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Diploma (2) - Back to first principles

Former IR Society chair Sue Scholes sets out the background to the launch of the DIR.

The Diploma in IR (DIR) may only have started to fall into shape recently, but it builds on an idea which has been around for some time. Many of us have come into IR from other disciplines, in which we had obtained professional qualifications while developing our experience, thereby becoming ‘qualified’. So the concept isn’t new; what’s different is that the IR profession has now matured sufficiently to support a similar process of progression. And I think that makes this a very exciting time for all of us. Our aspiration? We’d like to think that, in 10 years’ time, it will be hard to imagine that the DIR never existed – exactly as we think about the CIR now.

Of course, the Diploma couldn’t have been contemplated if it hadn’t been for the success of the Certificate in IR. The CIR is over 10 years old now and is recognised as the way of demonstrating competence in IR – and not just in the UK. Successful candidates regularly ask us what’s next, but to date it’s been difficult to give a definitive answer. Since 2013, we have had the DELIVER leadership programme, but this is best suited for those reaching the pinnacles of our profession. So the Diploma is designed to fill this gap, providing a logical and challenging progression for those creating a career in investor relations.

We’ve been back to first principles when designing our newest qualification and have looked at the competencies required for a successful career in IR. We have grouped them under five headings: technical; communications; personal; strategic; and leadership. For each competency, we have then made an assessment of the knowledge and experience required at four levels in a typical IR career. This has then given us a clear guide to the subjects and level of expertise we should expect from candidates sitting the new Diploma. It’s also been a good reminder of the diverse range of skills required to be successful in our profession. We’ve had extensive discussions about how best to examine them and how to include relevant content from associated professions. As a result, you’ll see that the DIR content clearly builds on the requirements of the CIR; although the exam format is very different, appropriate to the level being examined.

Ethical considerations
We’re also, for the first time, specifically addressing the type of behaviour we expect from our members. Unlike most similar professional associations, the IR Society has not previously had a Code of Conduct for its members. Given the increased maturity of our profession and our Society, the board has plans to address this anomaly over the next few months. And as a result, DIR candidates will face compulsory questions on handling tricky ethical situations. I believe this can only add to the credibility of the qualification and the Society itself.

The Diploma is somewhat of a step into the unknown: the IR Society has not offered anything quite like this before. So we are proceeding cautiously, running a pilot programme in Autumn 2016. Our small band of volunteers will go through the entire process – from application, to revision sessions, to examinations and final qualification process – and will report back; on what worked and on what they think we need to improve. We are very grateful to them – and are working feverishly behind the scenes to stay a step ahead of them!

It’s taken a lot of brainstorming and hard work to get us to this stage and I’d like to thank all those who have helped, particularly Ross Hawley, Dr Alex Money, Claire Lavery, Jennifer Bargrove, the Coleman Street team and the other Education committee members. We are hoping to launch the Diploma in earnest in 2017 – watch out for further details.

Published: 7 October, 2016