Making it to the C-Suite as Chief Financial Officer, CFO, is just the start of the journey, not the destination. It comes with a myriad of new activities and challenges. One of those is the stock market analyst meeting.
The stock market analysts, those individuals who hold the power to move your stock from a buy, and hence wealth upside potential for you and your shareholders, to the dreaded sell. In an instant you can go from hero to zero, so being prepared for this meeting is of utmost importance. The first meeting is also the one where they’ll be assessing you : are you up for the job, have you got what it takes, can they trust you ?
You can’t get this one wrong.
So how to you prepare and what to expect ?
1. Know the numbers
Let me start with this : you don’t need to be rainman and know every single performance metric of every product and every territory in which you operate. Stock market analysts don’t want those details.
But you do need to know the main items from the P&L and balance sheet of the last few years. It is important that you have a solid grasp of the history. Knowing where you come from is key to establishing a trajectory. Analysts love trend lines.
You also need to know the sales, gross profit and net income numbers (or whatever your main published metrics are) of the territories you operate in and your products.
Quick reminder : If you don’t disclose it in written form, don’t disclose it in oral form.
Not disclosing doesn’t mean you don’t have to know it, though. On the contrary, it is needed as it helps you tell the story and answer questions in a more pertinent manner.
2. Know the analysts
As part of your preparation, hopefully your Investor Relations team will take you through the profiles of the stock market analysts you are going to meet. Also make sure you get your hands on, and take the time to read, the recent analyst reports and their views on your company. Speak to your team and have them give you a feel for what interests the analysts you are going to meet and what questions they are likely to ask. Getting to know the people you’re about to meet, helps you make mental assessments of what they’ll be like, how they’ll react and ask questions, and it will help you prepare mentally.
3. Build a story
This is one thing that you need to do yourself or at the very least, you need to recraft the story that your Investor Relations team gives you. It needs to be in your own words and in a way that you’ll be comfortable telling it.
What is the story?
It is the introduction you will give before you open the meeting up to questions. It may be formal with a presentation in the background, where you comment the slides or it could be an informal monologue where you take them through the results and give them guidance as to the future outlook. It is key to anchor your take on the results and pass on your key messages to the analysts.
4. Practise before hand
This is a great one to do and can really help you get into the posture for the meeting. Having your team throw questions at you and then giving you feedback afterwards on how you responded is immensely useful. It helps you perfect the sound-bites you’ll deliver and helps you adjust the story you initially crafted. What might sound perfect to you when you work on it in front of your computer, might not sound right to someone else when you say it out loud. So practise, adjust and practise again.
Once your preparations finalised, it is time to get ready to head into the arena.
What should you expect?
There are two common stock market analyst meeting formats. The one-on-one meeting and the group meeting and both come with a different ambience.
1. The one-on-one Meeting
Usually this is during a roadshow or if the analyst comes out to see you. If it is the latter case, then you’ll have some home court advantage as you’ll be in your surroundings. The informal introductory monologue works best in this kind of format.
Once you’ve delivered your messages, and the stock market analyst has noted down what you’ve said, they’ll turn toward their list of questions.
The usual approach is for them to go down the list and check off question after question. I’m not a big fan of this as they tend to jump from topic to topic and it becomes more tricky to keep passing your key messages.
Sometimes the more switched on analysts will start on one topic and then weave through your initial story with questions. This is the approach I like, as it shows they’ve prepared and highlights quite quickly their points of concern. Once this happens, keep drilling in your key messages and give loads of examples to illustrate your points.
The one-on-one meeting is more familiar and you can build up a good relationships with these types of meetings, given they are informal in style, but given the format it takes you a lot longer to reach all the analysts that follow your company. Remember to take advantage to build up a relationship. Trust is paramount in the CFO-stock market analyst relationship.
2. The Group Meeting
This format lends itself well to the more formal presentation, which will have you standing up in front of the group and delivering your message, with a presentation on the screen behind you or some variant of that. You get to place your key messages just like the one-on-one meeting, but it just tends to be more formal and “prepared”. You’ll need to use all your presentation and seduction skills to make it sound natural. The worst approach is to read off a teleprompter as it’ll come across like you’re reading, unless you’ve had hours of practise and master the teleprompter. Reading off notes gives off an impression of someone not prepared or not mastering the topic and they’ll pick that up right away.
To make this kind of format a little less formal, I would suggest to organise a coffee beforehand and then mingle with your head of Investor Relations with you, presenting you to the analysts one by one. You’ll never get to all of them, but it will show you are approachable.
After the formal presentation part, open the floor to questions and you’ll start getting peppered from all sides. If you prepared well, this will be easy. Ask your head of Investor Relations to be with you and if you are ever unsure of a detail, get them to comment or tell the analyst that they should follow up with the team afterwards.
A direction to follow up with the team afterwards, is the best strategy when you’re unsure – and believe me, in your first one, you’ll probably be unsure once or twice.
Remember to pass on as many as your key messages as you can.
Analyst meetings are just one of the new activities you’ll have to get used to when you get to the C-Suite. Radio, TV and print press is another one, but I’ll leave that for another article as the approach is very different.
Know your numbers, know the analysts and build a story through repeated preparation. That’s the best way to prepare, for not only your first analyst meeting, but for subsequent ones as well. Try different formats and find the one that suits you best. You need to be relaxed and at ease. You need to show you’re in control of your subject and that they can trust you. Confidence in the CFO is just as key as confidence in the CEO. Analysts need to know that the numbers are correct and tell a coherent story and that the person managing that side of the business is a serious professional and a safe pair of hands.