The Importance of Investor Relations and the CFO

She’s considered the queen of investor relations, and the King’s Counsel of small cap companies, and although the description might create a feeling of discomfort for Jane Lowe, it’s befitting of IR Department’s managing director.

Lowe’s an industry legend in the sector. Her previous iterations, saw her at one leading consultancy, feature significantly as a key advisor developing strategies that lead to the strong performance of many of the company’s clients.

Through this and many inhouse investor relations roles, Lowe honed her craft that would later transform her career.  

Lowe once the protégé, is now the master.

Her aptitude for taking companies to listing and delivering a decent size of the bacon back to them when they do, has many marvelling at her ability to transform privately owned businesses into successful ASX listed entities.

The recognition she receives from clients, “is greatly appreciated’, she says, however, when the ‘plaudits’ of acknowledgment come from industry, it’s an entirely different matter.

Lowe is genuinely uncomfortable about being in the limelight.

Instead, she prefers to fly under the radar, making her nomination as a Finalist in the Women in Finance Awards 2022, for the Small Business Adviser of the Year, should she win, a reinforcement of her talent.

What will be fascinating though, is how Lowe deals with the attention if she wins – awards are not what she covets – delivering for her clients, as she emphasizes, is what’s rewarding.

Lowe’s nomination highlights the regard she’s held in, and the success she wields as an adviser. Her ethos is to only deal with companies looking to do good for the world – and add value to society, not-take from it.

For Lowe, whether she does or doesn’t win isn’t a consideration. It will be the recognition of her achievements that she will find humbling.

Working with the companies she does, are either ASX listed, or looking to list.

Those that have listed, have gone through the process. Their challenge is to raise capital and grow the company’s share price while maintaining that fine balance of making investors and shareholders happy, while managing expectations.

For companies looking to list, they recognise there’s risk associated in the process.

But it’s a calculated punt when and when not to go, and understanding the market challenges. For companies embarking on the journey, Lowe helps navigate the waters of uncertainty leading up to listing.

Cool under pressure – her ability to make the right call at the right time and read market conditions, is part of what makes Lowe popular amongst the CFO’s and CEOs of the companies she advises.

They recognise the value of her counsel and the expertise she brings as a support to their company’s success.

When companies move to list or are already listed, CFOs are key to the process and management of all facets of running a listed company or moving to becoming a public entity.

Partnerships between CFOs and an IR specialist like Lowe, means the level of trust and confidence they place in her counsel must be unwavering.

The ability to work in partnership and advise how to successfully execute an IPO is the value she adds amongst other things.

According to Lowe, she’s the nuts-and-bolts person, the welder that welds together all the rivets to support the machine that drives a successful IPO and help achieve the outcome required.

As much as she sees her working relationships with CFOs as a partnership, she’s also an educator to them.

“If a company is to successfully list, then what makes an IPO successful depends on many factors,” Lowe says.

“It gets down to a CFO intimately understanding what the company seeks to achieve, the IPO process, the rules, and regulations of the ASX and how it operates, and what’s required to help a company successfully transition from a private to public entity.”

These are complex issues that a company needs to get right and understand.

“Sometimes CFOs are going through this process for the first time,” Lowe says, “so we help them to understand the fundamentals of the process and what’s likely to be required of them”.

Surviving means CFOs and companies follow required steps in the lead up to listing so they get it right. Get the steps right Lowe says, “life as a listed company is a long game, so it’s important that the executive team to get set up well. We help to think through not only, how are we getting to market, but also what do we need to do beforehand – and after – to set the company up for success.”

According to Lowe there’s a 10-step process that help drive success in the IPO process. 

Lowe says, “There are certain steps CFOs must adhere to if companies are considering an ASX listing. Follow those steps and when listing day comes, all the good preparation put in place should hopefully reap success.”

What are Lowe’s 10 steps for CFOs and companies to use as a guide before listing?

CFOs must:

  1. Work closely with the CEO and Board to consider if the company is mature enough to list, and along with the CEO, determine if existing shareholders are likely to be in support taking the company public
  2. Ensure the company’s financials are fully audited and in shape for listing
  3. Be financially literate and understand the company’s numbers in-depth – as CFO, you are likely going to need to support the CEO and Board with these
  4. Be responsible in selecting banks and broking partners, vetting investors, considering infrastructure required for a company to list – such as share registry providers
  5. Be prepared to speak confidently to analysts and investors
  6. Be intimately involved with all matters relating to the IPO and – if also a Company Secretary, the ASX. CFOs would generally be involved  in development of the prospectus, have due diligence committee responsibilities and get involved with producing associated resources like investor presentations.
  7. Be involved in selling the investor pitch with the CEO on roadshows and help in guiding analysts on numbers. Often the CFO will work with the investment bank on the book building process – understanding who’s going to invest and how much.
  8. A good CFO will also help the CEO in considering how to communicate future milestones and news flow.
  9. Thinking ahead, the CFO will understand and map out the company’s reporting requirements and capital needs and ensure they have the team needed to support process.
  10. Be involved in coaching junior team members around compliance and governance as a listed company.

Successful IPO’s come down to mitigating risk. Done well then disaster is averted. If not, then it will not only prove embarrassing, and it won’t just be a baying media circling for answers, there will be an unhappy Board and furious investors!

Photo: Luis Ascui