Originally established 125 years ago, Black&Callow is one of the leading global financial printing and communications companies. It specialises in preparing and distributing documentation for investment banks all around the world that are seeking to attract investors for public market listings of large established companies, as well as mergers or acquisitions. In 2015, Black&Callow, formerly known as Imprima Financial Print, separated from its sister organisation Imprima, a provider of virtual data room services to enable secure financial transactions.
Over time the company identified a growing demand for banks to provide IPO-related ‘roadshow’ presentations or research documents online, as an alternative to circulating them in printed form by post or courier. Providing these documents online would not only offer scope to reduce costs, it would shorten the timescales between banks publishing documentation and investors being able to access it, and provide a more environmentally-friendly approach.
To create these new hosted online services – which it has branded iRoadshow+ and IPO Research Online+ – Black&Callow initially adapted a third-party virtual data room service which it paid for on a monthly subscription basis, incurring additional costs each time it wanted to update or add new features to the system. But following demand from a significant number of clients for a newer platform which was wholly-owned by Black&Callow, the company realised it needed to create its own software which it could mould and add to over time.
The new platform is robust, which is important as thousands of people could be viewing content at any one time. Navigating and interacting with the reports – the ability to add notes and questions, and quickly return to key sections – is a powerful time saver. Mobile access, via smartphones and tablets, is supported too.
Black&Callow shortlisted three potential development partners, and interviewed two, choosing One Beyond. “They ticked all of the boxes. The chemistry was there, the pricing was competitive, and One Beyond’s track record and client case studies were very strong,” says Stephen Pusey, Sales Consultant to Black&Callow. The company was also attracted to One Beyond’s agile, collaborative, sprint-based approach to development. “It meant we could see and be involved in what was being built, every step of the way.”
Although Black&Callow had a clear picture of what the next generation platform should look like, the company appreciated One Beyond’s readiness to challenge some of these assumptions and recommend better ways of doing things.
For instance, Black&Callow wanted to add new value for banks and their relationships with investors, enabling easy interaction, and saving busy investors valuable time.
One Beyond, a Microsoft Gold Partner, built brand new platforms using the latest web development technologies, including ASP.NET WebAPI, C#, SQL Server, .NET Core, Entity Framework Core, HTML5 and Vue.js, as well as OCR using Tesseract JS and Leaflet JS, all hosted in Azure. As part of its Agile development approach, and to accelerate development, One Beyond also exploited the use of its in-house technology, Obelisk – a suite of tools for developers to speed up the creation of functionality common to many software systems.
“The new platform is robust, which is important as thousands of people could be viewing content at any one time.” Stephen adds. “Navigating and interacting with the reports – the ability to add notes and questions, and quickly return to key sections – is a powerful time saver. Mobile access, via smartphones and tablets, is supported too.”
Banks can invite potential investors to the iRoadshow portal with a limited-time code, giving them quick and efficient access to highlights of a new investment opportunity. Via the IPO Research portal, would-be investors can use an interactive document viewer to go through presentations in real time with the bank, with the ability to highlight and add notes to sections of interest.
For the investment banks, meanwhile, there is rich feedback about what investors are doing through the portals, helping determine genuine levels of interest and engagement at a ‘roadshow’/first-look stage so that teams know which investors to follow up with and can better focus their campaigns.
Strategically, being in control of its online platforms offers Black&Callow new differentiation. “We’re adding functions and features that banks have been asking for. Until now, the online roadshow market has been dominated by one major global player which has almost a monopoly on the market, and can charge high prices. Banks have been crying out for an alternative, and that’s what we’ve created – and it’s more affordable, sexier/more modern and richer in its features,” Stephen explains. “The early feedback we’ve had is extremely positive”
When the COVID-19 pandemic prevented face-to-face meetings, the whole industry realised just how critical online access to information was, and the importance of a good experience, Stephen adds. “Better still, banks can publish information just an hour before a public listing, when you remove the need to send out physical reports,” he says. “Deadlines have improved immeasurably.”
For Black&Callow, this is a development project without an end point. “We will keep adding to the features and functionality to add value for our clients,” Stephen notes.
Having One Beyond close at hand is an additional comfort factor, he adds. “We have been struck by One Beyond’s professionalism, openness and flexibility. They’ve been incredibly accommodating and responsive. Working with them has been a great experience. We genuinely feel that they care, and that we’re in safe hands. That’s huge.”
We have been struck by One Beyond’s professionalism, openness and flexibility. They’ve been incredibly accommodating and responsive. Working with them has been a great experience. We genuinely feel that they care, and that we’re in safe hands. That’s huge.