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Source:, August 19, 2021 commentary, with referenced April 23, 2021 commentary

August 19, 2021

Retail Investor Q&A: Coming Soon to an Earnings Call Near You?

Last week, Robinhood announced (on its company blog) that it agreed to buy Say Technologies – the platform that makes it easier for retail shareholders to vote proxies and to ask earnings call questions in real-time. We’ll be watching the potential voting impact of this as we head into the next proxy season. But for now, let’s talk about earnings calls.

Tesla helped pave the trail for Say when it started using the technology for its earnings calls a couple years ago. Back in 2019 – which feels like forever ago – I wrote that Say claimed that retail investors are more likely to ask about products and less likely to care about your detailed financial results – a more entertaining experience for everyone, although possibly less informative for analysts who are honing financial models.

At the time, it didn’t seem like many people would actually find entertainment value in earnings calls, but now it’s 2021 and that’s what’s happening. I blogged a few months ago that a number of companies were courting retail participation in quarterly calls. They’ve had some success! AMC’s latest call was held on Say and yielded 4600 retail questions.

Robinhood and Say both want to make it easier for retail investors to participate as owners. In 2023, will the CEOs of big, established companies be answering questions about their corporate mascots? If I’ve taken one lesson to heart over the past two years, it’s that anything is possible. If you’re looking at using Say, your product development (and mascot) folks might end up with a bigger role in preparing for your quarterly calls.

– Liz Dunshee

Posted by Liz Dunshee



[author's referenced prior observations]

April 23, 2021

The Returning Influence of Retail Investors: This Year’s “Sleeper Issue”?

The retail segment of shareholders had been holding steady around 30% the last couple of years, well below the 85% levels of the 1960s, before the dawn of huge asset managers. But now we’re in the age of stonks – and no-fee trading platforms. Although some are noticing that retail trading is slowing, there’s no denying that the number of retail accounts has swelled in the last year. Kris Veaco wrote me last week to say that it’s the fastest growing group of investors – some proxy intermediaries have noticed an uptick of 50% in email accounts compared to last year!

As I’ve noted a couple of times on our Proxy Season Blog, companies need to anticipate higher proxy distribution costs if they’ve seen a jump in retail holders. You may also need to brace yourselves for less predictable voting outcomes – especially with TD Ameritrade’s elimination of broker discretionary voting.

But there’s also an opportunity here – retail investors can be long-term, loyal supporters of management, and may also be enthusiastic participants in capital raises. This NYT article reports that some companies are rolling out the red carpet to welcome them – even changing the earnings release process to allow for more interaction with individuals. Here’s an excerpt (also see this Axios article):

After reported its quarterly results last month, executives at the company, which sells replacement auto parts, did what many of their ilk do: They held a conference call with Wall Street analysts, fielding questions about inventory levels, profit margins and corporate strategy.

Roughly 30 minutes later, the same executives were on Clubhouse, hosting an entirely different kind of audience. Their 2,000 or so guests had gathered at the buzzy online meeting spot to learn about the company. Their questions were far more straightforward. How did the business work? Why was able to offer lower prices than brick-and-mortar rivals? Were shares worth buying? isn’t the only company to do this – Restaurant Brands International also invited “customers & guests” to discuss Q4 earnings with its leaders on Clubhouse, and other companies are using podcasts and YouTube to reach the retail audience. Tesla has also been using the interactive “Say” platform for earnings calls for a while now – I blogged a couple of years ago about the impact that was having on the Q&A portion of the call.

The thought of extra conversations with different groups of investors makes me a little skittish – but as long as execs comply with Reg FD, it seems like it’s probably fine to do. Please correct me if you disagree!


– Liz Dunshee

Posted by Liz Dunshee




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