I’ve been away from this blog for awhile, completing the busy part of my academic year, seeing one child graduate from college, another one finish high school and get ready for college (no relief from tuition bills yet) and generally keeping busy. That doesn’t mean however, that I haven’t been casting a critical eye over IR web sites. Lately I’ve been poking around the investor relations home pages for FTSE 100 companies to get a feel for what the IR home page says about the company’s point of view.
My first stop was a visit to Marks & Spencer. I spent many years in retailing, so I thought I would start with something that seemed familiar. M&S, like many retailers, makes you hunt to find the investor relations page. They reserve the main Marks & Spencer website for retail shoppers, forcing you to find a link to the corporate web page way, way down in the corner of the retail page. Click on the link for The Company and you go to the corporate page and a further link takes you to the IR home page. A hunt, plus two clicks: it’s not perfect, but not too bad.
Once you do get to the IR home page, it’s actually quite well laid out. A list of subjects on the left hand side makes it easy to navigate to the section you’re looking for, while the page itself contains many of the most sought after pieces of information such as a link to the latest Annual Report and a stock price quote with a mini stock price chart. The one suggestion I would have to make the main page better is to have the list of links present the reader with a pop up list of subheadings when the mouse is scrolled over the subject. This would enable the reader to quickly see if the information was in the section without the time and effort of navigating to the section in question and back.
Impression of the company gleaned from the main IR page: The customer, not the investor, comes first, which is not unusual in a retailer. Still, I didn’t like the hunt factor. Next, the company understands design. The IR home page is well laid out and the design is crisp and appealing without excessive clutter. In fact, I would go so far to say that the design is better than most of the M&S stores I’ve been in. Finally, we’re treated to two pictures of the Chairman on our way to the IR home page (and I noticed at least two others while I did a quick circuit of the site) which gives a pretty good indication that a.) the chairman has a big ego and likes publicity, b.) probably has a hand in almost every corporate decision being made. (Note: a subsequent visit to the site as I was editing this piece revealed far fewer pictures of the chairman, so I might be a bit harsh here.)
I will freely admit these are snap judgements, but considering the average time a person spends on a web page, those are the operative types of judgements when looking at web offerings these days.