Podcast

The Value of Virtual Events for the Financial Services and Professional Investment Sector


Skift Take

The financial services and professional investment sector presents a valuable market for virtual event tech, provided vendors can support the sector's very specific needs.

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Mark Loehr is the CEO of OpenExchange. His career is rooted in the financial sector, having started on Wall St in 1978 as a block trader before moving into banking where he worked on over 400 Initial Public Offerings (IPOs), which included working to take Google public.

Loehr explains that when the dotcom bubble burst, around 1995, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) changed the way in which traders were able to receive their information, which now had to be received via corporate access, with Loehr adding that there are approximately 10 million meetings a year between investors and companies. 

Therefore the best way to distribute this information was through conferences and meetings, which are hosted by banks. Loehr saw a need in the market to handle these meetings and conferences virtually, knowing that they need to fulfill high-touch needs and are very specific to the financial sector and with that OpenExchange was born. 

As mentioned before, Loehr has spent part of his career helping hundreds of companies to go public, including Google.

With his years of experience, Loehr knows a lot about the importance of storytelling for a company and the value of this when seeking investment or going public. He argues that companies shouldn’t begin the process of telling their story when you are planning to go public, you should start your story arc from the moment you do your first series release all the way through to your IPO and Merger and Acquisition (M&A) stages. Loehr and the CEO of the London Stock Exchange are presenting at the World Knowledge Forum in Korea later this year to discuss this topic, the arc of a story, adding that they have also worked with the LSE to create a destination called Spark Live to help companies with this. 

Loehr goes on to add that what he would like is for investors to start thinking about their companies in the same way they do their sports teams. His goal is for companies to be followed throughout their history and journey. Currently, most companies tell their story via their own website, however Mark believes that in the future there will be independent content platforms for businesses to share these journeys, particularly via video formats, for example a Youtube style platform specifically for the financial sector, which will create greater accessibility beyond the company’s website. 

The events OpenExchange hosts are those involving high-net-worth individuals and they require high-touch services. Loehr explains that these events have a triangle of participants; the investment bank which is hosting the conference, the company which is telling their story to the investors and then the investment funds. These all have specific elements they require within the event and varying communication needs, however what remains a constant is the need for all three stakeholders to be taken care of to a very high standard. Mark believes that OpenExchange has a solution to achieving this which is:

  • The hosting investment bank has it’s own dashboard
  • There is a greenroom for the CEO of the storytelling company
  • The investment funds have their own app which allows them to move between their various meetings.

Loehr notes that there is around a 50/50 split in work dedicated to the production of the meetings and attention and high-touch service provided to these three stakeholder groups. He also adds that the number of meetings they were producing rose from 4,000 in 2019 to over 100,000 during the pandemic.

Whilst Loehr believes that virtual meetings will one day account for 50% of the financial meetings that take place, however this requires a lot of experimenting. One of the challenges in growing in this way is ensuring that you strike a balance between the amount you invest in the experimentation versus achieving scale. He notes that the key to success here is to manage your growth, margins and culture, noting that the latter should be the driving excitement and creativity within the company, and thus helping to achieve those goals of growth and development. 

Loehr also discusses his vision for OpenExchange’s future, which includes an AI powered search and filtering of investment opportunities.For example, Loehr describes his vision for live event transcription, which would capture events that are taking place across the world, with a tool that monitors there’s and notifies you of something that may be of interest to you based on the filters you have decided upon. Once you have received the notification you would be able to jump right to the point where the filter was triggered. For example, as previously discussed, companies spend a lot of time discussing their story and many of the key words within these discussions don’t change. With this in mind, Loehr notes that if the AI is preloaded with these key words from live transcription of these discussions, the search accuracy can reach around 98%. He explains various ways that this function could be used such as to compare previous years, and identify both positive and negative words.

This discussion with Mark hits on the intersection between finance, meetings and technology, and many interesting topics beyond those above are discussed, so why not jump to wherever you listen to your podcasts now and hear more from Mark?

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