Public.com GM of IR Innovation on Leveling Up Investor Relations
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Leveling Up Investor Relations
Today on The Future of Fandom, we quit chasing memes and level up our understanding of the market with Public.com’s General Manager of Investor Relations Innovation, Katie Perry.
On this episode, we get a look at how Public.com is differentiating within one of the most commoditized financial services out there, stock trading. App-based stock trading has gone from virtually non-existent to everywhere within the last seven to eight years, and so has the community surrounding it. The forums of yesteryear have become the full content studios of today, giving new meaning to what investor relations really is and the power it wields. Katie has invested in this world early and makes a few calls as to what’s to come.
Connect with Katie Perry on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/katherineperry/
Read more about Public.com: https://public.com/
Full episode here:
FULL TRANSCRIPT BELOW
Adam Conner (00:09):
Today on The Future of Fandom, we quit chasing memes and level up our understanding of the market. My name’s Adam Conner, I’m your host. And on this episode, we get a look at how Public.com is differentiating within one of the most commoditized financial services out there, stock trading, via their GM of IR innovation, Katie Perry.
Adam Conner (00:32):
App-based stock trading has gone from virtually non-existent to everywhere within the last seven to eight years, and so has the community surrounding it. The forums of yesteryear have become the full content studios of today, giving new meaning to what investor relations really is and the power it wields. Katie has invested in this world early and makes a few calls as to what’s to come. So let’s make a few asks of our own and predict the future with Public.com and Katie Perry.
Adam Conner (01:07):
Katie, thank you for joining me. How are you? I appreciate the time.
Katie Perry (01:11):
Hi Adam. I’m great. I’m really excited to be here. Can’t complain, it’s almost spring. So looking forward to this conversation.
Adam Conner (01:20):
Me too, I have to say that Public among, just a handful of others were among the first real apps I think about when trading stocks or making any sort of investment. So it’s cool to have that full circle now and be able to talk to you and get a sense of how are you a building community and to define that word fandom in the way that you all see it. For the listener, I’m going to say this up front. And by now you follow us in a plenty of podcasts and things like that in the financial sector, but we may talk about classes of stocks, certain stock trends, things like that. None of this is meant to be construed as financial advice, okay? This is all for educational purposes. And we’re really not even going to be talking about specific tickers or anything, but just so I can cover us. Katie, how do you do, is that good?
Katie Perry (02:06):
Adam Conner (02:06):
Katie Perry (02:07):
Our chief compliance officer will be very happy and it’s great.
Adam Conner (02:11):
Excellent, check mark on that. All right. Now, to this wild world, which can be volatile at times, but is just to me it seems to be, through the last two years, not nearing the top of a hype cycle, but certainly more exciting than I remember in recent years, there has also developed this concurrent narrative about what the stereotypical next gen investor is. And part of what I want to do here at the top is, I mean, for somebody who doesn’t know who Public is, we could talk about that, but also let’s attempt to break that narrative up and separate meme chasers from genuine information seekers. Could we start around there, your perception of what the next gen investor looks like and how they’re using Public?
Katie Perry (02:59):
I would love to start there, because this is a conversation I just love to have. I think there’s a lot of misconceptions about people who are investing these days. Public.com, we’re an investing platform, we offer stocks, ETF, cryptos, soon to be NFTs are and collectibles. So we’re really trying to build one central place where you can build a diversified more modern portfolio. And we’ve been at the heart of this movement. I joined the company in fall 2019. GameStop, at that time it was a video game store. My brothers used to run to at the mall when we were growing up. There wasn’t this sort of wave of really popular stocks that broke through in pop culture. And we really got a front row seat to that. And I think over the past few months, year, what we’ve seen is a lot of narratives around who the new retail investors are. And a lot of times they’re very reductive narratives.
Katie Perry (04:01):
You see a lot of people saying, “These investors aren’t informed or they’re just gambling.” But we see a different, more nuanced picture of that at Public. What we see in our community is actually a lot of people who come into our app and maybe the first thing they buy is a, quote unquote “Meme stock” or a meme crypto even. Most of those people who find that to be their entry point actually diversify over time. And so the way we see that is that, these days there’s just more and different ways that people get interested in investing. And since investing is so mainstream, those hooks are more tied to pop culture, they might be more tied to meme stocks, but that doesn’t mean that’s where that person stays. Another just quick anecdote is that, a week or so ago I think it was, the Fed raised interest rates, we had a live show in our app and there was 2,500 people in the room listening. So it’s not that these audiences aren’t interested, they’re just looking for less friction to the information and more interesting formats.
Adam Conner (05:12):
Let me ask about that real quick, because I… It’s not common that you get at to see the viewer count on a conference call like you might a viewer count on a YouTube or a Twitch. So that number to me seems impressive, but just to give it relative importance, I mean, you’re barely scraping that with any other typical financial type of call, right? Is that what I’m to pick up from that?
Katie Perry (05:35):
Totally. And if you think about the topic itself, the Fed, again, going back to that narrative, A lot of dismissive takes I see. And I think retail investors are really curious about macro and economic trends. We’ve live broadcast earnings calls through our app. We had one a couple weeks ago that they had 3000 listeners. In talking to public companies and IR teams, that’s akin to some of the numbers they see on the earnings call, like main broadcast, that they have on their IR website. So again, it’s like, how do we get this content and information to people in ways that are more natural to the way they’re experiencing content and information. And on Public, right in the context of where they’re managing their portfolio.
Adam Conner (06:23):
Sure. And I do want to ask about that a little bit later on with respect to IR, because the audience that you wield gives you the right to play in disrupting the ways in which those traditionally stodgy or otherwise cold means of transporting information can be disrupted. But I think that’s really fascinating that you had thousands of people in for a talk about the Fed, which to me brings up two things, either like a college lecture, which never seems that interesting or the other side, which are those memes of Jerome Powell hand cranking the money machine. But you have people in the middle there who take an exhale from either of those polls and come to the middle, where they do want that genuine information. And if communicated to them in a way in which they can understand, means they don’t necessarily need an economics degree to understand the implications of such policy moves on the market and thus to their positions.
Adam Conner (07:20):
Now, I might be putting words in your mouth by saying that, I’m going to assume that part of that is true, but over time you develop through that information and accessibility of it, a certain type of fandom, maybe not the type that has foam fingers for a stock ticker, but one that makes for a very sticky loyal experience with investing through you. So I want to ask first, if you flipped open your dictionary of Public moments and meanings, and you came to the page titled fandom, what would that word be defined as for you or maybe for Public in general? I want to start there and then talk about the offering more deeply.
“Fandom for me has three parts. One is passion: Am I passionate about this? Am I interested in whatever I’m a fan of? The second would be value: Do I derive some sort of value from being a part of this. And then related to that, the third for me would be, do I feel like I’m part of something bigger than myself? And I think what we’ve created on Public is a way to create all of those experiences and create this sort of fandom in a really productive way. So being interested in what’s in your portfolio, being passion about it, those are great things. And again, going back to the narrative, a lot of times you see this passion reflected in activity on Reddit or social media, but on Public we really see it as, in terms of passion, people investing in what they believe in.”
— Katie Perry (8:02)
Katie Perry (08:55):
I just saw recently there’s an ETF that was actually just issued. And it’s a collection of companies where they’ve basically identified CEOs with great character. This is the stuff that really matters to a lot of retail investors. So you see that passion coming through, in terms of value is the affiliation or the experience on Public serving needs for us. We really want to create an environment around investing that helps you get better over time. I think with any fandom, the payoff could be long term. I think about the Bengals waiting 30 plus years to get back to the Super Bowl. Our mission is over the long term to help people continuously level up. And then in terms of the last piece of being something bigger than yourself, I think that community we have built in, the ability to connect, whether it’s even just seeing someone else’s face on the same earnings call, feeling like you’re a part of something checks some important box for lot of people, so that’s sort of how I would define fandom.
Adam Conner (09:56):
When you came in 2019, what elements of that fandom do you think were most present? And where over the last couple of years, do you think that Public in the sector has leaned in the hardest to develop it?
Katie Perry (10:09):
I think over the past two years, there’s been a lot of maturity in the audience of retail investors from my vantage points. Early days pre COVID, pre meme stocks, pre crypto wave, you saw a lot of people who were just really curious. There’s a lot of beginners in our app at the start. Their fandom was around a curiosity to learn. And what you see over a time is that, it’s been really cool to see people evolve over time, become more sophisticated. And then maybe that fandom turns into a passion for a specific investment strategy, or a passion for a specific category of investment opportunities, whether it’s cyber security softwares or sustainable investing. And so I think over time people sort of find their niche, they find their interests, they learn, they get smarter. And that curiosity narrows into specific areas they’re interested in.
Adam Conner (11:15):
So through it all, investors through Public have been able to build community with those who invest like them. I know that because, something which attracted me to the platform though, I know it isn’t necessarily unique to be able to see without quantity, the types of stocks and investments that others are making, including those who they may know publicly like influencers and things like that. They’re also getting information in digestible ways and you’ve described this, and I would describe this as investors leveling up in the way that they think and in the way that they act. I think back to 10 years ago, the first ever stock purchase I made in the market was a little micro-cap stock, 10 years ago, I read about on a forum. Might not a smart idea at all in retrospect. And now I would say that, thanks to some of these tools, I’m much more educated and knowledgeable and maybe risk averse, relative to that first buy. What does it mean to you to be leveling up the ways in which investors think and behave?
“I think [leveling up investor relations] is about building in healthy and productive habits around being engaged with your portfolio. So for us, 90% of our community say they’re mostly long term investors. We see a lot of people diversifying over a time, like I mentioned. We’ve actually seen a huge increase in people investing in ETFs which, for those who don’t know are sort of bundles of stocks, many of which have built in diversification. So I think you’re right in that, the experience of actively investing of, actively exploring an investment opportunity is a great learning exercise, I think, I can relate to your experience, I think the first stock I ever bought was Under Armour, I think I was 20 years old.”
— Katie Perry (12:23)
Adam Conner (13:08):
Oh, that’s a good buy, that’s a Baltimore native, good on you.
Katie Perry (13:10):
Yeah. But what’s interesting when I think back, and I won’t say what platform it was, obviously it wasn’t Public, but I remember buying it and I was excited and I checked on it and then I just fell off. It was, I knew I wanted to kind of hold it for a bit. And so in the day to day, there was nothing keeping me interested necessarily. And so on Public, what we done is, created this experience around the stock market that creates habits of constantly exploring, researching, sharing ideas and being engaged in what you own in an ongoing basis, without necessarily trading every day. And I think building those habits is really great to see, I saw one of our share yesterday that, her morning routine involved Public morning brew, CNBC. We want to be built into how people experience this stuff in a way that’s accessible and fun, and helps them learn more over time.
Adam Conner (14:12):
Is that something that you’ve particularly leaned into over these last two, two and a half years, to differentiate? Because you rightly noted and I hinted at it as well. Both of our first experiences in investing in the market were done outside of Public, but we’re also done in a time when this service was not as commoditized, was not as fee free. Those things just popped up, what I can, I think I remember Robinhood being, I think it was like a private thing, still invite only as far as 2014, so we’re looking at seven, eight years ago. Nowadays it feels like most brokers, most custodians are offering that service. And that obviously means that there’s lots of other places where you could do it. So are those differentiations something that you’ve specifically been focused on over this time? And if so, and even if not, what’s been the most impressive thing you think Public has done to differentiate?
Katie Perry (15:06):
I think differentiation is huge. We’ve done it in a few ways. The first real way we did this was actually trying to reimagine the culture that existed around the stock market. I think we’ve all seen, like you referenced some memes, the Wolf of wall street, despite over time investing becoming more accessible via apps, via fractionalized assets, it still had this culture around it that was [inaudible 00:15:31] not inclusive. And so that was our first big disruption was, what would a healthier, more welcoming experience around the stock market look like. Because for a lot of people, the barrier to entry was financial literacy, but also maybe just not wanting to affiliate with a specific culture that they felt they didn’t belong to.
Katie Perry (15:52):
And I think over time too, with the proliferation of investing apps and fractional investing apps is, you have a commoditization of most apps offer the same assets, whether it’s securities or cryptos. And so if you think about it almost like two different stores that have the same products. What would make one store stand out versus the other? And I think for us, what we’ve really been focused on is building this environment around the products that are in the app, around the assets, that is going to make people choose us. And that’s, things like content that’s relevant to your portfolio, the live audio shows I referenced. We have town hall events where you can ask CEOs of companies you invest in your questions and see them respond. In-app TikTok style educational videos. All of this stuff is what exists around the actual assets. And I think that experience is what makes Public stand out in what’s becoming a really crowded space.
Adam Conner (17:02):
And I do want to ask about the ways in which people invest and consume in a little bit. It’s good to know that you’re always differentiating, of course, every brand always has to innovate in that way.
Adam Conner (17:12):
And speaking to your expertise on the editorial side of Public for a moment, because I know that, that’s been part of your tenure, something that I’ve learned, even through this podcast with other businesses who are focusing on different asset classes, where you can’t track a ticker as quickly, and I know that Public has also started to step into those areas too, also gives importance to the need for education and awareness, because these are also asset classes which are not invested in as commonly as stocks and bonds and things like that. And most of the time when I think about that, and frankly through the conversations I’ve had, a lot of the time, how do you get to that awareness in education? We got to have a community, we’ve got to build content. We got to have content that people can read, listen to, watch. Does that change when you have to differentiate and create content editorially for the most commoditized asset class out there? I mean, what are the nuances as far as you’re concerned, just speaking to your specific experience in building that side of the community?
Katie Perry (18:14):
I think people learn best in the moment, in a timely fashion, in the instance of a real world example. So think about, you’re curious about metrics shared in an earnings report, maybe one path would be to read an article online, that’s a blog post and defines each thing, maybe another way is to pick a brand you’re really familiar with, Nike or Netflix, listen to the earnings call, hear how these things are framed in context and have that be a building block to learning in a way that actually relevant to you and interesting to you. And I think that’s how we view editorial, it’s not just what we’re covering, it’s how we’re doing it. Another example and just speaking, again, to like platforms having similar assets, but different ecosystems around them. Today we just added a popular new crypto asset to the platform. On another app, maybe there would’ve just been some sort of notification that this was now available.
“What we’re doing is…yeah, we let people know that we have this now, but we also have a live show in a few hours that is actually going to have an expert in the space and they’re going to break down, how to think about this crypto asset. Not to go on a tangent, but cryptos are really interesting because many new crypto investors don’t understand that there are founding teams behind a lot of these, there’s a thesis for the project, there’s goals for the project. And in unpacking that white paper component, it goes back to what we were are saying about earnings calls, like maybe someone’s not going to go and read the 50 page white paper, but they still want to understand. So we want to create that information in context. And that’s what it’s about at Public, it’s the content in the context relevant to what you’re interested in, relevant to what you invest in. And that’s sort of the hook for people to really level up.”
— Katie Perry (19:20)
Adam Conner (20:13):
Fair enough. And this is great because it is much more, I don’t know about advance, but certainly more. New current hip to do rather than the old days of dialing in to the group number and the stodgy hold music only to hear five minutes of numbers that you roughly understand, followed by 20 minutes of questions from bankers that may not care about. And it makes me want to call back to what we talked about briefly earlier on, which is that like, investor relations is really old to me, as an old it hasn’t really changed a whole lot. Is that something that, again, I said at the beginning you have the right to play in these areas like, what are some of the ways, and obviously anybody who goes in your LinkedIn can see also that IR innovation is part of your world, how does that layer into all of this? Are you going to be the cure to all those cold conference calls?
Katie Perry (21:12):
I don’t know about the cure. I think, IR is interesting. I think it hasn’t changed a lot, not necessarily because of a lack of desire to, more so a lack of need to.
“Historically IR teams really only had to worry about and focus on institutional investors. And that still is the most important audience for, the lion’s share of IR teams. But what you see there is, I think now 25 million retail investors have entered the stock market in the past couple of years, slowly ticking up their total share of ownership. And some companies, you think about your AMCs, it’s a very large audience of retail investors. So now you have two different audiences that IR teams need to sort of cater to, instead of, in the past, pretty much just tailoring things to what worked for institutional investors and that worked, that works for that audience.”
— Katie Perry (12:18)
Katie Perry (22:09):
And what we hear in our conversations with IR teams is they’re really interested. Many of them are very passionate about engaging with retail audiences. But what we hear is, “Retail seems like a black box, they don’t really understand fully what motivates their shareholders, what kind of information their shareholders are looking for and how they want to receive it?” And so it’s, there’s a lot of question marks of like, “Yes, we understand that there’s this increasing interest in investing over here, but there’s sort of a friction in, well, what do we do about it, because the old playbook didn’t really account for this?” And it’s a really, really interesting time to be at a public company. And I think many of the teams we’re talking to are embracing it, and they’re just looking for a little help in figuring out how do we make sense of this new audience.
Adam Conner (23:03):
As you continue to find the solution for that new audience, perhaps together we’ll hope that more public companies become Public companies. Let me round out by asking about the other F word we focus on the show here, which is future. Specifically around the ways that, you predict people will be investing in consuming going forward. You mentioned earlier that there are an increasing numbers specifically within ETFs, of groupings of securities based on elements, not necessarily tied to their profit and loss, for instance, the content of the character of the executive suite. I know that there are plenty of ETFs that focus on things like social impact, investing, DEI, other elements which, again, can’t necessarily be found on a balance sheet. And I also know on the consumptions side, when people go to the store, they’re looking to do their business with brands who they agree with from a value’s perspective. In which ways do you see those two things coming together, going forward and specifically influencing the ways that people take money out of their pockets and invest in assets?
Katie Perry (24:12):
That’s one of the most interesting things I think about sort of all these new trends in the marketplace that exists between retail investors and companies, because especially, and specifically for consumer brands, a retail investor is very likely to overlap with an actual customer of your product. So it goes both ways in terms of, being a customer and then being interested in investing. So that’s been proven to be a path for a lot of retail investors, invest in what I know, or have familiarity or interest, that’s their way in.
“It also goes the other way, there was a really interesting Texas A&M study that found that retail investors in consumer brands were more loyal over time, they were more interested in new products, they felt like they were a part of the company. And so there’s this really interesting interplay between being investor, being a customer, and for companies and consumer companies, that’s a really interesting sort of dynamic and it’s being fueled by, what I think is like, younger generations having this sort of ownership mentality, wanting to own a stake in the things that they’re either supporting with their wallet…”
— Katie Perry (24:12)
Katie Perry (25:21):
And just like you said, supporting businesses, companies that align with their own values. And it’s a really fascinating interplay, that creates a lot of opportunities but also challenges, because then it becomes on the consumer side, that’s usually in the marketing teams camp and on the investor side, that’s usually an IR, so you have this middle area, but I think it’s one that like, companies are starting to realize and embrace, and it’s going to be really, really interesting into the future, in my opinion.
Adam Conner (25:54):
I agree. I’ve been glad to speculate on that side of the financial world here with you, just as much as to talk about the current state of information getting and in the meme chasing of course, and everything in the middle. I’m really interested to see what happens with that IR side, because I think back to 10 years ago and that was where I got most of my info, other than like a random forum. And so the fact that you all have been able to fill in the middle really, really nicely is the most interesting for me, because I’m more on the information seeker than the meme chaser anyhow, but for helping me break down some of the stereotypes and chatting a little bit more about the importance of community and how you think about it, Katie, thanks so much for joining me, coming on the show.
Katie Perry (26:34):
Thanks for having me. It was a lot of fun.
Adam Conner (26:39):
Thanks again to Katie Perry from public.com for joining us. Personally, I’m shocked that IR hasn’t been disrupted yet, given the massive communities stock trading has built. Someone’s got to be first to do it and it may just be these folks.
Adam Conner (26:53):
And thanks to you of course, the listener for exploring the future of fandom with us, I’d encourage you to stay connected rather than just trading these minutes with us. So subscribe to the future of fandom, wherever you listen to your shows, or you can find all of our content at livelike.com and of course on socials, LinkedIn @livelike and Twitter @livelikeInc. I look forward to predicting the future again with you real soon, until then, I’m Adam Conner saying so long and thanks for being a fan.
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