TORONTO: A study of more than 500 investor relations websites of large-cap companies worldwide released on Wednesday found that European firms' sites are generally far superior to those of their US counterparts in terms of completeness, transparency, ease of use, and responsiveness to shareholders.
The six-month study, conducted internally by Canada-based Clarity Communications, ranked Germany as the top nation in IR web design, followed by Sweden and Great Britain. The US ranked seventh.
Telecom was the top business sector, followed by materials and financial companies. The company with the highest score was Finland's Stora Enso, followed by Canada's BCE, and Germany's Bayer AG.
Dominic Jones, president of Clarity, which advises on IR sites, said European firms tend to have sites that are easier to use, are more informative, and are more personalized than US companies, many of which use "cookie-cutter" templates that do not fit them well.
"All companies have basically the same type of architecture," Jones said. "They've essentially become lazy." Jones said he felt US companies' IR sites "[focus] more on compliance than open and credible communications."
Lou Thompson, president and CEO of the National Investor Relations Institute, expressed skepticism about the study's findings, noting that the US has the most stringent set of disclosure laws in the world.
The current study is the second this year from Clarity. The consulting firm plans to release similar studies every six months.
Paper company Stora Enso's IR site, which touts its rapid and full disclosure of information, received the number one overall ranking in the study. Scott Dietz, the company's North American VP of investor relations, said the site "appeals to a wide variety of audiences, from retail and institutional investors to world-class sector analysts."
Verizon, ranked seventh, was the only US company to crack the top ten.