If one word alone could describe the J.P. Morgan 33rd Annual Healthcare Conference, that word, from my purview, would be productive. I met one-on-one with management teams from 44 companies, and nearly our entire team came together in San Francisco that week to take part in the conference and help clients fine-tune and deliver on their 2015 investor relations plans.
At Westwicke, we consider J.P. Morgan the “super bowl” of investor conferences. No, we don’t eat chicken wings and shout at the TV, but a lot of action happens at J.P. Morgan — this year even more than in the past. And just like in football, it pays to show up ready and prepared because, as we’ve discussed before on this blog, an elevator ride with the right person (and the right pitch) can make all the difference.
What did we learn from our week at J.P. Morgan this year? I posed this question to some of my colleagues, and here’s what they shared.
Digitization, along with the widespread adoption of electronic health records (EHRs), has become the new norm within the healthcare industry. Building on these developments from the past decade, we’re now starting to see the next major advancement: bringing the patient closer to the physician. Dozens of these new, exciting companies presented at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference and talked about their focus in areas like telemedicine, patient engagement, patient portals, and price transparency. Listening to presentations and speaking with people in the industry during the conference gave me with a clear idea of where healthcare technology is headed next, and how it’s going to place a heavy emphasis on patients taking more ownership and shifting behaviors and attitudes toward their personal health. The companies providing these tools are the second wave of healthcare technology companies and will be highly sought-after investments in the coming year.
Pre-announcing at J.P. Morgan appears to be on the rise, and for good reason. At Westwicke, we track companies in the medical technology and diagnostics sector, and the number of pre-announcements in January preceding the conference ebbed and flowed. This year, more than 30 companies in the medical technology and diagnostic group pre-released 4Q results (up from about 15 last year), with many offering additional color on trends or preliminary guidance for 2015. As a result, management teams were able to refresh their presentations with up-to-date information and speak freely in investor meetings that preceded their official presentation time. It also cleared the way for participation in other investor conferences that take place before the official 4Q report date, which happens in March for many small and mid-cap companies.
Is this a healthy boom or a bubble? Either way, turnout and enthusiasm for J.P. Morgan is holding strong, if not reaching all-time highs. To me, this exuberance showed itself most prominently in how much participation and activity there were outside the walls of the Westin St. Francis. Even off-shoot conferences like the Biotech Showcase were swarming with both company leadership teams and investors alike, with presentations and speaker panels routinely overflowing and offering standing room only.
The J.P. Morgan conference reminded me of the importance of body language. When talking to investors and analysts, not only do they notice what you say but also how you say it. Your demeanor matters and doesn’t go undetected. We received feedback from several investors that a member of a client’s management team did not appear to be enthusiastic about the company. These were meetings that happened to be at the end of a long day, and it turns out our client was just tired.
J.P. Morgan is always a grind — know and expect nothing less. Treat your last meeting of the day the same as the first, and try to avoid any body movement or demeanor that may convey nervousness or a lack of credibility or enthusiasm.
One other piece of advice: use the J.P. Morgan conference for introductory or quick catch-up meetings, with the intent to follow up in more detail afterward. It’s our experience that everyone will be too busy for “real” work that week. Realize that the people you meet with most likely have packed schedules, with back-to-back meetings over the course of three or so days. And know that the couple of weeks after the conference concludes, and before 4Q reporting starts in earnest, is the perfect time to circle back to your high-priority list for more in-depth discussions.
Before you go, tighten up your corporate story. Meetings at J.P. Morgan tend to be scheduled for one hour max, and people are usually running five to 10 minutes behind at all times. Therefore, you need to plan for 40 to 50 minutes max — that’s typically all you get. If you’re telling your story, do it quickly and succinctly. Also make sure your slide deck is tight (no 50-page presentations), or you won’t make it all the way through, and it won’t be effective. A key takeaway slide upfront is a great idea.
This year’s conference reconfirmed why it’s important to start planning early for J.P. Morgan. Meeting room and sleeping accommodations fill up quickly, and so do the schedules of analysts and investors.
Given that buy-side analysts’ schedules are usually jammed, the conference provides a great opportunity to prioritize meetings with targeted sell-side analysts — and meet with multiple analysts over the course of a few days.
There is a huge supply of healthcare equity issuance coming. Along with new IPOs, a lot of companies are planning to come back to the market and raise additional capital. It’s essential to put in place a strong roadmap in this environment. For more guidance, read “Tips on Planning Your 2015 Investor Relations Strategy.”