How did you get into IR? How different was it in reality to what you expected?
I started my career at PricewaterhouseCoopers where I qualified as a Chartered Accountant. I was keen to gain experience working in capital markets and moved into corporate broking soon after qualifying.
Corporate broking is a very relationship focused role and I particularly enjoyed helping clients improve their market communications. It felt like a natural progression for me to move from banking into in-house IR. The role requires good financial knowledge and strong written and verbal communication so I was able to apply skills I had gained from my professional experience as well as my English Literature degree.
I was fortunate in my in-house roles to work for management teams who had really invested in developing high quality IR programmes. Compared to banking where you are required to make decisions quickly, I was initially surprised how much consideration can go into drafting every word of a press release!
I was also struck by how strategic the role is. In IR you have exposure to senior leaders across the business which gives you a unique perspective. You need to understand the ‘big picture’ when deciding how to present the business and strategy to the investment community. This perspective, together with feedback from investors, can help drive the strategic direction of the business.
Do you think your background in corporate broking made you more successful in the role?
It definitely helps to have a financial background and capital markets experience but I have also met many IR professionals who have backgrounds in operations, strategy consulting and corporate communications.
For me, it was helpful to have a good understanding of the buy-side as well as existing relationships on the sell-side when I moved into IR. Corporate broking also exposed me to a range of clients, sectors and reporting styles so I gained a sense of best practice IR and I was used to presenting to Board level executives.
What skills do you think are critical?
• Business acumen – A good understanding of capital markets and regulation to explain the company and its industry to investors
• Excellent communication and presentation skills – To establish credibility and ensure consistency of messaging when standing in for the CEO and CFO at events
• People skills – To build strong relationships when engaging with a range of stakeholders internally and externally
• Financial literacy – To understand financial statements and help analysts and investors value the company appropriately
• Good judgement – To present complex information clearly
• Influence – To communicate the investment case persuasively and deliver feedback with discretion
• Organisational skills – To put clear processes in place. Planning ahead helps when there is a major event or crisis to deal with
How have your experiences of doing IR for different companies varied? Is it very different sector by sector?
I definitely think there is merit working in IR for different companies. There’s the challenge of learning about a new company and sector, you expand your professional network and it’s helpful to see how different management teams approach IR.
After two years as an IR Manager in Financial Services at Close Brothers Group plc, I moved into Media as Head of Investor Relations for ITV plc. While I did not notice a difference in the role changing sector, I noticed a big difference moving from a FTSE 250 company to a FTSE 100 company.
Large-cap companies tend to have more covering analysts and higher demand from investors for meetings as well as a bigger IR team to manage. At smaller and mid-cap companies the challenge is often increasing analyst coverage and generating investor interest. You may also have the opportunity to take on a broader communications role, covering PR, corporate affairs and marketing as well as IR.
What are you doing now?
Earlier this year I founded a consultancy, Equitory, which provides independent IR consulting and training for small and mid-cap companies.
I believe the strategic importance of IR continues to grow as economic uncertainty following the EU referendum and regulatory changes increase the need for companies to engage regularly and openly with investors. This presents a challenge for small-cap companies as an experienced IR professional is expensive and may not be fully utilised throughout the year. Equitory provides outsourced IR services which provide a cost effective and flexible solution enabling small-caps to access expertise in IR.
On a personal level I am enjoying the new challenge of working with a diverse range of smaller cap clients as well as companies preparing to IPO.
Do you plan a long-term career in IR?
I am currently focused on building my consultancy, Equitory. I believe IR can provide a very rewarding long-term career, particularly if you have the opportunity to experience IR in different situations, including M&A, an IPO or during a transformational business or management change.
IR is a unique role requiring strong communication skills to deliver a clear message with confidence. Learning these skills will serve you well throughout your career and I think that is why we are seeing more individuals in senior leadership and Board level positions who have IR and communications experience.
Find out more about Clara on LinkedIn