OPINION: If you want a job done, do it yourself

The chief executive of a FTSE 100 company was telling me the other day how difficult he found it to create public and investor interest in his shares in the US.

Anthony Hilton
Anthony Hilton

This was frustrating because America accounted for a third of the group turnover and he reckoned it ought therefore to supply about one third of his shareholders.

Basically his problem was access to the right people - or lack of it. It took him a while to realise that the investment bank and associated PR firm that acted for him in New York were not interested in investor relations. They were all over him like a rash when he wanted to do a deal and they could see big fees, but day-to-day client service was just not their thing.

They did not admit this, of course, but when they did introduce him to investing institutions they were not the right ones.

He gained the impression that they were lining up fund managers for the lunch he was paying for, because they were people to whom the bank owed a favour, or were simply the 'usual suspects'.

In the end he did the job himself - or rather he briefed a PR firm to do the spadework for him. He got analysis done that showed which fund managers were regular investors in his sector. Next he broke down which US investors showed a willingness to invest in non-American companies.

Then he filtered them to select just those investors that focused on companies of his size and that liked high dividends. These became his target funds.

The problem was that few of them were in convenient locations and he found himself having to fly off to see a pension fund in Kentucky and a mutual fund in Oregon.

But the other side of the coin was that when he did get there they were impressed because not many executives made the effort. So he got what he wanted.

Interestingly, the same problem exists in this country. Mid-sized businesses often complain to me that they cannot get big investing institutions to take an interest. Yet only last week the investment boss of Alliance Trust, based in Dundee, told me she was delighted to meet company CEOs but only one had been up there in the past 12 months. For Kentucky read Dundee.

Anthony Hilton is City commentator on London's Evening Standard

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