COVID Resources and Benchmarking Your Response
Week Ending 20 March

In our constant effort to look on the bright side of the pandemic, The Autocorrect staff has identified the single best side effect of the confluence of closed schools and work-from-home policies: IR internships for the available student labor found in many of your homes today.  Yes, putting your kids to work in the IR field with you will help build the next generation of the profession while improving your productivity.  Some suggestions by age group:

  • Preschoolers: Even the most basic familiarity with numbers will let your preschooler track share price and volume.  Print out a price chart and let them perform “market structure analysis” on it with blue and yellow crayons.
  • Elementary Schoolers:  You haven't truly achieved “Minimum Viable PowerPoint” until you’ve needed to explain your investment story to a fifth-grader.  Let them revamp your investor deck to remove needless text and jargon and go visual instead. 
  • High Schoolers: The social media monitoring skills of this group have never been questioned. Let your students scour cyberspace for the minute-to-minute messaging from companies in your space; further, if you hand them an 8k they’ll convert it into 140 characters in seconds (really, anything that doesn’t make their cut wasn’t that valuable anyways).
  • Homebound College Students: You’ll never find a better cohort to help your CFO look at your cost structure than the very people that are able to live on ramen packets and Crystal Light for three months at a time. 
No first week of an IR internship program is complete without The Autocorrect – start them with our back issues, while you get caught up on this week’s.


IHS Markit COVID Resources
- COVID has changed the very nature of time in our business - updates from 7 days, 5 days, sometimes even a day ago are already stale as new information arrives.  To this end, we want to make sure you have the locations for the latest information we have on every angle of the topic. 
  • The IHS Markit COVID Market Impact center is here, with all of our analysis across sectors and market segments.
  • Our latest economic forecasts across the globe can be found on our Economics and Country Risk blog here; chief economist Nariman Behravesh's latest updates to growth estimates by region are here.
  • Analysis of the credit markets can be found at our Financial Services blog here, including commentary on the credit markets globally.
  • Latest from our Issuer Solutions business will be found here (including our latest piece on virtual-only AGMs globally here), or in your inbox.

For advisory clients, we'll continue to curate the items that are the most valuable to you and highlight them as before - let us know any other information you're looking for and if it exists, we'll find it. And leave it at your front door.  Then call you afterwards to tell you it's there.

The Autocorrect Poll - Results 
- Last week's Autocorrect Poll drew in most of its responses on Friday March 13, with a few additional respondents on Monday March 16...obviously federal, state, and local guidance on travel in some areas has shifted since the poll date, but we did want to present you the responses to give you an idea of the thought process your peers are following:

A) Cancel participation in ALL in-person events indefinitely
B) Cancel participation in ALL in-person events for a specific period
C) Cancel ONLY large conferences/gatherings indefinitely (smaller NDRs/meetings still planned)
D) Cancel ONLY large conferences/gatherings for a specific period (smaller NDRs/meetings still planned)
E) Make decisions on a case-by-case basis
F) We have no events (large / small) on the schedule to adjust

Poll-20-Mar3.JPG

Note the heavy preference for cancelling events and travel "indefinitely" as opposed to for a specific period that may require an update down the road - more than two-thirds of respondents who stated they would cancel events chose the "indefinitely" option. A full one-fourth of respondents had either made no decisions or had no official policy at the time, and were reviewing events on a case-by-case basis. As we progress through the COVID era, keep in mind that as issues arise, your firm is not the only company that doesn't have a formal policy in place for those specific concerns, whatever they may be. We're glad to help if we can connect you with other IROs in your sector to come up with the right responses, whenever we can.

IR Best Practices 
- Information-sharing and benchmarking your response with your sector and the market remains the goal for this stage of the COVID era in the US. To this end - two surveys of important membership groups are worth highlighting - with a shared conclusion about lack of visibility making it to soon to consider longer-term plans.

PwC's CFO Flash Survey covers the viewpoints of 50 North American CFOs during the week of March 9-13. A few findings that jumped out to us, led by this statement of confidence: 66% of these CFOs say their businesses will be back to business as usual within a month from the end of the crisis. 48% of those surveyed plan changes to their disclosures, including 8% of those making "significant changes", and 44% expect to adjust guidance. From the capital structure angle, we were surprised that just 28% expect to adjust company financing plans - which might speak to company balance sheets already being run conservatively by some companies, or the lack of complete visibility on the final impact.

Separately,  NACD maintains a dialogue with board members responsible for overseeing their companies; its  Pulse Survey gathers the opinions of nearly 200 directors as to their involvement in company operations and strategy. 76% of board members report that their boards have discussed COVID with management - with the majority of those discussions focusing on internal operations, response plans, and making sure to protect the health of employees.  Just 32% have pressure-tested management's assumptions about the possible business impact of COVID to date, while 45% expect to do so at the next board meeting as part of evaluating management's preparedness. However, most directors state that longer-term forward-looking decisions have not been made as of yet; just 16% stated they've discussed post-crisis plans with management, and 13% state they've worked with management on decisions to postpone a major 2020 investment. While the job of any board, and really any IR team, is to look forward, both CFOs and directors don't think the board is set well enough to think several moves ahead.

ESG
- There's really only one investor that can crack the top of the news feed with non-COVID related news this mid-March, so we bet you can guess the first word of the next sentence.   BlackRock's global stewardship team published a document covering their investment stewardship priorities for 2020 ( P&I summary here), laying out the five areas that will drive their engagements throughout proxy season and into fall engagement season for companies.  Remember, last year, BlackRock conducted over 2,000 engagement sessions with over 1,500 companies, and a larger stewardship team and greater pressure on the firm to meet the goals laid out in Larry FInk's letters to companies and investors from January mean this number is likely to grow - so the audience for this document is, well,  you.  Watch for a deeper description and clarification of the firm's climate goals alongside the TCFD framework ( "companies with which we have already engaged...to provide a timeframe within which the company will report fully in line with the eleven [TCFD] recommendations") as well as the specific actions BlackRock will take if the goals are not met. You'll also find a new emphasis here on using executive pay packages to promote long-termism; you may want to think about your comp plan and how it matches up with BlackRock's statements. Either way, an important read in COVID times or not.  

Questions? Comments? Dog faster than your mute button? Reach out to your IHS Markit team, or brian.matt@ihsmarkit.com.