Every few weeks or so I have the opportunity to meet with people who are in the formative stages of their career and want to get into investor relations. I also have two people I mentor, whom I meet with every few months.
I started doing this because I always think it is important to ‘do the right thing’ and to help advance our profession. Now I realise that I learn more from them than they do from me. They come from all walks of life: the Street, law, finance and marketing. These young men and women – and in my case they are women I have been meeting with – are smart, well educated and very motivated. This bodes very well for the IR profession.
20 or even 10 years ago, IR was not nearly as sophisticated as it is now. As the financial markets become more sophisticated, the regulatory environment becomes more stringent. And as information is available on a second-by-second basis, IROs have to be on their toes all of the time.
Those of us who have been lucky enough to be around that long have been able to respond and elevate IR and make the profession what it is today – that of a trusted strategic adviser. But it also makes it harder for those not in IR to get in. The myriad of skills and the knowledge one needs to be an effective IR person are not easily packaged into training courses, even when they are available.
IR is one of the coolest professions on the planet. We get to deal with some of the most interesting, smartest people around; we have an ability to add true strategic value. The feeling I get when I am about to launch an earnings call – the CEO and CFO ready, and the countdown to go live starting – is, in my opinion, unsurpassed in the business world.
That’s why I think we owe it to our profession to all mentor a person or two. These people are going to help advance IR to the next level. I also figure it is an insurance policy: one of these days, the students will surpass the mentor, and I want them to return the favour!
Janet Craig is an experienced investor relations officer, having spent the last 15 years working in publicly traded companies, including heading up investor relations at Nortel Networks and ATI Technologies.