A massive storm plowing across North America yesterday threatened the IR Magazine Canada Awards. But as our host, the CBC’s Amanda Lang, joked, ‘snowmageddon’ was definitely ‘snoverkill’. While a handful of guests were stuck in Chicago, among other snowbound cities, a crowd of nearly 400 braved Toronto’s snow sprinkle to celebrate at our black-tie gala.
First up, Elena Cherney, editor of The Globe and Mail’s Report on Business. Following tradition, she announced the Globe’s own subset of IR honours, the Dubious Achievements Awards, or the Dubies, including:
- The Inception award for former BP CEO Tony Hayward, because he must have been dreaming when he thought that saying, ‘I’d like my life back,’ was good PR after the Gulf oil spill.
- Best art direction for The Gap and their ‘now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t new logo’.
- Best extras in a scene not requiring extras for Netflix Canada, which stocked a public launch event in downtown Toronto with ‘actors pretending to be regular people who happened to be really, really enthusiastic about a new video service that wasn’t even yet available.’
- Best ensemble cast in a hapless tragicomedy for Greece, Ireland and Portugal: ‘The problem was they all thought their economies were leading players in a Hollywood action blockbuster, but they were actually starring in a depressing European movie. And those never end well,’ Cherney joked.
Lang, who has hosted the event for several years, sparkled and amused as always. To wit: ‘Dodd-Frank promises to change a lot about how things get done on Wall Street. One of the toughest rules: bankers can still buy politicians, but now they have to get a receipt.’
Lang proposed a special rule for Goldman Sachs in case it’s tempted to sell clients a product its bankers expect to fail: the spandex rule, inspired by running outfits: ‘Just because you can get into it does not mean you should.’
George Kestevan from Sterling Resources, on picking up the award for best IR by a TSX Venture Exchange listed company, said he had told his management team Sterling’s chances of winning were slim to none because of the competition it was up against. ‘These are fantastic firms,’ he announced. ‘Actually I own shares in two of the other three.’
Kestevan described how his fellow guests at the awards had asked how many people Sterling had in IR. He responded 23. How many employees? 18. They said his maths must be out. ‘Well, 18 employees and five board members make one hell of an IR team, and that’s what this award represents so I’m sharing it with them,’ he concluded.
TD Bank’s Colleen Johnston was on hand to pick up the award for best IR by a CFO at a mega-cap company, one of five that TD garnered. She gave credit to all the groups that contribute to IR – the IR department plus the finance group, the legal team and the corporate and public affairs group. ‘We at TD made the strategic decision about five years ago to make IR a competitive advantage for the bank. Our investors really are our lifeblood. They’re so important to a growing organisation.’
David Garofalo from HudBay Minerals, one of the winners of best IR by a CEO, had won best IR by a CFO the last two years in a row when he was at Agnico-Eagle Gold. He thanked his VP of IR, John Vincic, the tallest IRO he knows: ‘When he stands beside me he makes me look like a Smurf, which makes me seem more approachable,’ he quipped.
Tom Enright, CIRI’s CEO, as always made a great entrance. He bounded onto the stage wearing a Team Canada hockey jersey with ‘CIRI’ and the number five on the back to highlight CIRI’s move into advocacy: this week the organisation wrote to securities regulators asking them to lower Canada’s ownership disclosure threshold for investors from 10 per cent to 5 per cent, in line with the rest of the world.
Didier Filion from Cascades, who took home last year’s small-cap grand prix and best IRO in 2009, was again named best small-cap IRO. He took advantage of the spotlight to mention Cascades’ nomination, but not victory, in the CSR category: ‘I know Suncor is doing a great job but I really think Cascades deserves that one,’ he said with a grin.
Referring to John Rogers, this year’s lifetime achievement winner, who had earlier given a moving speech about the satisfaction – and no regrets – of a much admired career in IR, Filion said, ‘I know I’m only 31, but I’ll be here for a lifetime achievement award. You’ll see.’
‘And the award for confidence goes to…’ Lang laughed about the popular young Quebec IRO.