Inside Investor Relations: Competition Heats Up in US IR Apps Race


KCSA hopes to snap up market share with IR app that costs less than Q4 Web Systems' version

Companies in the US have been slower than their European counterparts to embrace mobile apps as a communications tool. That began to change at the beginning of this year, and now KCSA has thrown its hat into the ring with the iPhone and iPad apps it announced at the ROTH Capital Partners Conference this week.

Although Toronto-based IR website developer Q4 Web Systems was, in January, first out of the North American gate to offer app development and maintenance services for clients, KCSA hopes a lower price and some extended functions might carve out a niche for the company before such larger competitors as Thomson Reuters and NASDAQ OMX's enter the fray.

KCSA's offering - the IR App - costs $2,499 for development costs and then between $349 and $649 a month in subscription fees, depending on whether a client signs up by the year, the quarter or the month. By comparison, Q4's solution is $7,000 for set-up and $500 a month in subscription fees.

'They get a secure content management system tool on their desktop that allows them to upload information,' says KCSA managing partner Todd Fromer. 'It gives us the flexibility to put different modules in depending on the client's desires.' Depending on the client, apps have so far included direct links to analysts covering a company, an archive of quarterly conference calls, corporate videos and corporate documents.

But unlike Q4's approach, which pulls information off a website and social media channels, the KCSA system requires a company's IR group or outside firm to separately update information on the app. That means more time and effort, but greater control over content and timing of changes or additions. 'The environment has become so fluid you might want to make up a presentation instantly or make corrections,' Fromer says.

Another question about apps is whether investors following a number of stocks will want to track each and every one through separate apps, or if they will rely more heavily on aggregation apps like those from Bloomberg or MoneyWatch that can present information on multiple companies in the same interface. Fromer says it would be easier for an investor to 'pull up an application based on a company's brand' than to scroll through a list of companies on a mobile phone or tablet and not get the additional corporate content that individual apps could make available.

According to Fromer, it takes KCSA about two weeks to develop an app for a company, with an additional week typically needed for Apple to approve distribution of the app from iTunes. Three client applications are live and 'about 10' are in process. Unilife Corporation announced its app, built by KCSA, earlier this week.

KCSA plans an Android version next because of the market size and then one for the BlackBerry. The company is already working on a second version that will include real-time alerts of new or changed information and social network sharing of content.

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