August 10, 2010

Actionable

What does the word “actionable” mean to you?

It’s a decent name for a rock band, yes. But it means “what stuff can you do with this?”

Traders want actionable data – something to drive opportunity for profit. Investor-relations professionals want actionable tools – something that’ll improve stock ownership, share price, results of IR effort.

Knowing who owns your stock is good. But what actions can you take? Talk to sellers? That’s uncomfortable. Plus, unless you’re screwing up, selling is a compliment, an investment objective. The sellers should well buy again, when the time’s right.

How do you know the time’s right? Ownership and targeting data are fine but limited if you don’t know who or what is controlling your liquidity. Without knowing your trading behavior, it’s difficult to accurately measure actions, plot outreach, and target investors.

Money won’t simply take a flyer because you run a good business and your IR team is suave and debonair. Today, institutions cannot afford to buy stocks in a vacuum, without respect to how the first 1,000 shares alter baskets, ETFs, derivative trading tactics and all the rest swirling around your liquidity. Institutions mind risk-management obsessively now, which is about market structure.

We track data for a living. For clients, we graph volume from prop traders like RGM Advisors, against, say, executed order flow for Credit Suisse. We observe how the behaviors of the two are eerily similar in some issues (and not in others). RGM is a scientific, machine-learning trader.

Say you’re using Credit Suisse for support on a non-deal road show, but most of their volume is trend-driven. That knowledge should inform what investors you ask Credit Suisse to bring from its client ranks. You’ll want high-turnover GARP or growth money, because that’s the kind likely to wade into a mathematical market. It can be a win-win – Credit Suisse likes those customers, too.

Market structure can shape who you choose for support. Some firms have high-turnover clients because their trading products facilitate high-speed trading. If you’re after a different investor-class than what a sellside firm tends to serve, you might use a different firm with a lesser trading operation – and thus more dependence on its research. Great story isn’t enough. If your market structure doesn’t suit the money you’re targeting, you’ll waste a road trip.

IR professionals should become more tactical. Use the big picture to do it – beyond story, to structure. The final frontier for IR effectiveness rests on the actionable quality of market-structure data. Do you know how much of your daily volume is speculation? What kind of investor should you target tactically, in context of your IR strategy, if more than 50% of your volume is arbitrage? These are important things to know now.

Here’s a product announcement from Direct Edge yesterday:

ACK – SPX Accelerated Return Notes due September 30, 2011

CDK – SPX Capped Leveraged Index Return Note due July 27, 2010

ELD – WisdomTree Emerging Markets Local Debt Fund

MHM – SPX Market Index Target Term Securities due July 31, 2015

As products like these roll out each day, there’s something else for that money you’re meeting in Chicago to choose besides you. Kick it up a notch. Target more tactically. Sometimes you’re right for high-turnover hedge funds. That alone is a new notion. Then, be ready, using market structure as guide, to get on the radar of conventional fund investors before hedge funds rotate.

It’s not an exact science. But these are tools with abundant actions. If you’re expert in your own market structure, your results are going to be different from those of other IROs, because you’ll think differently about what actions you need to take.

You’ll be the IRO for the 21st century.

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