Fidelio Partners and Citi Depositary Receipt Services co-hosted an IR Roundtable Breakfast in Frankfurt before Christmas. This was the third in a pan-European roadshow of breakfasts across European finance centres. The breakfast, titled: “The IRO is a Strategic Advisor to the Board – True or False”, was attended by leading German IR Directors who shared their views on the value the IR function brings. The discussion was moderated by Gillian Karran-Cumberlege, founder of Fidelio Partners, who enjoyed a successful career in IR with Dresdner Bank, UBS and Volkswagen. Despite the very miserable December morning, we had a combined market cap exceeding €40bln around the table from a range of sectors, with DIRK, the Association of Investor Relations in Germany, also represented.
Fidelio is a leading Board Development and Executive Search company with a deep expertise in IR senior roles. As we conduct searches for senior IR Directors and also Board Directors, we are frequently addressing the question: what does best practice IR look like and how is IR evolving? What should the Board look for in an IR Director and what should the Board expect from IR?
The discussion was highly constructive – acknowledging that the IR role varies across different markets and making some refreshing points on how IR can increase its relevance for the Board. Some of the highlights included:
- A general perception that the IR role is better understood in the Anglo-Saxon market.
- German teams may be bigger than those in the UK but responsibilities are typically greater, including a range of activities such as the AGM and the Annual Report. In the UK these do not always sit within the IR function.
- The German IROs felt under considerable time pressure and argued that this constrained their ability to assume a more strategic role.
- The IROs agreed that the focus on governance created an opportunity for IR. However, the German two-tier Board system has problematic grey areas for both the Chairman of the Supervisory Board and the IR Officer.
- While German IROs were cautious about the value of strategic IR, they did identify a contribution that IR can make which is critical for the Board and which we had not explored at previous breakfasts. IR Directors can make a significant contribution to corporate culture through their role of articulating the equity story internally and externally. Consistency of message across stakeholder groups is critical.
The Frankfurt event was the third in the series of Strategic IR roadshows co-hosted by Fidelio and Citi Depositary Receipts and followed on from those held in London and Paris earlier this year.
At the London breakfast, it was recognised that whether the IRO was a strategic advisor to the Board depends on both the Boardroom personalities and the company’s stage of development. It was argued formal participation at Board Meetings was of secondary importance to a strong professional relationship with the Board and in particular the Chairman. The main value of IR was seen to be the ability to engage with capital markets in a more professional and responsive manner, which in itself creates opportunity.
The Paris breakfast was very reflective of the outcome of the London breakfast but with a greater focus on governance and proxy solicitation issues which were clearly uppermost of the IR agenda.
The focus of the Frankfurt IR breakfast on culture is an important development. Regulators and Boards are giving considerable thought to the question of ensuring a healthy and vibrant corporate culture. If IR can make a significant contribution here, it will certainly strengthen the standing of IR in the eyes of the Board. And importantly by strengthening the culture, IR is also underpinning valuation.
FIDELIO UPCOMING IR EVENTS
- Fidelio to speak on strategic IR at IR Club conference in Frankfurt, 27th January 2016. For more details, click here.
- Fidelio co-host “Die Frauenquote” – And other routes to Board Diversity in London, 26th January 2016. Please click here for further details.
For more information on the events above, please contact Luke Main.
About Fidelio Partners
Fidelio is a Board Development and Executive Search consultancy. We have a deep understanding of shareholders, stakeholders and valuation which underpins our Executive Search Practice. Our clients benefit from Fidelio’s functional expertise in Governance, Finance, Strategy and Communication and our ability to source diverse world-class talent across these functions. Fidelio has an outstanding capability in IR Executive Search. Fidelio operates internationally from London and our talented, highly qualified in-house research capability includes fluent German, Italian, Spanish, Mandarin and Cantonese speakers.