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Listening, Learning, and Leading
Reflections on Stakeholder Labs’ Experience at the 2023 NIRI Annual Conference
Stakeholder Labs had the opportunity last week to sponsor the 2023 National Investor Relations Institute (NIRI) Annual Conference, and we are still buzzing from the experience. Special thank you to the President of NIRI Matt Brusch, the entire national events team and our local LA chapter for making the week so productive and informative. For background, NIRI was established in 1969 as an association for Investor Relations professionals and its mission is to advance the practice of IR and the professional competency of its members, providing essential knowledge, resources, and forums to enhance communication and intelligent investing. Through regular networking events, educational programs, and professional development opportunities, the organization thrives on the power of community, underscoring how shared wisdom and experiences can contribute to collective growth and progress within the IR field.
Listening, Learning, and Leading
As big believers in community marketing, we love to practice what we preach and it’s been a priority to support the Investor Relations community as we work at becoming indispensable technology vendors to the broader industry. When we started this journey last year, we quickly realized the importance of NIRI and very rarely does an industry have such a tight knit, well-run association leading the charge. Not only did the annual conference allow us to introduce Stakeholder Labs to a wider audience of Investor Relations professionals, but we also deepened our understanding of the sector’s needs, challenges, and future direction. As we were reflecting on our busy week, Stakeholder Labs’ lead investor and Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian happened to drop a motivating tweet reminding us what community driven startups are all about:
One of the conversations Stakeholder Labs wanted to start within the NIRI community was ‘who is today’s retail investor?’ to debunk stigmas that were pushed amidst the ‘meme stock’ craze. As part of this effort, we were thrilled to support NIRI - LA Chapter President Kim Esterkin’s article titled Look in the Mirror You’ll See a Retail Investor - the importance of redefining and reconnecting with retail investors which was printed and distributed to every conference attendee. As a new technology vendor entering an established industry, it’s one strategy to prepare for a conference with a sharp sales pitch, it is an entirely different experience when established community leaders help seed and properly frame an important conversation your business wants to support. Throughout the week, we were very encouraged to see the growing curiosity from IR professionals in retail shareholders and it’s important to note how big of a systemic shift this is. Remember, retail shareholders often own a smaller percentage of total outstanding shares, but with accelerating democratization of our financial markets and the increasing ability for digital communities to influence outcomes, our conversations are helping IROs transition retail engagement from a ‘to-do’ list item to a top priority going into 2024.
Why Retail Shareholders, Why Now
Stakeholder Labs believes that engaged retail shareholders can serve as loyal advocates for issuers, provide critical feedback and proxy voting support, bolster a stock’s financial resilience during market downturns, and send strong messages to institutional investors who are increasingly looking for social signals on Reddit, Twitter, and other platforms. Engaging retail shareholders is not just about cultivating investor relationships—it's about building a community of dedicated advocates who can contribute to a company's success in multiple ways and creating advantages that extend far beyond the balance sheet. IROs from a variety of sectors, including less obvious ones such as Biotech and Spacetech, approached us with unique stories of their companies organically attracting a new community of retail shareholders that would have been unimaginable just five years ago. Many IROs were admittedly confused on what to do next.
Where we met a number of IROs and agency partners was at the first step of creating a retail shareholder strategy and that’s purchasing a Non-Objecting Beneficial Owners List (aka NOBO List) from Broadridge and/or other transfer agents. This list provides an issuer the name and address of their individual investors, but for many IROs, receiving a CSV with thousands of names and physical addresses and converting that information into scalable digital campaign is not feasible — this is where Stakeholder Labs steps in. As part of our onboarding process, we work closely with issuers to enrich their NOBO Lists by layering that data against their owned and operated CRM so we can isolate a cohort of shareholders that are identifiable via email or phone. This also allows us to analyze their customer behaviors, purchasing habits, and engagement levels as shareholders. Based on the insights gathered, we work with issuers on loyalty strategies and engagement campaigns with the goal of driving retail shareholders to digitally verify their shares.
As we now look ahead to our follow-up conversations in the upcoming weeks and months, the NIRI Annual Conference was an inspirational reminder of the impact of an engaged community and of what IROs could be mirroring within their company’s well-crafted retail shareholder community. We were deeply encouraged by the increasing shift in viewpoint where retail shareholders are no longer just seen as minor investors but as potential company advocates, financial stabilizers, and communication bridges to larger institutional investors. We are thrilled that next year’s NIRI annual conference will be in San Francisco which will present an important backdrop for attracting more technology-enabled community builders to participate in the Investor Relations conversation and continue to accelerate the industry forward.