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An open letter to bank IR professionals

23 October 2018
Richard Kemmish

Investor relations is a vital function of any bank treasury team. Whereas it is usually done exceptionally well, sometimes the websites let the team down. In a constructive tone, an open letter to IR people everywhere.

Dear Bank Investor Relations people,

I know and like many people who work in the field of bank IR. When we meet you are always super helpful and friendly people – that’s your job. Sadly, however your websites let you down as I discovered when data mining a project for a client recently. So, some respectful comments from a user of your services....

Your annual report is the only reason anyone ever goes to your IR website. Ever. Looking for it on some of your websites reminded me of the Douglas Adams quote: ‘I found it eventually. In the bottom draw of a locked filing cabinet in a disused lavatory marked ‘Beware of the Leopard’. Please put it somewhere obvious on your website.

Your annual report is your statutory accounts. It is not a friendly chat about your customer engagement, your sponsorship of a Berlin arts festival, the fun things your employees do in their spare time or your exciting plans to expand the leasing business in Alsace. None of which achieves the desired objective of distracting the reader from your NPL ratio.

If you have an IR email address on your website, answer the bloody emails that we send to it. Better still give a phone number...then answer that phone. You would be amazed how rarely that happens, even – actually, particularly – in a country that is world renowned for its efficiency. You know who you are.

For those of you whose primary site isn’t in English, fair enough. It is my fault that I didn’t pay attention in Spanish lessons at school. And thank you for providing a parallel version for linguistic dummies like me. But please use a fluent English speaker to translate. Second thoughts: don’t, it’s far funnier when you use google translate. It has given me many a laugh during what would otherwise have been a very dull exercise.

We aren’t impressed with your meaningless slogans (usually a randomly generated combination of the words ‘growing’, ‘people’, ’togetherness’ and, natch, ‘sustainable’). If you are going to have a slogan make it so absurd that it is obviously intended to be ironic (bravo to the bank whose annual report was titled “Housing Finance is Fun!”).

Graphs. We get it. Powerpoint supports graphs other than the classical pie, bar or line charts that have been used successfully for hundreds of years to convey information. Just because you’ve done the tutorial and can now generate wordclouds, icon charts, pyramids or bubble clouds, doesn’t mean you should.

Please do not get a 7 year old to provide graphics. No really. You’d be surprised how many bank reports contain drawings that should have been left attached to the artist’s parent’s fridge. We don’t fall for it. It doesn’t make you a better bank. Only a better return on equity can do that.

Thanks, on behalf of data gatherers everywhere.

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