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The important issues facing IR professionals


In an interview in Informed 88, our policy committee chairman Emma Burdett outlines the priorities for the committee over the next year and explains the Society’s role in policy matters.

What role does the IR Society play in policy matters?
Significant changes to the corporate access market and likely changes to the way equity research is paid for are two of the biggest issues creating waves within the IR profession currently. Both stem from European inspired changes to the MiFID ll regime, but are backed by the FCA. We anticipate that changes to the research market in particular will create a substantial move in the way companies are followed and it looks likely to result in a considerable increase in independent research houses and more variety in terms of research written. In many ways this will be a positive, but it will intensify the importance of good IR and communicating your equity growth story well. This correlates well with the rise in stature of the IR profession and the growing influence within the executive board.
Other changes which are impacting are the growing number of stakeholders IR professionals are being required to engage with, adding significantly to time pressures. And the global trend of multi-faceted communication – video, social, technological changes – creates the usual mixture of opportunities and challenges.

What role does the IR Society play in policy matters?
There are few voices which represent listed UK corporates as a group. The IR Society is one of the key ones and the Policy Committee is particularly vocal around regulatory and policy matters. Together with the 100 Group we work hard to ensure that the views of corporates are fully expressed and clearly articulated. We respond to the many consultations in areas around IR, markets, policy, regulation, where we assess there are clear views to be heard. We work in close cooperation with other associations and regulators and engage in debate with them to ensure corporates have a strong voice at the table. 

What are the IR Society’s priorities for 2016?
In terms of policy and regulation, we are aiming to continue to update members on how the changes to research are impacting them, what the opportunities are and where we think they should be focusing their efforts. We anticipate the debate will move on around whether or not to continue with IMS statements or reduce to two reports a year – much will depend on the industry where companies operate. We are also committed to helping companies improve the engagement process around AGMs and voting procedures and we are working hard with other associations to find the right way to move this forwards.

If you had a magic wand, what would you wish for?
Many things! But for our members, the one thing we believe would make the most significant change (and which is never likely to happen!) is if all investors pursued a long-term and more selective approach to investment.
This would allow management teams to focus on strategy not just tactics; it would ensure a more committed shareholder base; constructive engagement would add much more value and ultimately we believe shareholders of all sizes – institutional and individual – would reap the benefits. 

What will the IR profession look like in five years’ time?
I am constantly amazed by the substantial growth in stature the IR profession has developed over the last 10 years and I expect the pace of progression to continue over the next five years. As an industry we are welcoming more highly-skilled and qualified communicators; IR is playing a critical role in M&A and strategy development; at the same time the role is becoming increasingly multi-faceted  – now including finance, governance, comms and regulation.
As the changes within investment banking continue to impact, we expect the traditional reliance on the corporate broker will also diminish, moving UK-listed companies towards the European model and towards stronger, better-resourced internal IR teams and advisers.

Emma Burdett is head of the IR practice at Maitland, a financial and corporate communications consultancy. She is currently a board director and chair of the policy committee at the IR Society.

Published: 19 October, 2015