We live in exciting times – just like last year

Amid political dramas, the pace of market change does not let up. But the Society is well on top of it all, as John Gollifer reports.

How quickly a year has gone. I recall also saying that 23 June 2016 may well end up being a seminal event that affects us for the rest of our lives. Now everything appears in turmoil, at least politically. Inevitably, however, there is a knock-on effect, including on us.

Meanwhile, at your Society, we characterised the financial year for 2016 as ‘further good progress’, perhaps a modest statement in our annual report at the AGM given where we are today. We have passed the 800 mark for membership. We have just concluded our biggest event of the first half of 2017 with another successful annual conference. This was built around understanding the all-important big picture and presenting the changing context that is exercising our IR minds. Thank you for your sterling support and the strong turnout. We really appreciate it.

As I have suggested before, some things you just can’t control. It is heartening to see you all continuing to support your Society in what are testing times. Indeed, our deputy treasurer concluded the financial report at the AGM with some salutary advice. This suggests not just opportunities but also undoubtedly some challenges, if not risks, on the horizon. In spite of this, what was so good about the annual conference was the overwhelming belief that we are witnessing the ascent of IR, that is, an ever increasing need for IR to address investor communications in the best possible way.

The efficacy of communication
The counter-trend to this is recognising that, while IR comes to the fore, the way we actually deliver our message, particularly in tough times, can inevitably be mixed. 

Evan Davis, our wonderfully authentic conference host, perhaps one of the finest commentators around today, has recently called into question the efficacy of all communications. His aptly entitled book, ‘Post-Truth’, published in May (see left), hits the nail on the head when he analyses communications and what we end up doing with them. A recommended summer read for all you aspiring communicators, not least any guardians of the truth and nothing but the truth! Let’s face it, no one said it was ever going to be easy, least of all for IR.

Where do we go from here? We’ve now had the same senior executive team in place for nearly five years. The team continues to work hard on your behalf and has been well complemented by the recent addition of Sophie Bennion (see opposite page). I think the secret is allowing the team to play to their strengths, while recognising we can always learn and keep improving as your professional body.  I hope that the recent refresh of the website is a good example. I’m sure that Laura, Rob and team would like to hear your feedback as we seek to offer ever more value for your membership of a great and growing Society.

Given our common purpose, let’s salute all you champions of the industry. These include our recently honoured Fellowship Award recipients, Gary Leibowitz and Evan Davis, both champions of IR in their own special ways. Importantly, run as we are by IR professionals for IR professionals, the IR Society expects to remain at the forefront of our industry by acting as a focal point for the IR profession. We will ensure that we have a voice where it matters with listed companies, the broader investment community, government, regulators, the media and even your bosses. In this way, we can stay as relevant as we can possibly be and not lose sight of who we are and what we can offer, no matter what the prevailing trends. A key part of this must be to further develop our profession in a way that works for our members and industry.

Consistency and direction
I think it’s fair to say that, more than ever, we need good leadership, at all levels. In a difficult operating environment, we need to be clear and consistent about our direction and in our execution. If we have purpose, everything we do becomes more sustainable and we can demonstrate that we’re in for the duration. To this end, professional development lies at the heart of a professional body like the IR Society. 

Our long-running comprehensive Certificate in IR (CIR) has few peers. Indeed, there are now well over 1,200 graduates of this programme. Increasingly, we see the CIR being adopted in other markets, from Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and, most recently, Latin America. This suggests some convergence around fairly broad principles of market behaviour in meeting the expectations of the investment community, our target audience. We recognise that IR should offer a clear path to further career development, and this is what the Society’s new Diploma in IR, a senior-level qualification, and the DELIVER (Developing future leaders through IR) programme aim to do. 

The Diploma will build on the success of the CIR, with more advanced options to be available in 2017. In considering the ethical element, given the Society’s recent introduction of a Code of Conduct for members, we expect senior IR practitioners to be fully tested. We believe that this should include the softer aspects, such as defining qualities of the best IROs, presentation skills and leadership. Coupled with activity-based learning of the DELIVER programme, the Society firmly believes that high potential IROs can take the next step up in their careers through timely exposure to captains of industry, the C-suite and collaborative peers in a highly participative, risk-free training environment.

In continuing to develop our professional development offering, the Society aims to raise the profile of the best people we have to offer the profession and industry more broadly. In doing so, the Society can play our part in leading the development of best practice in IR. In turn, we would expect you to champion our industry as you move into more senior roles and even beyond IR. All careers are personal journeys. When we think of professional development, we often think of continuous improvement (or a Continuous Professional Development process that we support) and a willingness to test yourself and stay at the top of your game for as long as possible. It does require time, commitment and staying-power. It also requires belief in yourself to manage your own career and get the right support. As I said, the world needs leaders, and IROs are in as good a position as any to assume these elevated positions. Onwards and upwards, all of you, we look forward to sharing your ascent to the top of IR and beyond!

Prove your mettle at the awards! 
Do look out for all the other things we are doing in the second half of 2017, not least in the lead-up to the always exciting annual Best Practice Awards dinner. 
These, of course, culminate in that very special night at the Tower of London on 21 November – where else would you want to be? I recently heard the Quoted Companies Alliance (QCA), say that there is no better time for SMEs to step up with the best annual report and website possible. This is where investors go and, given the disorder that we live in, now is the time to all prove your IR mettle by championing the five Cs of IR: commitment; clarity; consistency; credibility; and acting as the all-important conduit that your company and the market need now. 

In any event, we hope to see you all again soon. Let’s enjoy the wonderful British summer, something we still have, at least for the next few months, we hope! 

John Gollifer is general manager of the IR Society

Published 20 July, 2017

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