IR is a curious role. It is highly specialised; by definition there are a small number of roles (the DAX 30 will not require more than 30 Heads of IR); it’s also a very visible position, internally and externally. But importantly, supply and demand for the IR role is something of a bellwether for the economy. It also shines a spotlight on key trends in how companies access capital.
IR IN DEMAND
Currently Fidelio sees an increase in demand for IR professionals reflecting the following key trends:
New Entrants: As growth returns to major economies following the economic nosedive of the pandemic, we are also seeing a number of companies turn to the capital markets in the form of an IPO or indeed a SPAC (Special Purpose Acquisition Company). Although companies preparing for a listing often think about IR late in the day, conventional wisdom recognises the benefit of IR expertise ahead of the transaction, both in terms of preparing the market and of preparing Management.
Activism: While there was a lull in activism during the pandemic, it is now back with a vengeance. Obviously, activism takes many forms and Fidelio has previously flagged the benefits of an experienced IR Director with an ear to the ground who can keep Management and the Board alert to changes in the register and also what the market is thinking. This important role was highlighted in a recent Fidelio Roundtable “Wirecard: Implications for Boards” which demonstrated clearly the risks of not hearing what the market is saying.
ESG: Much has been written on the role of ESG in accessing capital. The shift of investment into companies and assets with ESG credentials has been rapid. Many Boards and Management teams struggle with embedding ESG into the core business, reporting progress made and reframing the shareholder base and target investor universe in ESG terms. With IR teams now dedicating significant resource to ESG, an effective IR Director will be a great asset to Board and Management in navigating the complexity of ESG, as well as identifying long-term investors.
Diversity: Corporates are being held to account on diversity at Board and Executive level. Indeed, the UK’s Hampton-Alexander Review collated data on gender diversity on the Executive Committee level and at Direct Report level which in many companies will include the IR Director role. Germany too has recently introduced legislation that the Management Board of major listed companies should include at least one woman. While it is less common for the IR Director to sit on the Management Board, the IR role is highly visible and Fidelio has previously explored the outsized benefit of diverse appointments in terms of gender and ethnicity in the IR role. However our research suggests that currently only around one quarter of Heads of IR in the FTSE100 are women, below the average proportion of combined Executive Committee and Direct Reports who are women. Hence, a very real focus in current IR appointments is diversity.
ACCESS TO CAPITAL
Growth often hinges on access to capital. IR can play a key role. Despite this many Board Members of listed companies are surprisingly “uncurious” about who occupies the role and the effectiveness of the function. Moreover, good IR makes a disproportionate contribution to supporting valuation in a crisis but, like an insurance policy, that is really not the time to find out the IR capability is missing or inadequate.
If you are a Board Member, Executive, or IR professional and interested in strengthening your IR capability, please contact please contact Mark Cumberlege at firstname.lastname@example.org.