Before, we were afraid of financial communication. But that was before meeting Bertrand Deronchaine, director of shareholder relations EVP Communications Wholesale & International Networks (W&IN) within the Orange group . It enlightens us on this discipline of communication: best practices, highlights of the year and this obvious link with all other areas of communication. An interview without numbers!
Hello Bertrand, thank you for bringing your lights! What is your vision of corporate communication?
For me, the boundaries between the different disciplines that make up corporate communication are increasingly thin. It is becoming more and more difficult to tell them apart. Moreover, I do not like the term "institutional communication" for its too formal side. The corporate communication now maybe it's the ability to tell a story, the "Storytelling". And especially to prove how the company is useful to the world around it and can create financial and extra-financial value ...
To achieve this, the brand is essential. But telling a story does not mean "telling stories". On the contrary, the stakeholders (employees, customers, authorities, NGOs, investors, journalists, etc.) demand transparency and clarity. We are close to the notion of reputation. The company must show its anchoring in society, its action within the environments in which it operates. Institutional communication has an essential prerequisite. If she wants to be effective, it must adopt a clear, readable strategy, which translates the vision of the company in relation to its major challenges. It also requires motivation, a vision shared by all components of the company, its managers and also the entire community of employees.
How did com fi emancipate itself to go beyond the minimum service, just the regulatory?
Yes, the financial communication for listed companies is a communication framed from a legal point of view by the Commercial Code, by theAMF (permanent and periodic information), national or European regulatory authorities… In this increasingly constrained framework, the question is not "can I communicate?" "Since" I must communicate ", the minimum being to publish its financial results each quarter.
Despite everything, there are still some areas of freedom and this is where the REAL challenge of financial communication lies: how to succeed in telling the story and get all the shareholders on board? Financial communication should therefore not be seen only as a legal obligation. It is an opportunity to communicate more globally on what the company does. One way to contribute to tell a story of this community of interests that the company represents.
What is this regulatory framework? The prohibitions not to be committed?
One of the drivers of financial communication is obviously the stock market price. And of course, thehe principle is to always guarantee equal treatment between shareholders: we cannot provide inside information (it is also criminally reprehensible!). For a company, permanent communication moreover consists in communicating as soon as it is the bearer of information that may have an effect on the stock market price or may change the perception that we have of it.
What are your main supports? Your highlights during the year?
Financial communication consists ofa wide range of tools which allow any individual or any institution to obtain information of a financial nature on a company. There are several communications during the year:
- The Press release which remains the basis and which guarantees equal treatment,
- The institutional site which provides information on the vision, history and news of the company,
- The corporate social accounts LinkedIn and Twitter have also become fundamental. Because digitization has enabled the immediacy of information and therefore strengthened equality of treatment.
- The management interventions, since they embody the company's vision through their interviews and conferences during roadshows (Investor Days)
- the Reference document (RFI), which is a paradoxical document. It is a legal document, very framed by standards but quite fascinating if you want to know a company, its sector and its market.
- TheGeneral Assembly is an important annual corporate communication event, since it constitutes an opportunity for dialogue between the company and its shareholders, whoever they are. In addition, the major decisions - known as resolutions - are submitted to the votes of the shareholders for the conduct of the company. Examples: capital increase, appointment of a new director, executive compensation, etc.
- the Integrated Annual Report : "It is useless" if it is conceived exclusively as a mirror on the past financial year (its publication is often much later than the publication of the annual results). But it regains all its meaning, all its usefulness if it is conceived as a corporate communication document, to explain the company's strategy with tangible evidence (indicators, educational diagrams, emblematic achievements or significant facts). At the house of Orange, it is also a “Integrated” Annual Report for 3 years which shows how the Group creates value, financial and extra-financial, for its stakeholders.
How to succeed in communicating in an appropriate way when financial communication is aimed at all stakeholders?
Financial communication has a wide variety of audiences: there are a large number of individual audiences and institutional audiences [editor's note: who have greater power due to their weight in capital]. This is the specificity of this profession. You can talk to an institutional actor in very technical terms, but when dealing with individual shareholders, the job becomes that of a "translator". It is necessary to explain complicated concepts in simple terms vis-à-vis a public of non-professionals but without disguising reality. For example, if I am talking about EBITDA, it does not necessarily mean; yet if I am talking about operational profitability, everyone understands. Financial communication is necessarily segmented communication because the expectations of different audiences are different. However, it is important to maintain the uniqueness and consistency of the message that we communicate.
Financial communication is inevitably linked to the overall image of the company. How to achieve this consistency?
Dialogue with other company communicators is essential. The communicators of an entity or a country first communicate about their entity, about their country by linking it to corporate communication. In my case, it's a bit of a reverse process. Financial communication is aimed at communicators of all entities. And it is the com corpo that I illustrate by the activities, the achievements of the entities or the countries. Dialogue is particularly crucial on subjects such as CSR, HR, innovation. The common objective is to feed corporate communication. She is a crossroads many skills, expertise that we must sublimate to convey the overall message of the company. This is what gives credibility to a story.
Isn't a good financial communications manager a good financial analyst?
If you don't know how to read an income statement, if you don't know the financial markets, it's a bit difficult… without being impossible. But financial communication does not require being a financial analyst, because it is a special profession. In contrast you have to be curious to become a financial analyst who will know how to interpret the most relevant numbers. Without financial training, it is a bit complicated to become a financial communications specialist. Either way, someone who does financial communications should remember that they are communicating first and foremost. It is a profession of dialogue, conviction, exchange, teaching and coordination. A good financial communications manager prepares and anticipates the questions of his audiences. And it is also one of the professions where we must explain the most what the company is.
3 things to know about Bertrand!
- Every morning at dawn, he swims. A real fish in the water and a way to drown the stress of the markets!
- He knows how to drink in many languages (having traveled to most Orange subsidiaries around the world).
- He is an eternal curious. He simply enjoys meeting people.