Later this year, the IR Society will reveal the details of a new qualification for senior members of the IR profession – the Diploma in Investor Relations (DIR). This new exam-based qualification will sit above the well-regarded Certificate in Investor Relations (CIR), which provides a professional threshold for those entering the IR industry.
Ross Hawley, chair of the IR Society’s education committee, explains the importance of this latest initiative of the IR Society and what it means for the IR professional and for careers in the IR industry.
I believe that the proposed Diploma in Investor Relations is a very significant milestone in the maturing of the IR Society’s education offering. As we have been designing the diploma course structure and content, we have kept front of mind three key elements: that this is an opportunity to design from scratch what has the potential to become an internationally recognised and respected professional qualification; and the context and framework it provides for the IR Society’s advanced courses. Finally, that it should be targeted at an IRO or service provider with a minimum of three to five years relevant experience and ready to take a senior team position or a first IR leadership role.
For the IR Society programme, the course has been designed to fill the gap between the highly successful foundation level Certificate in IR (CIR) and the senior DELIVER leadership programme. As part of this, it helps answer the ‘what next’ question for the now 1000+ CIR graduates looking for evidence of further career progression. If well received and fit for purpose, it has the potential to become the gold standard for the investor relations professional in a number of major financial markets.
The Diploma will also provide a framework for our growing number of advanced courses, which have doubled over the past 18 months. These cover areas such as financial modelling and strategic financial PR, as well as more specialist areas such as debt IR and corporate sustainability.
We have also for the first time reached out to a number of other professional services societies to provide access to specialist course content from their development programmes which will be of particular relevance to an investor relations professional.
This proposed ‘code sharing’ should enable an IR Society member to broaden their knowledge and understanding of relevant disciplines such as PR, treasury, company secretarial or corporate governance – all of which are key to developing the understanding essential for an effective head of IR – and courses we would struggle to offer ourselves.
Piloting our way to a success
For the successful Diploma candidate, we have been clear that this should be seen as a testing qualification, and one which is an excellent way to evidence a breadth of skills and understanding both for their existing, and any prospective, employer or headhunter. Importantly, it will help mitigate the frustrating catch-22 within many job descriptions of the requirement for ‘previous head of IR experience’, by providing an alternative but still effective way of demonstrating capability for such a role.
Within its remit, the Diploma will also fulfil a growing demand for well-defined and examinable continuous development, especially for the increasingly experienced IRO team member. Furthermore, for candidates who have pursued careers in adjacent disciplines such as corporate broking, financial PR or IR service providers, they will benefit from the credibility the Diploma offers through being able to evidence their own understanding of their client base.
The pilot programme this Autumn should help test out various aspects of the programme, from code-sharing, to the examination format, and new course topics including ethics training. In addition, our experience from the DELIVER course is that the benefits for an IRO of developing an informal network of experienced peers are considerable – whether for advice in unusual situations, to news as to potential job opportunities.
In conclusion, the Diploma team has spent the past 12 months working on building something which each wished had been available when they were at this key stage in their IR careers. We all have the aspiration that this will become the standard for companies looking to hire a senior IRO or head of IR; and recognised by head hunters, in the way the CIR has become the standard for those entering the profession.
Published: 7 October, 2016