It’s back, but may not look like it used to: from fully tech-enabled to hybrid to in-person – or regional to intentionally limited attendee lists for crowd size control.
Last month, I participated on a panel to discuss Corporate Access trends hosted by Substantive Research. Having spent many years in the Research department at Barclays, it’s a subject that has consumed a lot of my time and effort over the years, especially when regulators, namely the FCA, put into question the payment for services. While the topic of payment for corporate access is back in vogue the real discussion lately is the return to in person events and how technology may or may not play a part in the offering going forward.
The impact of the global pandemic on the research market was highly evident throughout much of the discussion during the Substantive Research event, and the repercussions are reflected in the many changes in the engagement model for research services and corporate access as well as the value of those services in a virtual world. Virtual meetings allowed for greater flexibility to accommodate more demand for meetings. With the burden of travel being eliminated from the equation to arrange such meetings, firms can host more participants in group sessions and in more events.
Now that the pandemic and its restrictions are starting to wane, there is an interest from participants to do more in person meetings, particularly when it comes to the larger scale industry conferences. These conferences offer much more value-add engagements than simply meeting company participants in person. They provide the participants the opportunity to network with their peers, listen to panel discussions on timely topics, and spend time with research analysts – all the while doing it in a much-needed social setting after many months in lock down.
The pace at which firms are returning to physical corporate access and conferences will depend on the situation by region, country, and organization. International travel is still restrictive while regional travel is not. There will be differing attitudes to risk as we re-emerge from lockdowns, but there is no doubt that underlying all this is a real fear of missing out as the conference calendar returns.
The concept of hosting hybrid events was actively discussed and while it’s possible to accommodate meetings in person and virtually alongside each other, the logistics of doing so may cause some complexities and an awkward supply and demand dynamic. What investors mostly want is exclusivity and quality of meetings. Sharing meetings with large groups of participants reduces the overall value of the engagement. Not only is the time shared with others but more importantly their thoughts and questions are discussed with a wider audience of investors, reducing the value of their proprietary evaluation and opinions to improve the success and performance of their funds versus their peers.
The one overriding theme for me is the importance technology has played during Covid to adapt to market requirements, and how clearly it will continue to play an important role in the future to support research, client engagement and the delivery of corporate access. While the debate around payment for corporate access and research services will continue for a long time to come, it’s clear to me the increased use of technology is helping the industry more efficiently manage their engagements and drive value to their business model.
With the timeline of a full emergence from the pandemic still unclear, it is critical that firms approach their corporate access services with an agile and nimble method, ready for whichever direction the market goes. Being prepared with the right tools to accommodate a hybrid corporate access model would mean no matter what happens, firms will be able to optimize their events and allocate meetings based on the varying preferences of their covered companies and clients to ensure optimal experiences and allow them to compete effectively.
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