In our survey of companies that were listed on the Helsinki exchange in 2021–2022, we sought their perspectives on the listing process and the challenges that followed. Our findings shed light on the demands imposed by listing, the need for adjustments to both internal and external communications, and lingering concerns regarding investors’ level of understanding the company’s equity story.
Between 2021 and 2022, a total of 45 companies made their way to the Helsinki Stock Exchange and the First North marketplace. These included not only new market entrants, but also companies that moved to the main list and those that pursued a less conventional path to listing. Miltton, as a trusted communication advisor, was involved in over 40% of these listings.
While only one Finnish company has announced its plans to go public this year, numerous others are rumored to be considering the stock market, biding their time for the perfect moment. Thus, now is an ideal moment to reflect on the experiences of companies that have already gone through the listing process and learn from their best practices. By studying these experiences, businesses can better prepare for the challenges and opportunities that come with going public, ensuring that they make the most of their debut on the stock market.
When reflecting on their experiences, most respondents indicated that the listing process was more challenging than they had anticipated. Only a handful of respondents had previous experience of taking a company public.
Managing day-to-day operations while navigating the demands of the listing process was seen as particularly challenging. To mitigate this risk, limiting the internal work group to a small enough size to ensure that normal operations were not disrupted was seen as a successful solution in terms of company resourcing. Respondents also emphasized the critical role of an experienced, dedicated, and flexible team of external advisors. The private equity investors as owners of the companies in many projects took an active role in the IPO preparations. However, in some responses, concerns were also raised about advisors having too much influence on decisions.
The ambitious IPO schedule was also subject to self-critical reflection by respondents, who recognized the importance of realistic timelines and avoiding undue pressure on the organization.
We found that 44% of the participants believed ESG and sustainability issues were a very important part of the company’s overall strategy, investor story, reporting, and communication. A significant majority (69%) considered the level of sustainability to be sufficient at the start of the listing process. However, those who expressed concern about insufficient accountability criticized a lack of concrete calculations and substantive policies, noting that some companies seemed to be merely “polishing the surface”.
In a separate investor survey conducted by Miltton in the fall of 2022, leading investors in Finland were found to expect more from companies in terms of sustainability actions and forward-looking, financially linked communication. However, for smaller companies that had just gone public, the expectations were more modest. Respondents indicated that focusing on the most important themes in the initial phase was sufficient, and that a gradual improvement in ESG policies and reporting would be acceptable as the company grew and evolved.
The vast majority of survey respondents, 87%, gave the listing project an overall rating of at least 8 on a scale of 1 to 10. However, it is worth noting that the success of the listing can be evaluated from various perspectives and should be considered, particularly in the long term.
While these were the top three factors, it is important to note that each listing project has its unique challenges and factors that must be considered to ensure success.
The success of an IPO is not only measured by financial factors but also by how it is perceived by key stakeholders, such as employees and customers.
Companies often worry about the impact of listing on their staff and customer relations. However, according to the survey, 69% of respondents said that employees had a positive attitude towards the listing, and none of them received negative feedback from customers.
It appears that the challenges for personnel are related to the changes in internal operations and communication after the listing, rather than the listing event itself or its announcement. Ensuring effective communication and preparation for these changes is crucial for maintaining positive stakeholder relationships.
The success of a company’s listing is not just measured by the initial reception of investors but also by how well they understand the company’s value proposition and investment potential. While 70% of respondents were satisfied with the investor interest their company received after listing, only 63% felt that investors truly understood what was essential about the company. To ensure investor understanding, effective investor relations become crucial.
It is understandable, although not recommendable, that after the IPO, many companies become somewhat passive in investor communication and other visibility work, leading to decreased investor understanding and interest. Although all respondents in the survey recognized an increase in visibility, only half of them invested in communication and marketing. Maintaining active communication is crucial, particularly for a newly listed company, as repetition and a proactive approach are required to sustain investor interest.
Internal expertise, development, and external support play a key role in maintaining investor interest. Our survey revealed that almost 90% of companies gave the responsibility for investor communication to an existing employee after the listing, while about a third acquired external partners for their expertise and resources.
Furthermore, being in the public spotlight after the listing can be a big change for the company’s management, requiring them to build credibility and investor trust. Performance training, whether with a professional trainer or with colleagues, was found to be particularly useful in enhancing management’s capabilities and confidence.
More than half of the respondents reported significant changes in their company’s operations after listing. These changes included increased restrictions and regulations, which had a significant impact on internal communication.
Some respondents expressed frustration at not being able share information with staff as freely as before, and that the formation of a tight-knit inner circle hindered their ability to perform their tasks effectively.
Developing effective internal communication strategies is therefore crucial during the listing process to ensure that employees feel informed and engaged throughout the transition. This includes establishing clear channels of communication and providing regular updates on the progress of the listing. It is also important to address any concerns or questions that employees may have and involve them in the process as much as possible. This can help to foster a positive and supportive company culture, which in turn can lead to increased productivity and employee satisfaction.
During the listing phase, the company gains significant publicity, and according to our experience, increasing the number of investors is also easier and cheaper than 1–2 years after listing. Therefore, investing in communication during the listing process and maintaining activity immediately after listing is worthwhile.
Ideally, developing the company’s image and story, including sustainability actions, should begin 2–3 years before listing to ensure that the company’s strengths and brand are clear when the busiest months leading up to the listing approach.
Do not hesitate to contact us for more information on Miltton’s experiences in investor relations, IPOs, and other transactions.
Jenny Kestilä, Visa Manninen, Tapio Pesola, Iris Nevanlinna
To gather information about the experiences of companies listed in 2021 and 2022, an anonymous survey was sent out to all of them. In addition, a few in-depth interviews were conducted to supplement the survey responses and gather more detailed information.