Reflections on a quarter-century of IR to mark IR Magazine's silver anniversary
The world of financial services and capital raising has been my life for nearly 40 years. Fresh-faced from school to a dealing desk,
I was soon introduced to the huge array of areas in which IROs are supposed to be experts, from how capital markets work to corporate law, communications and accounting treatments.
We all came into IR from different angles. Today IROs have backgrounds in treasury, on the sell side, in marketing, corporate communications, media and many other fields. I suspect most of us wound up in IR more by accident than design.
For me, starting at an investment bank was followed by a move to The Economist, 20 years at the Financial Times, and thence to PR Newswire.
All but two of my FT years were spent as an expat. Being the local man for the FT in Singapore was always interesting, with then prime minister Goh in the habit of meeting international business media types every year.
Meetings were held in his office, with an open door in the corner. Behind that door? Why, senior minister and ex-premier Lee Kwan Yew, keeping tabs on the country’s economic development.
In the early 1990s I was in the US, working to provide fund managers with tools for investment accounting and asset allocation. Much of the news and data was delivered on magnetic tapes or even punch tape, and trading was manual – which helps put today’s excitement around social media, short-termism and high-frequency trading into context.
The sheer geography of IR has changed during my time. In 2001 I was asked by PR Newswire to moderate a two-day IR course in China for the Shanghai Stock Exchange. The punters duly arrived, all in their early 20s. None apparently spoke English, so we had simultaneous translation.
I asked the interpreters how they would translate ‘investor relations’ and they asked what it was. Together we came up with tou zi zhe guan xi, which seems to have stuck.
Fast-forward a few years to other IR events in China, including IR Magazine’s first mainland China conference in 2002, and attendees were now middle managers in their 30s. From total basics we had moved to exotic discussions on how to guide analysts, business model transparency and roadshow organization. Scarily fast progress.
So much fun to remember: being carpeted by the Financial Services Authority over my blog post on ‘netting off’ disclosure; arguing at a conference against hedge fund Dawnay Day for disclosure of contracts for difference positions (the good guys won).
Congratulations to IR Magazine on reaching its 25th birthday. Here’s to the next 25 years!
Mark Hynes is principal of UK-based IR consultancy Transparency Matters.