The times they are a-changin’

Reflections on a quarter-century of IR from Tom Enright to mark IR Magazine's silver anniversary

I’m pretty sure Bob Dylan didn’t have IR in mind when he released this song back in 1964, but the title certainly applies to the evolution of IR over the past 25 years. I first heard the term ‘investor relations’ in the early 1980s while working at Toronto Stock Exchange (TSE). I was researching information requirements for TSE-listed firms, which led me to NIRI and a small number of Canadian IROs who were members of the NIRI Eastern Canada chapter.

The first big change – CIRI is born: The growth in the number of Canadian IROs joining NIRI Eastern Canada throughout the 1980s was significant and by 1992 represented such a critical mass that it made sense to form a Canadian IR association: CIRI. It launched its first annual conference, as NIRI Canada, 25 years ago, just as IR Magazine began publishing, and has held a conference every year since (bar one).

The next big change – IR excellence recognized: The early years of CIRI also brought the first recognition of outstanding achievement in IR. CIRI introduced the award for excellence in IR and has awarded this prestigious honor 24 times to date. IR Magazine also introduced a significant awards program in 1998 to recognize excellence in Canadian IR: the must-attend (and always fun) IR Magazine Awards – Canada. In memory of Belle Mulligan (one of the pioneers of IR in Canada) the Belle Mulligan Award for Leadership in Investor Relations was introduced by CIRI in 2010.

The current big change – raising the stature of IR in Canada: In 1997 the Strategic Investor Relations Management Executive Program was launched by the Richard Ivey School of Business and CIRI and continued through 2004, and the following year IR Magazine held its first Canada Think Tank series of educational programs. These invitation-only sessions provided an exchange of dialogue and expertise among participants at the more senior levels of IR.

By now IR in Canada had evolved to the point where a professional designation was needed so in September 2011 CIRI and Ivey launched the Certified Professional in Investor Relations (CPIR) program. Having completed the 10-month classwork and passed the exam, the first graduates of this program have been awarded the CPIR designation.

Future big changes: The evolution of IR also required CIRI to be the voice of IR in Canada and proactively advocate on issues important to IR and the capital markets; while these efforts have been running for the past three years, there is still much to do. Beginning in 2013, the new CIRI president & CEO, Yvette Lokker, will help IR to evolve even further. To paraphrase Mr Dylan, it appears the times are still a-changin’.

Tom Enright is the outgoing CEO of CIRI and former deputy chairman and CEO of CNW Group.

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