debate. I believe that engaging in conversations with others is a fantastic way to both learn new things, and to clarify one’s own ideas. For example, I have noticed that I use the phrase “de facto” in my verbal conversations as well, a trait that I will change because I don’t believe it adds anything to what I say and may actually be weakening the points I try to make with others. (I also say “At the end of the day…” far too often, but that is proving a hard habit to break.)

I am sorry that you feel I have put words in your mouth. I apologize sincerely for that. I know I hate it when people do it to me.

So, I will just say, thank you for your comments. I do appreciate them, and I am glad to have a reader who cares so passionately for this issue.

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