My corporate and consulting experience makes it hard for me to imagine serving in an investor relations capacity without taking a significant role in shaping the strategic content of the written/electronic materials that are directed at the investor audience (ranging from the SEC filings, e.g., 10-Ks ,10-Qs and proxy, to earnings releases, fact sheets, website materials, presentations, and more). Even the best IRO can talk or meet with only a subset of current and potential investors, many more learn about the company or stay up-to-date via written/electronic materials.
I know that including SEC filings on my list of key documents distinguishes me from many of my peers, but I firmly believe my view is bolstered by SEC commentary on the topic, as I’ve noted in previous posts. The filings also are very important to the board and senior management (and are closely scrutinized by investors).
But I also know that convoluted processes make it very difficult for IROs to participate in everything that needs their attention on a strategic level, particularly the SEC filings.
I learned a few days ago about a possible solution – a simple, relatively inexpensive tool from WebFilings – that I think is the “missing link” to solve a long list of corporate disclosure process problems, including IR participation in the SEC filings. (Note that I have no business relationship with WebFilings although they have been kind enough to give me a product demo and some background information.)
WebFilings’ solution is a web-based software (one single-active document in the cloud) with no local installation. Watching the demo, it took only a few minutes to convince me that it could revolutionize disclosure processes – it does so many things so easily. And it is reasonably priced, particularly when you consider that it also can be used to tag XBRL and convert to Edgar, HTML and print formats (in minutes — forget losing days to “pencils down” and managing multiple versions with different vendors).
WebFilings can be used for the filed documents and earnings releases, financial supplements, conference call scripts, website copy and other financial documents. Regardless of the document, it offers incredible version management and it reduces anxiety about accuracy and updates (for example, values in text and tables are drawn directly from single source spreadsheets, there is no “ticking and tying”).
To explain that data point: Consider a value – for example, total invested assets – that appears in the 10-K (MD&A and notes), news release, financial supplements and call script a total of 25 times. With WebFilings, each of those 25 instances is updated when a primary data table is changed (and the primary table does not need to appear in any of the document). A report is available to let each change be reviewed, if desired. And the same value can appear as $1.2 billion, $1,235 million or $1,234,567,890, as appropriate for each location.
The one thing I saw that I didn’t like was the print formatting capabilities (no “styles”), but that’s minor for a product this revolutionary, and sure to be on the list of planned updates.
I’m pretty sure I’ll be talking more about (and to) WebFilings in the future, for example, to show ways it can be used to make it easier for the investor relations team to use their time to maximize the strategic role of IR!