Heather McGregor: Communicating excellence

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

Let’s start with a confession: I am so old that the launch of my professional IR career nearly coincided with that of IR Magazine.

In 1987, on the weekend of the southern UK’s great storm, I flew to Australia to take up an IRO position at a small biotechnology company.

Heather McGregorThe day after I arrived, the world’s stock markets collapsed. Where do you go from there? Back onto a plane, as it turned out – not because I lost my job, but because the institutional investors with deep pockets and long-term thinking were in the northern hemisphere, not the southern.

The company rapidly relocated its head office and its listing to London; 25 years after I took up the job, its CEO is retired and managing his own investments from his house (with its pool, gym, home cinema, tennis court and multiple acres) in Surrey.

And where am I? In central London running an executive search company that has been responsible for many high-profile IR appointments over the years. This year it celebrates its 30th birthday. I joined 12 years ago in 2000, when IR was not a deep pool of talent, nor a source of many of our assignments.

Between the Australian IRO job and Taylor Bennett I had earned an MBA and spent eight years as a stock analyst, and I knew how critical to a company’s reputation a good investor relations function was. I was determined to find the best people for the roles we handled, and to raise IR’s profile.

In those early years I wrote an advice column for IR Magazine, and after it ended we printed a compilation of the pieces. Looking back now, I am amazed at how many of the questions are still current.

What do I do if my CFO refuses to meet hedge funds? How do I deal with private shareholders? How best to use my corporate broker? IR Magazine’s think tanks and awards were and continue to be sources of intelligence and opportunities to build a network.

I still have the blue velvet dress I had made for the 2002 UK awards, complete with a business card holder sewn into the hem.

Today I am proud of the IR function and those who serve it. Many distinguished business leaders were responsible for IR at some point in their career: Sue Clark at SABMiller, Andrew Griffith at BSkyB and David Brundish at Vodafone.

Like almost everyone I know who works in IR, I love my job and hope to be doing it for a while yet – perhaps not another 25 years, but certainly another 10.

To celebrate IR Magazine’s 25th anniversary, the first 25 readers to email Heather McGregor at hmg@taylorbennett.com will be sent a copy of the compilation of her IR Magazine advice columns.

Heather McGregor is majority shareholder and managing director of Taylor Bennett.

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