For any profession, having a community can be a life preserver as you navigate your career and day-to-day responsibilities. It’s even more critical for IROs—who’s departments are often a team of just one or two—to have a network to lean on for valuable perspective and advice.
But how can IR professionals build a solid network and leverage a community to advance their IR programs—and careers?
To fully understand the value and necessity of building a network of fellow investor relations professionals, we recently sat down with Matt Brusch—President and CEO at NIRI (National Investor Relations Institute in the USA).
Continue reading to learn more about:
- The challenges—and opportunities—for IR professionals in 2023
- Why it’s important for IR professionals to have an industry network
- Mentorship opportunities for IR professionals
- Why professional associations are so important in IR
What are the challenges and opportunities of being an IR professional in 2023?
IR professionals require an intrinsic blend of financial knowledge, communication skills, and relationship management. By successfully navigating various situations, IROs can contribute to their organization’s IR program while supporting the company’s growth objectives.
But what are the varying challenges and opportunities an IR professional may encounter in their program in 2023—and beyond?
- Market Volatility: It’s well-known that financial markets are unpredictable, and it’s likely the global economic landscape will continue to fluctuate and face uncertainty. IROs must learn how to effectively navigate market fluctuations, international relations and foreign affairs, and regulatory changes, all of which pose a challenge in managing shareholder expectations and communicating effectively.
- Digital Growth: In today’s day and age, digital transformation will only continue to accelerate and impact processes. IR professionals must adapt to evolving communication platforms while learning to leverage new technologies for improved investor engagement.
- ESG Factors: When it comes to investment decision-making, Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) factors continue to have a significant impact. Companies and IR teams must keep a thumb on the pulse of ongoing (and upcoming) ESG trends, manage their sustainability reporting, and effectively communicate their ESG initiatives (if any) to potential investors and current shareholders.
- Expanded Investor Base: The digital age has provided global access to financial markets, providing IR professionals with opportunities to reach investors from around the globe. By leveraging new technologies and IR tools, IR teams can engage new investors and diversify their shareholder base.
- Differentiated Shareholder Data: Advances in data analytics and investor relations tools provide valuable insights into investor behaviour, IR activity, analyst consensus, and more. By harnessing these tools, IR professionals can better understand investors’ needs and customize their strategy accordingly to focus on adding further value to their company.
- Ability to Maintain and Grow Relationships: With the advancement of communications platforms and investor engagement tools, IR professionals can engage with investors in real time while facilitating transparent and timely communication. Communication methods such as social media, virtual meetings, and webinars help create a more interactive dialogue with shareholders, while IRM tools allow for streamlined investor outreach.
Why is it important for IR professionals to have an industry network?
Successful IR professionals will tell you that there is incredible power in the network you develop. In fact, it’s central to your success. And so, to develop this network and be successful, it’s critical to have a group of IR professionals you can lean on and rely on for information.
Brusch recalls his own past experiences, often being an IR team of one. “I had to figure out a way to get the answer,” he explains. “IROs aren’t part of a 40-person team that can lean on one another to solve the issue. You have to either know the information already or figure out the answer on your own—and quickly. That’s where a network of professionals you can rely on comes into play. Because undoubtedly, someone else has been through what you’re experiencing.”
There are various ways to connect with IR professionals and grow your network, including:
- Professional associations such as NIRI and CIRI (Canadian Investor Relations Institute)
- Individual city chapters in those professional associations
- eGroups and other online communications platforms
- Volunteering in the industry.
- Working with service providers (such as Irwin) to develop new connections
IR professionals need to lean on one another to be successful—no matter how fierce of competitors they are in their individual industries. In fact, Brusch states that “at the NIRI annual conference, our most highly-rated sessions are what we call the industry breakouts.” He goes on to explain that “we put IROs from the same industry in a room and let them chat in an unstructured way with no agenda. That session year after year generates rave reviews because the power of community is so strong.”
Events tailored to IR professionals, such as NIRI and CIRI Annual, are as much about professional development and education as they are about professional network building and maintenance. Any IRO looking to access new mentorship and learning opportunities should consider the impact a professional association could have on your career trajectory.
What mentorship opportunities are there for IR professionals?
If having a network of IR professionals can positively impact your career and IR strategy, imagine the influence a mentor can have.
Having an IR mentor can accelerate your learning curve, provide a sounding board for ideas, and offer guidance on the role’s tactical and strategic aspects. Their support and expertise can contribute significantly to your professional growth and success in the field.
For IR professionals interested in building an inclusive mentoring culture centered on learning, sharing new ideas, and creating a shared vision, we recommend the Compass Mentor Program, presented by NIRI. This program entails a traditional one-on-one mentoring journey with a match-making approach of Mentors—”Leaders” and Mentees—”Achievers.”
Alternatively, IR professionals looking for a mentor—or a mentee–can find a connection in the field through other avenues. We recommend you:
- Look for experienced professionals in the field who have a strong track record and a reputation for excellence. Consider individuals who hold senior positions in IR, have a deep understanding of the industry, and possess relevant expertise. You can identify potential mentors through industry events, conferences, professional associations, and online platforms.
- Expand your professional network by attending conferences, seminars, and industry events. Engage in conversations, participate in panel discussions, and actively seek opportunities to connect with experienced professionals in the field. Networking platforms such as LinkedIn can also help you find and connect with potential mentors.
- Actively seek referrals by reaching out to colleagues, industry peers, or senior professionals you trust and ask if they can recommend someone who may be a good fit.
Once you have identified a potential mentor, it’s up to you to take the initiative to reach out to them. Draft a professional introduction providing important information, such as your background, career goals, and interest in seeking mentorship. You must be clear on what you hope to gain from a mentorship relationship, and don’t forget to express your willingness to learn.
Why are professional associations and chapters so significant in IR?
Professional associations such as NIRI and CIRI and their accompanying city chapters are often where IR professionals begin to build their industry network. “They’re important in developing yourself into a successful investor relations professional,” explains Brusch. “They deliver value through education, networking, and encouraging folks to be a part of a wider community.”
If you’d like to learn more about the importance of connecting with and learning from your peers, listen to Matt Brusch’s full episode on Winning IR.