This article was produced by ELITE Connect and originally published on the ELITE Connect platform
The start of the new financial year brings potential budgetary opportunities to recruit new team members and, as a result, many IR departments may soon be seeking to expand.
Debbie Nathan, associate director for IR and communications at recruitment consultant Carter Murray in London, spent more than a decade in in-house IR roles before switching her focus to talent search. Here, she shares her expertise and top tips for those companies looking to successfully hire their next IRO.
What background/s do you think are most suitable for IRO candidates?
There is such a variety of backgrounds in the IR market at the moment that it isn’t possible to say which is more suitable than others. It will all depend on the role, the team and what the skills gaps are. If the current team comes from more of a traditional finance or communications background, then a capital markets professional is very much welcomed for the different perspective he or she can provide.
Depending on the sector, a highly financially literate individual is often required and these will often come directly from an accountancy practice. If the head of IR has come from equity research, for example, he or she may specifically want an IR manager with in-house IR experience. It’s not often that sector knowledge is a prerequisite these days.
How do you assess how an IRO will be a good fit for the IR team?
Personally, although a CV can tell me someone’s technical ability and skills, a lot of the assessment I carry out on a candidate is around personality and cultural fit with my client.
Many responsibilities are entrusted to IROs – they’re often unique in their level of exposure to internal and external stakeholders, and therefore they need to be able to build trust and influence, and manage throughout an organization. It’s more than just having the financial, analytical and communication skills, which many people have. I challenge candidates on how they manage difficult people and difficult situations, and how they exert pressure to deliver outcomes.
What are your top tips for identifying key strengths and weaknesses?
When people say they understand IR, really challenge them on that. Ask them what they think is involved in the day job and ask them how many drafts they think a corporate would go through before landing on the final version of a one-page trading update, for example.
Often, people without direct IR experience see only the external-facing side of IR, but there is a huge other part that, although behind the scenes, is equally as important for a team to be effective.
If someone can handle pressure and accountability to multiple stakeholders, as well as being an integral part of a team, then he or she has some of the attributes that would make a successful IR professional.
What do you feel are the best recruitment techniques to secure the right candidate?
I think it’s important in this environment that clients are open-minded on backgrounds as there is some really good talent out there coming into IR.
Because so much of the success of an IR person is down to personality, cultural fit within the organization and team dynamics, I don’t believe there is one ‘recruitment model’ that works for all. It’s completely subjective to each organization. And that’s largely because no two IR teams are the same, both in what they want to achieve and how they go about it – so companies need to tailor the recruitment process to their objectives.
I think it’s important that candidates meet the CFO or board member where IR would report into, because that will indicate how they manage with such exposure, pressure and managing communication both ways. That relationship is key because of the significant amount of time they will be working together.