Markets & Research
At Capital Group, research has always been fundamental to wise investing. Crunching numbers, analyzing historical results, assessing market conditions — they’re all critical parts of the process. But many aspects of a business can’t be gleaned from a spreadsheet.
How capable and confident is the management team? What’s its vision for the future? Does leadership have a thorough understanding of the opportunities and challenges facing its industry? The only way to answer these questions, and many more like them, is to talk directly to the company’s executives and key personnel.
Planning such meetings can pose logistical challenges in the best of times, as busy analysts must balance time-consuming scheduling and coordination against their many other duties. During the coronavirus pandemic, those demands have become trickier, with videoconferences replacing in-person chats.
Enter Capital Group’s Corporate Access team, which specializes in connecting analysts and portfolio managers with company managements. The group was especially busy in 2020, scheduling virtual meetings to compensate for virus-related travel restrictions. Capital Group hosted about 19,000 such meetings, up from roughly 14,000 the prior year, most of them arranged by Corporate Access.
By taking on the burden of arranging meetings and setting the tone for them, the team helps Capital Group analysts pursue a holistic view of businesses. And a strong working relationship with analysts and portfolio managers means Corporate Access knows best how to tailor these meetings.
“Our analysts have always placed a high emphasis on face-to-face meetings with management,” says Jocelyn Cheng, who heads the group. “Our role is to arrange those meetings and set the ground rules, and to focus them on fundamental and analytical research rather than just an introduction to Capital Group.”
In the investment industry, meetings often occur at industry conferences or gatherings sponsored by outside brokerage firms. The Corporate Access team helps Capital Group analysts go further, arranging one-on-one meetings that can allow for better interactions than those set up by brokers or at crowded conferences.
“When I work with Corporate Access, they’re developing the relationship with the company at the same time I am,” says Himanshu Sharma, a Capital Group equity analyst based in London. Indeed, the Corporate Access group’s impact goes beyond organizational details: As part of its work, the team “gives companies a good background in what it is exactly that Capital Group does,” he adds.
“There’s an Indian company I met with four or five times before I decided to invest in them,” Sharma says. “Our team was able to meet the CFO, the head of marketing, the founder, and have these really high-quality meetings. We got to know the company really well. Having such strong relationships so quickly without a corporate access team is very hard.”
He adds that the ability to internally source meetings is “such a big advantage that I can’t really quantify it. I encourage new analysts to use the Corporate Access team as much as they can instead of relying on sell-side conferences. That’s what I do.”
Corporate Access recently helped Capital Group analyst Bobby Chada organize a weeklong virtual conference featuring several energy companies. Both the short time frame and the global nature of the event proved challenging.
“Many of the companies wanted to know why we couldn’t start meetings until 2 p.m.,” Chada recalls. “It was because we didn’t want West Coast attendees logging in at four in the morning.”
But Corporate Access pulled the meetings together without a hitch. They “even went so far as to work with the virtual meeting host so they could provide us with extra bandwidth,” he says.
Chada notes that analysts must understand markets and industries, find investment opportunities and convincingly relay these ideas to their peers. Together, those require a lot of time that could be consumed by the demands of setting up meetings.
“Knowing that we have a partner to handle the logistics — it frees up our time and it gives us more space to do the job we were hired to do,” Chada says.
In-person meetings and basic shoe-leather research have always been part of Capital Group’s DNA, and that commitment hasn’t changed. Touring facilities and sitting down with executives will resume when it becomes feasible based on public health guidelines.
But web-based meetups were on the rise before the virus outbreak and are likely to remain an important tool for forging connections and making the most efficient use of analysts’ time.
“Even before the pandemic, we were using digital tools to eliminate travel time and make it easier to arrange meetings amid everyone’s busy schedules,” Cheng says.
To that end, Corporate Access is continually trying new ideas and technologies. “We’re evaluating a hybrid environment that combines virtual and in-person meetings,” Cheng notes. “We’re also prioritizing what types of company meetings can be done virtually and what must be done in person.”