In a fast-moving industry, IR professionals need to polish their skills when planning a job change, writes Debbie Nathan. Debbie Nathan is associate director, IR & communications, Carter Murray, firstname.lastname@example.org
Over the last three or four years I have seen a noticeable shift in the number of candidates who are actively choosing IR as a career path, rather than it being something people stumbled across 10 to 15 years ago when I joined the industry. Consequently, the IR industry talent pool today includes many candidates with a variety of professional backgrounds, not all of which include direct in-house IR experience.
This used to be a hindrance for candidates which was hard to overcome, however nowadays corporates are much more open-minded about candidate backgrounds – in fact it can be seen as beneficial because of the market intelligence, and often industry expertise and network they bring with them from capital markets experience for example.
Any new regulations in the pipeline will undoubtedly ‘hit’ IR teams at some point as they digest the rules, assess the potential impact and build a communication plan to the market. Additionally, with the introduction of MiFID ll, IR teams are likely to carry a heavier load as less is ‘outsourced’ particularly on corporate access and buy-side engagement. There are also other regulatory issues such as GDPR which will consume time in ensuring compliance. As a result, existing IR teams are building up, and smaller firms are increasingly realising the importance and need for an in-house IR representative.
As I work a new role, I will be briefed in detail from the client on the company, the culture, the management team, the role and the expectations for the role. Whilst these clearly vary with each client, there are several things that are consistent for every role and should form part of every IR candidate’s interview prep:
Do your research into the ownership of the company, specifically understanding the constituents of their share register, what is the free float like, what types of investors they have or are targeting and where the relevant pools of capital are. Many people sitting outside of the corporates, particularly in a capital markets role, will have access to this information at their fingertips, working closely with traders, sales, research and therefore should be fuelled with information on the stock prior to any company contact or interviews. Furthermore, with increased regulation from MiFID ll about to hit the financial markets, this is more important than ever. Clients are now drawn to candidates who have a deeper knowledge of the buy side, and investment landscape.
Highlight any ‘non BAU’ parts of your role with detail, and be forthcoming with additional information in interviews. Quite often, and particularly with companies hiring their first IR person, there will be some corporate activity in the pipeline that they have foresight of but that is not in the public domain yet – and they will be attracted to candidates who have previous experience in that skill, eg, fundraising (debt or equity), M&A, disposals, IPO.
Managing internal and external stakeholders is fundamental to a successful career in IR. Again, with increased regulation and continued scrutiny on financial markets, IR tends to be pivotal to most of the strategic and financial planning that the management team will be engaged in. There will be many instances when an IRO has to ‘manage upwards’ internally and an engaged CFO/CEO or director of IR will welcome someone who has the ability to sell an idea, influence and challenge them rigorously. A successful IR person should be able to feed back views and opinions of the investment community to the board diplomatically and not shy away from this.
Furthermore, with candidates who are not coming from an IR background it is imperative they demonstrate an understanding of the nuances of an IR role in entirety – and hence it is something I delve deep into in meetings.
It is the ‘behind the scenes’ work that often comes as a surprise for new IROs – the number of draft iterations of an announcement before the final, the magnitude and volume of rehearsals before a results presentation, or simply the number of times an outlook statement would be torn apart and redrafted before signing off on final wording. Until you are in the role, it is very difficult to get an appreciation of this side of it. Additionally, the peer reviews, disclosure reviews, AGM work and other projects that keep an IR team working at capacity throughout the year may not be fully appreciated.
Having worked in IR for eight years in a FTSE 100 & 250 prior to moving to IR Search, I am well equipped to provide advice and guidance to support candidates through a recruitment process and bridge any knowledge gaps on the role itself.