In developing the Shareholder Communications Symposium and working with our sponsors and clients, I’ve been spending a lot of time lately in the area of shareholder communications, digging deep into issues related to new SEC rulings that affect everything from the way prospectuses, proxies, and other critical investor-related documents are written (new, plain language) to the way they are delivered (say goodbye to the thick stack of printed materials that no one reads!).
One of the outcomes of this activity is my growing sense that there’s a lot of opportunity in them thar hills, for both the public companies and investment firms that need to respond to the regulatory changes and the solution providers that support them. Here are just a few of my thoughts:
1) Thanks to the SEC’s spate of recent initiatives – notice & access, summary prospectus, retail voting, compensation disclosure & analysis, plain language guidelines – the pressure is on for investor relations and shareholder communications professionals to create new content that is developed by finance, compliance, and other executives and is readily deliverable both in print and on the Web. In many ways, they’re having to rethink authoring, compliance, and distribution processes and tools they haven’t touched in years, and they’re hungry for direction and advice.
2) The scope of this attention and activity ranges far beyond the annual report, which is the big bit of content most people think of because of the important public-facing role it plays. However, this specialized dossier is much more than the thick piece of marketing collateral it often is considered to be. Rather, it is a highly-visible compliance document that is subject to the same kind of strict controls as an SEC filing, proxy, prospectus, governance document, or annual meeting presentation.
3) With the economy stagnant and the ‘usual suspects’ in marketing and Website/portal development pretty well saturated, content management and delivery vendors are scouting hard for new points of entry into the organizations they seek to serve. Given the regulatory squeeze the shareholder services community now finds itself in, it seems to me that there’s a marriage to be made there, a relationship that stands to be as long and as fruitful as any we’ve seen in the content technology space.
The trick for vendors is to recognize that shareholder services are quite strategic, highly regulated, and enormously complex. The trick for shareholder services executives is to quickly get comfortable with the notion that compliance with the new mandates may require enhancing or replacing (even if only in part) their current technology solutions.
So there it is, a little more than my $0.02, submitted, as Rod Serling would say, for your approval.
– Submitted by Steve Weissman