Laurence Borde is the founder of Mediatree, an agency specializing in accompanying companies in the preparation and implementation of the IPO roadshow: coaching management ahead of the IPO, investor marketing, and accompanying them through the IPO roadshow. Behind the scenes, Mediatree has been involved in IPOs as diverse as Enel Group in Italy, Burberry in the UK, Telstra in Australia, Citic group in China, Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd. in Japan over the last 25 years.
With Laurence, we discuss the human element of the IPO process: how chief executives should prepare the company, and themselves, for an IPO: from the optimal organizational structure to your personal physical preparation to manage your energy throughout the process.
Our favorite quotes:
“What I have observed is that it can be quite lonely post-IPO for the #CEO.”
“The market wants performance, and looking at the next quarter; all of a sudden it’s your job as CEO to remind the market of the vision. […] You can’t run a business on just KPIs”
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Disclaimer: this discussion is not financial advice, nor an investment recommendation, nor a sollicitation to buy or sell any financial instruments, or an offer for financial services or any other transaction. The information contained in the recording have no contractual value and are destined for an informational purposes only. Amundsen Investment Management and the participants on this podcast may have holdings in the companies being discussed.
Per: Today, we’ll talk with Laurence Borde. Laurence founded Mediatree 25 years ago, as she had seen there was a need to have a specialized agency to support companies with their investor communication in the IPO context. Mediatree has worked with a number of companies that went public over the last decades. With Laurence, we wanted to leverage her experience to discuss the topics that people don’t always tell you about your IPO, ranging from how to prepare the company’s IPO pitch to managing the physical stress of the roadshow process.
Before we start, we’d like to remind our listeners that our discussion is not financial advice, nor an investment recommendation, nor a solicitation to buy or sell any financial instruments or an offer of financial services or any other transaction. The information contained in the recording have no contractual value and are destined for an informational purpose only. Amundsen Investment Management and the participants in this podcast may have holdings in the companies being discussed.
Laurence, thank you very much for joining us today in person here in Paris.
Laurence: It’s a real pleasure to be here in Paris. Beautiful day.
Per: Absolutely. Maybe you can tell us a bit about your background and what led you to found Mediatree?
Laurence: Sure. I was an investment banker and I started my career in New York on Wall Street. Then I came to Europe in London in the City, and I was working in the Equity Capital Markets. I accompanied companies with their IPOs and other equity structures. Then while I was doing that, I realized there was a real need for an accompaniment of the senior managers on, I guess, the nuts and bolts of the IPO.
When you do an IPO, you have advisors, you have bankers, lawyers, accountants, et cetera, but there’s a human sort of element of the IPO process, which I found really interesting. I decided to create Mediatree to help companies with this day-to-day implementation of the IPO. Investor marketing, coaching them ahead of the IPO to be comfortable with the exercise and then accompanying them through initially around the world but after COVID, more and more virtually.
Per: Are there any examples of companies you’ve accompanied during your 25 years at Mediatree?
Laurence: Yes, of course. Again, I ran the business for 15 years. Today the business is run by Fallon Painter, my partner. We, in the course of that period, of course, have encountered many, many different types of IPOs, not just in Europe but also in Asia, in lots of different parts of the world. The names, I guess, that your listeners will probably recognize from recently are names like Deezer and OVH Cloud, All Funds in Spain, Nexi, Denora in Italy. Those are the few that have been done in the last couple of years. The track record spans, I guess, a lot larger than that. When you think we’ve worked on some major European privatizations, whether EDF, Engie, Aéroports de Paris, we had Francaise des Jeux. We also have privatizations in Italy, like Poste Italiane.
Of course, Enel was one of our big clients over 25 years but also clients like Orange. Then there are some clients that are more, I guess, well-known in terms of brands. Clients like Showroom Privé or Burberry, and then there are some that we worked on that didn’t IPO that are like Formula One, that come back a couple of times, never happened. Then names, again, China, Asia, etc. We have done IPOs in Australia for Telstra, in Hong Kong for CITIC, which is one of the largest retail banks, Otsuka Pharmaceuticals in Tokyo, which is one of the big pharmaceutical companies globally. It really spans from quite small mid-caps to very large global deals.
Per: At what stage do you actually get involved? How long before the IPO do companies typically engage with you to prepare?
Laurence: It depends because we are at the tail end of the execution in the sense that typically the clients will hire us when there is a go and when they know they’re likely to be conducting this roadshow exercise and marketing exercise. It tends to be in the last three to six months before we think the timing is going to be the right one for the company to actually go public.
The reality is it can depend. I worked last year with a company in Vietnam, a big EV manufacturer that was in the throes of IPO but actually decided to just got taken out by a SPAC. They’re going to IPO via SPAC. That was announced 10 days ago. It can depend. There is an element of early look, marketing and prepping the companies also for the analyst briefing, which is ahead of the actual go-no-go decision. It can depend. It tends to be three to six months, but it can sometimes be a little bit longer.
Per: Then when the companies come to you, you actually see them, and they’re just beginning to get ready. What do you think is one of the most important aspects to prepare the company early for its IPO? Is there anything you’d like to see them actually prepare before they meet you?
Laurence: Yes. There’s a lot of advice to companies around governance structure and setting up the company, cleaning up the accounts, et cetera, et cetera. I guess that’s important, and that’s a lot of advices given by the other members of the advisory team. For us, there’s a real sense that you should think about the finance function. The finance function is going to be really important to set up. There’s going to be reporting that’s going to happen very quickly after IPO. That needs to have all the information filtered up quite quickly. That’s probably what takes the longest. It can take a lot of time to put that in place. What is going to be the flow? How quickly can we get that? Teeing up the finance function is really important.
The reporting and how we’re going to do contrôle de gestion, the controlling. The other area is probably the IR. I’m sure we’ll talk about this again. I’ve accompanied many companies where the IR wasn’t completely in place, but it’s wonderful when it is. I remember, for example, even something like Veolia, where we did the IPO in the early 2000s. At the time, it was Vivendi Environnement, and we didn’t have Nathalie Pinot on board yet, but when she came, it was just the week before the roadshow. It makes a big difference. Even if you only get your IR person quite soon before you go on the road, it’s important to onboard the IR function quite early.
Then I would think the other area for preparation is really, of course, the communications. How is that going to articulate, what is the internal comms doing versus the financial comms, who are the people that overlap, et cetera and also things like looking at your CEO. Does the CEO tweet? If so, what is the guidance for tweeting, that sort of thing?
Finally, I would say ESG reporting, really important to plan for. There’s all the CSRDs coming up, and then the CSRDDD, so coming up next year. I think people really need to be clear how they’re going to report to the public markets how they source the supply chain, what are the key ESG considerations that investors will want to hear about. All these areas are not necessarily in place when companies first think about it. All these things I think are important.
Per: Absolutely. On the ESG side, we also flagged in one of the earlier episodes that you actually need to start way earlier than the IPO process. It would ideally start a few years before. You have historical data that investors can rely on when they see the company come. In preparing for this, some companies will change the management before the IPO to ensure they have a CEO or a CFO that already has public market experience. Is that something that’s important or is that something they can actually learn on the go as they become a public company?
Laurence: Yes, I think CEOs or CFOs with public listed company experience are quite rare. Of course, it’s a huge advantage. I’m thinking, for example, of Michel Genuzzi, who IPO’ed Tarket in 2013 and then became the CEO of Veralia and did a wonderful IPO in 2019 on Euronext with all the benefit of everything that he’d done with his first IPO into the second. I think it’s really important for the CFO to be ideally having had some experience of public listed companies because really it’s down to the CFO to do all the reporting. As we know the market, you have a financial calendar once you’re public, so you will know in advance when things need to be disclosed and published and getting the organization ramped up to deliver that.
As you rightly say, that can take a couple of years even to put systems in place. Getting someone that’s done it, understands the urgency, knows processes, how to do that is really interesting. We worked with a company that was looking to IPO. Sometimes you find these CFOs who are a little bit IPO addicts. We worked with a woman who was CFO of a company that paired, IPO-ed when she left in a way, was Elise, and then she went to Oberture, which now become Idemia. They were looking at some point before the merger with Morfaux to list.
Then she then became CFO of Consolis, another one that’s looked for listing. You find sometimes the same person going from CFO job to CFO job. That tells you it’s quite important. I just saw, I guess it was a report from Spencer Stewart that looked at all the IPOs in the last five years and showed that really only 9% of companies that had IPO-ed in the last five years had a CFO with previous IPO experience and only 36% with public company experience. They’re quite rare.
Per: Oh, they are quite rare. Of course, it helps when at least one of the two has experience because there’s an element of communication with the market that you learn, I guess, through hardship when you’re actually a chief executive and the driving seat of a public market company.
Laurence: You can learn. Let’s not kid ourselves. The majority does learn. I guess if you’re going to learn, your point about really preparing the company for the financial aspect of it but also having the skills as a CFO to become the interface because there is an element of very much being the person that people come to a lot. There’s also a communication side of it that’s important. You can also think about how the CFO structures their team.
You can also think about, “Okay, maybe they haven’t worked in a publicly listed company or done an IPO,” but you can think about distributing that experience across different people in the team who have done it. The point is, you can absolutely prepare it. I would say the majority will fast-track themselves into the role and do very well.
Per: We talked about the IR a bit, investor relations person. We see it often being a role that’s hired quite late in the process. I’m guessing it’s because you don’t actually know if you’re going to do an IPO. You don’t actually know if you’re going to need an IR person. I would think that function is quite important to have ready early because your company marketing doesn’t stop when you list. You actually have to continue delivering on investor expectations over time. What do you think about that?
Laurence: I think that’s exactly right. The IR function is really important. When you think about your initial public offering, this is where you’re going to meet the whole universe of investors from scratch. You don’t yet know who’s going to be your shareholder, but it’s almost like the best possible missionary roadshow that you can do. You can really go meet the whole universe.
To have someone there that compiles not just a database but also builds those relationships and really gets to know the particularities of the different fund managers they have in front of them, analysts they have in front of them is super important. It’s absolutely essential if you can. What we see sometimes is somebody internal that will then grow into that IR function. That’s probably a good bet as well, especially if they know the company well. Again, the IR has got to have certain skills and in a way learning on the IPO, it’s a good time to come on board.
Per: Usually the management of this whole IPO process actually falls on the CEO or CFO because there is an element of important decisions for the company and also the outward communication, as we said. Do you think this is the best setup? The CEO and CFO actually run the company as well. Usually, they’re high-growth companies with very significant ambitions. How do you think about who should actually be running it?
Laurence: That’s always a dilemma because in a way, when you think about the IPO, it’s the high point or it’s a high point of a company’s life. Of course, the CEO and the CFO are involved, and they largely have to make many decisions. That’s, I guess, something they don’t really tell you when you’re embarking on this process. You’re going to have to balance building and running your business and delivering the results that you’re estimating that going to be the underlying of your valuation with the actual work. In a way, the companies where I’ve seen it work best is when they really come together with a very tight deal team where they have regular steering committees.
They’re very clear who are people involved, break it down into work streams, and you get a deal captain typically. That can be, for example, the head of strategy or M&A in a company, or it can be somebody in the finance function that is the number two to CFO. Really having somebody that’s deal captain, really working the work streams and then just getting the CFO and CEO to focus as and when is a good way. There’s no doubt that IPO will challenge most people because there’s a lot of work, and there’s a lot of work in a very short, condensed period of time. The key is to also manage your stamina, know what are the key milestones.
You’ll have a ramp-up of preparation where you’re going to be doing the due diligence, the prospectus, et cetera. Then there’s going to be a natural period where you do an analyst presentation to get the syndicate banks analysts on board. Then there’s going to be a period of them writing their research. Think about the whole process and where you can punctuate times where you can be more or less involved. The closer you get to the actual go, the harder that is, but you just have to think that it’s finite, and how do you manage your energy in the duration is quite important to think about as well.
Per: What would you say are some of the main challenges that managers face on this road, preparing for the roadshow and on the roadshow?
Laurence: I guess the challenge is convincing. When you think about IPO, it’s about going out to people who don’t know you, probably have read a piece of research and have heard from their brokers about what you do and who you are and largely what you might be worth. Your job is to go out there and convince. There’s something very important about how you communicate it, how you pitch it. Really telling your equity story is going to be fundamental. There’s two challenges there. There’s how you position the story, and then there’s how you actually deliver it.
Those are two different things. If you think about positioning the story, well, top tips like encapsulate the stories. For example, if you think of Airbnb, they encapsulate the story with book rooms, with locals rather than hotels. Super clear. You come in, you can even look at the slide title, powerful visual subtitle. You know what the story is largely. If you think of, for example, Peloton, if you had a strapline like on the most basic level, Peloton sells happiness, much less clear. When you think about, okay, how do I encapsulate? How do I clarify? Then it’s also presenting to investors, what is the total addressable market.
Really important to think about what is the universe that I play in, where am I situated, how do I position myself. Typical equity pitch will always have what I do, what is the total addressable market and then of course the different divisional or product type breakdown. Very operational part of the pitch. Again, I’m thinking of Véhalien who I quoted earlier, when they did their IPO, they had a really clear presentation with their four pillars of their strategy. It was around getting a very disciplined growth. It was around deploying operational excellence, which of course was the CEO’s real strength about investing wisely and creating an entrepreneurial culture. There was a piece around changing the culture of the company. Very clearly defined in the pitch.
Then of course, there’s always a big part of the story, which is the actual numbers, but it’s not just the numbers. It’s a dashboard of numbers because you’re going to start reporting regularly on those metrics. Establish them at IPO and go. I guess that’s one challenge is the content, how do I encapsulate that. By the way, all of this has to be 25 minutes, and you have to also be able to do it in 5 minutes because sometimes you’re going to be in front of investors who have a prospectus, who just want to ask you questions for 55 minutes. Your pitch has to be super sharp, super clear.
The other challenge I guess is how you do it. I’ve played a part in the past where I’ve thought about the delivery. When you think about IPO, a lot of times you’re talking about a C-suite that’s not necessarily English speaking, who has to deliver messages in English to investors who are not always English speaking. There’s a language side of it. I guess the delivery has to be very clear. It has to be as little lingo as you can do, and it has to be really concise. You basically got to convince people in a very short meeting to buy your shares, to invest.
Per: How do people prepare for these pitches? Because I assume you help them to prepare for it. What’s an efficient way to prepare?
Laurence: The pitch is a real art because largely it happens in a dialogue with investors. Largely, you’re pitching your equity story through Q&A, and you don’t know, of course, in advance what the questions are going to be. I guess the key is to have a very tight pitch. You have 25 minutes to tell the story, 25, 30 minutes. That really you learn with repetition, rehearsal, individually, collectively and also thinking about the language and the potential vocabulary you’re going to need, if that’s an issue, it’s not always an issue. Then you just practice what types of questions are going to happen, and the analysts will help you with that.
You have to basically be able to convince in a very short period of time because the priority is to engage the dialogue and really understand what the investor needs to understand to invest. You’re not going to be able to say everything in the 55 minutes that you have, but you have a really good shot at encapsulating some of the key points. If you let them drive through the questioning, then you can answer what they need to know before they can make a decision internally.
Per: That’s definitely the case for companies meeting with our team. We’re very big on Q&A. We tend to not really give any time for presentation because we want to be able to ask the most questions we can. I’ve met with a lot of fund managers in my previous job. One of the criticisms I heard from managers was in an IPO, if they haven’t been involved in the early look phase, which they often haven’t, the roadshow period is just too short.
For many fundamental investors, it’s very important to have one or multiple one-on-one meetings with the top management to properly understand the strategy, to know what to expect going forward, et cetera. Often they feel that they might get a small group meeting and one analyst meeting, and that’s it. That’s just not enough for them to commit significant amounts of capital at the IPO. How do you think investors and companies can address this challenge?
Laurence: You’re right. I think they’re targeting the investors that are likely to be big investors at IPO in the early looks is really important. We are seeing, especially in markets that are slightly more, I guess, volatile, which has been this year, last year and a little bit the year before, longer testing the water periods, so where you might have more chances to see those investors. The banks have a big role to play with their research analysts in educating the universe of investors that are important for the deal to come in. There’s a sort of use the brokers as well. The brokers can help you, and those analysts can come ahead of the deal to tell you a little bit about the research that they’ve published and the story that they’re sponsoring effectively.
Per: I guess also, as you said, the marketing period of the IPO is maybe a first contact point for investors who might be some of your core investors in a year or 18 months once they’ve actually seen the company deliver on their guidance. In terms of interaction, because a lot of the companies that come to the market do have experience with investor interaction, but on the private market side, they’ve had VC investors, private equity investors, and now they’re faced with public markets investors who might have different things in mind. How would you say those two are different in the way they interact?
Laurence: It’s true that there is so much money in the private market that you have to think about, “Do I go that route or do I go the public market route?” I guess you need to know why you’re doing the IPO. It’s actually different. What you find in the private market is maybe large concentrated numbers of investors. Whereas the public market, you’re going to have a lot more investors that have possibly smaller holdings.
It’s actually quite a different exercise. Of course, in an IPO, you’ll have the cornerstones. That’s important, and it’s akin to having one or two large private market investors. The difference is also what you need to disclose, how you approach the pitch. When you’re listed on a stock exchange, you have requirements for disclosure, you have research that underpins it. There’s a lot more, I guess, information that allows maybe investors to come in and out on smaller tickets, if you see what I mean.
Per: In terms of this research, one of the important points before launching the IPO is this interaction with the outside analysts. How does a company think about that interaction versus the investor education?
Laurence: The bank’s analysts are going to be so important in helping the company shape its story. Typically, what happens is there is an analyst briefing for the syndicates. That’s quite a long, drawn-out presentation where usually a lot of information about the company is disclosed and the analysts are also given the opportunity to really understand and go underneath the bonnet of the story. These research analysts are really important to the company because they are effectively– they’re going to write the research piece.
It’s really important that they understand what are the drivers of the future growth that they’re able to value because they’re also going to be responsible for producing a value that they think is right, which will then help shape the price range of the IPO. Of course, you’ll get a consensus. There’s multiple research analysts. You work on the valuation through different perspectives, but it’s quite an important public because then they really go out in the market and explain they’re really important to manage and to talk to and to give time to.
Per: Is there a different process to talk to them? Is it less about pitching and maybe more about explaining the gears and how the company runs?
Laurence: Yes. Basically, they are looking at a longer presentation, usually a half a day, sometimes a full day with a site visit. They’ll really get a chance to ask lots and lots and lots of questions because they then need to really appreciate what that company might be like versus peers. They’ll have real access to management, and they’ll be invited to have an ongoing dialogue with the CFO. Once they’ve seen the what I call sort of analyst presentation the day, they will have a process where they iterate back and forth questions, they’ll have calls, et cetera.
There’s a real process of educating the analyst. That’s really important because once it’s priced, once there’s a price range announced and the deal is road showing, the analyst needs to explain in relation to everything else that’s going in the market, why that value is there and what the company could deliver. They’re underpinning the work that the management is doing. Super important.
Per: If we now move to the allocation process, once a company has drawn enough interest, it’s often said that the IPO is the only time a company actually gets to choose its shareholders. It’s often not the management that has control because you could have a private equity seller who has more control or the banks will have a say as well. Then again, the management will actually have to continue to deliver to that shareholder base, post-IPO. How should the management think about these allocations?
Laurence: The allocation process is very technical. It really is the remit, as you say, the vendor. The person that owns the shares is ultimately going to make the decision with the syndicate, with the banks. The banks really know the market, and they really know the investor base. There’s a temptation to let that happen. As you rightly say, you’re going to live with it with your shareholder distribution once you’re public. It’s important that you know who you’re talking to, that you have relationships with these investors who effectively are supporting you and accompanying you usually over the next few years. Really be intentional. First of all, before you even get to allocation, you’ll get a daily update on the book.
When you’re roadshowing as a management team, you’ll be on a call at night where, “This is how the book is built. This is who’s come in.” It’s actually quite brutal because when you think about it, if you go to Geneva, and you see four investors, you’ll know right away whether you did a good job or not. In fact, sometimes if there’s two teams, they might compete like who’s got the most order in the order book from this financial center versus that one.
There’s something really important about knowing who you’re talking to, deciding and seeing what is the relationship I’m building with this investor, what is the feeling that I got about how they see my company, how they challenged me, et cetera. There’s something quite important about understanding even before you get to allocation, who the universe is and who they could be. Paying attention to the daily book updates, that’s important.
Also in the allocation meeting, maybe having a say, you might not be the decision maker, but you have a say, you’ve been there, you’ve met these people, you can see the interest that this investor had or the intelligent question or the way they modeled your business. It’s challenging. It’s interesting. It’s somebody that you think would add value. I would say be really intentional and participate because again, it’s a technical sort of work stream. The temptation is, oh, well, that doesn’t necessarily concern me too much because it’s a mechanic. Somebody will do the allocation process as the banks do. Just be intentional and participate.
Per: There’s one other question, which is about the start and the stop, go, no go and that you can prepare perfectly, but then there’s so much uncertainty about timing of an IPO. I’m sure there’s many CEOs who really have wanted to list their company this year in 2023 if the market was receptive enough, but it might just not be happening because the market is still quite difficult. Then if you’re communicating internally about the potential IPO, and it’s not happening, that could of course create some frustration. How should companies really manage those internal expectations about the IPO?
Laurence: That’s probably the most frustrating part of an IPO. It’s a market-driven exercise, and you don’t control that. There’s a window. Yes, you know that you have a sequence of steps that you follow that get you there. At every step, at every junction point, there’s a go, no go. That gives the vendor the option to decide whether this is the right time or not the right time, or the banks to explain what’s going on and whether it should go. I guess a couple of things on how firms address it. The truth is your advisors are there to get you over the line. That’s their role.
They’re going to always tell you just get ready, et cetera. Companies that have stop and starts, ultimately they do come back. Just know if that’s happening to you right now, and you’re trying to get out, and I have to say pretty much all the IPO clients that we are working with this year are in a stop-start scenario right now. It does ultimately come back. There are windows that come back. Then just also be ready that it can always be in a trade sale as well. There’s always the possibility that it can happen. We talked about earlier about the different exits, and yes, sometimes you’re looking at IPO, but there’s a dual-track process.
I think how to keep it tight, how to manage the stop-start is number one, to keep the team really tight. The circle that you work with has to be really clear on what the exercise is, really clear on the calendar. From your project head to your CFO, everyone who’s involved has to really understand this is just the nature of the exercise. If you keep the deal tight, and you’re quite transparent, then you can manage that. The other thing is I’ve seen a lot of sometimes excitement and patience. You have to keep it cool. It will probably happen. You don’t control when.
The key is that you manage the team and the process as tightly as possible so that whenever that button is pushed, you’re ready. Everything that you can do to compress the timetable and be ready, you want to do. The other thing is, think about it, if you miss a window, yes, I guess you could think about it as a missed opportunity, but it’s also in a way helping the company develop more track record and potentially come back with an even better story.
The idea is to think forward and manage that. I have to say some companies are really good at managing this stop-and-start. I’m thinking, for example, of Fosses de Jeux. They knew a long time before they had to go IPO that they would be privatized at some point, and they already started educating their Comex and all the different people in the comms teams, again, with very confidential guardrails around the discussions. This is what an IPO looks like. These are the things you can prepare, et cetera. I think just being quite open about what you can and can’t control and communicating internally with your project team is really important.
Per: It’s an advantage if you are ready, and you’re ready to launch, and you run the company like that for six months, that’s actually maybe not so bad because you get to find the gaps and actually be a hundred percent ready when you go live, right?
Laurence: Yes, totally. I guess the issue is if it’s longer than that, and then you have to refile, and then there’s more additional audits that you need, it’s true. If you can stay within the window, which is six months, then yes, you’re absolutely right. You’re even more ready.
Per: Now, my favorite topic, what happens after the IPO? Because we talked a lot about the IPO. It’s a significant milestone, no doubt about that. I think it’s very important to remember that it’s only the beginning of the new life as a listed company. What are some of the important points you think CEOs and CFOs should keep in mind about being a listed company post the IPO?
Laurence: What they’re always told is, oh, you have to really master communication. There’s a part of your job that becomes effectively communicator. I’m thinking, for example, of Sarah Fryer when she did the IPO of Nextdoor and if the share is not delivering, even though the company’s delivering, she has to go on CNBC every quarter and explain what’s happening. Being really clear, articulate, continuing with, “This is the vision and the strategy that we’re developing,” et cetera, that’s a real skill. I think for the CEO, that’s the visible face of the company when results get published and the market may or may not be following what your trajectory in terms of performance is still being able to be very clear and intentional about the vision.
I think communication for sure. I guess your world is never going to go back to what it was. It’s a different world. It’s changed. Sometimes it can be a fundamental transformation on the CEO. I’m thinking of certain CEOs that have come that were engineers, maybe, and then they became CEO and all of a sudden they’re public or civil servants that have been appointed to become CEO of big companies who now have to work in a very different way and interact with their stakeholders in a very different way. Those are the things I guess that you would typically hear from people, manage your stakeholders, communicate, et cetera.
I think one of the things that I’ve observed from going along with and being accompanying people through the process is that it can be quite lonely actually post-IPO for a CEO. You’ve been in a working group, there’s been a lot of excitement around the milestone. You’ve listed. It’s been fantastic. Now, you’re publicly listed. I’ve noticed that there’s sometimes a loneliness that happens after that. I would just say go into IPO really well accompanied with a network of people that can support you post IPO, friends, trusted advisors, stay in touch. Just because you’re listed doesn’t mean that you don’t have access to that support.
That’s quite important. The other thing I guess that people don’t really tell you but you read a lot about is, the market wants performance, and we’re looking at the next quarter or the next half year. All of a sudden it’s your job as CEO to remind people of the vision. That’s why I mentioned Sarah Fryer because she’s, of course, the stock price has done things. It’s not always immediate, but having the vision and just reminding the market of what the long-term ambition is and how you’re building that step-by-step is really important. I think we’re very focused on quarterlies and delivery of KPIs, but you can’t run a business with just KPIs.
Per: We tend to ask CEOs how often they look at their stock price once they’re listed. And some of the answers we got began with every half hour, but over time I managed to detach from it. What do you think about that?
Laurence: I think it’s important. I see so many times when a stock loses 1.5, 2% in a day, the IRO get called by the CEO, like what’s going on, et cetera. Of course, it’s important to understand the dynamic because there’s always an explanation, but equally I think it’s the CEO’s role to detach from the day-to-day performance to deliver the growth and the performance that they have the vision for, which they explained at IPO.
Per: To finish off, is there any fun facts from some of the IPOs you’ve accompanied through a career that you can mention to the audience?
Laurence: I guess going on an IPO with a company, however easy or hard the market is at the time, is always fun. There’s an element of it that is really exciting and really fun. I think some of the IPOs that certainly I’ve been on and where I’ve traveled with the team, et cetera, they bind you for life. I’m thinking of, for example, Enel Green Power when that IPOed in 2010, and it was a massive European IPO. Then Francesco Starace became the CEO of Enel, now just left, but these are bonds that you have for life. I’m thinking of an IPO for Natixis, for example, where the pricing happened, I think it was the night before the Lehman Brother crisis.
We just managed to price and allocate, and then the market closed for a long, long time in 2008. Some are very difficult, et cetera, but there are real rewarding, I guess, things to watch, like you watch a team’s gel. I’m thinking of the Nexi team that felt so super connected after their IPO, or I’m also thinking of a smaller IPO in Italy, but Piovan Group, the whole process for them was such a milestone. There was such a celebration and such a bond around it. I think that’s really important to think about, watching the team’s bond. I guess the other thing is, there’s always something good about the day.
The silver lining, you’re going to do this very hard process, especially the roadshow, going to see investors, it’s really relentless. You’re talking all day about your story, but there’s always something that you can hang on to, which is an interesting point of the day. Some joy that you might’ve found if you’re traveling, maybe a place you’ve been, a restaurant or something at the end of the day. It’s actually a really fun process. I know it’s sometimes brutal, but I think everyone who’s survived it and done it is usually bonded for life and gets together and really still celebrates.
Per: It seems like companies should definitely go back on physical roadshows because that leaves also more of a mark on your memories, right?
Laurence: Yes, for sure. Right now, most of the roadshows we’re seeing are hybrid. We’re not quite yet back, and we may never be back in the 100% physical roadshow, but it’s an amazing time if you are on the road with people, it’s like that little band of brothers, and it’s pretty special. You never forget the intensity.