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IR Magazine | Inside Investor Relations, March 5, 2012 article


Inside Investor Relations


CFA Society seeks to cut conflicts in investor conference

5 Mar 2012

Society plans conference run by investors ‒ not brokers ‒ this May

In recent years, access to company management has become a highly prized slice of portfolio managers’ commission pie.

As a result, a burgeoning number of sell-side conferences, aggressive institutional sales desks and independent non-deal roadshow organizers have competed fiercely with one another for IROs’ attention and a piece of executives’ calendars.

But the relationship is fraught with potential conflicts as conference invitations and roadshow lineups are often dictated by the potential for trading commission and corporate banking.

Activity has also tended to focus on the coasts and larger money centers, ignoring investors in some middle-market metro areas.

Now the CFA Society of Minnesota is trying to shake up that equation.

‘If I look back, we used to have annual investor conferences sponsored by Dain Rauscher and Piper Jaffray – they were big events locally,’ says Robert Buss, current president of the CFA Society of Minnesota, which boasts a membership of 1,200 investment professionals across the upper Midwest.

InvestMNt to launch

Buss and other colleagues are stepping into the fray, launching InvestMNt, which will bring an estimated 250-300 local institutional investors and 40 public companies together in a day-long conference this year on May 24.

Buss says he and other Twin Cities CFA Society officers decided to mount the first ever society-sponsored investor conference as a way to cut out sell-side conflicts and bring local public companies together with local investors. ‘We felt uniquely positioned to do this,’ he states.

Most institutional investors want to meet a cross-section of companies and managements, regardless of which firm does the most banking business or generates the most trading commissions, Buss observes, but the old model of broker-sponsored conferences and roadshows has failed to meet those needs.

‘This is a conference developed by investors, not a brokerage firm. Invitations will not be limited to companies with investment banking relationships or potential but instead to the broader Minnesota investment community,’ the society proclaims in promoting the conference.

Meet companies close to home

InvestMNt is also a way for the financial community in the Twin Cities to meet companies close to home, instead of both flying from Minneapolis to New York to get together in a hotel conference room.

‘We’ve got a great list of public companies in Minnesota. Anything we can do as a state to publicize that, we should,’ says Buss, who is also a managing director at Disciplined Growth Investors, an independent investment adviser in Minneapolis with $2 bn under management.

A decade ago, the Twin Cities enjoyed a reputation as a major US money center – not as big as New York, Boston, Chicago, or San Francisco perhaps, but certainly in the top 10.

Since 2000, consolidation within industry has diminished the region’s heft and ranking, though not its reputation as a home for savvy investment management.

Minnesota is home to more than 490 public companies and boasts more Fortune 500 companies per capita than any other state, according to the society’s website.

The Twin Cities metro is also home to 56 institutional asset managers, hedge funds and private equity firms managing an estimated $415 bn.

In addition, more than 90 corporate, non-profit and government pension plans and endowments around the state manage another $210 bn in assets.

Reenergize sense of community

Another goal of InvestMNt is to reenergize Twin Cities’ financial professionals’ sense of community, which has been beaten down in the recent tough job market, Buss says.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Twin Cities’ employment in the securities and investment sector has dropped by 25 percent over the past decade, from 20,000 to 15,000, with much of the decline following the recent financial market meltdown and recession.

In the past year alone, employment in the sector has dropped by more than 5 percent.



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