Tom Becktold: Growing in parallel

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

As IR Magazine celebrates its silver anniversary, it’s especially meaningful for me to look back 25 years: my career with Business Wire started back in 1988 at the same time IR Magazine was launched.

In today’s ever-evolving technology environment, it’s striking that we’ve been in a constant state of change and evolution as a profession and industry.

Tom BecktoldIn 1988 I walked into my new job as an editor for Business Wire, wowed by the state-of-the-art technology at my fingertips: a Compaq computer (amber screen), custom editorial software (called Red) and a wire room with Dow Jones, Reuters and Business Wire streaming reams of ticker tape.

That same year, IR Magazine seized the opportunity to help inform and report on an industry whose sophistication and impact on capital markets were becoming increasingly evident. The foundations of IR had been established a generation earlier, with the Texas Gulf Sulphur case in 1966.

That landmark case defined materiality – whether a reasonable person would believe certain information to be relevant to the price of a stock – and disclosure, where insiders with knowledge of material information could not act upon it until it was disseminated to the point that the public had a reasonable opportunity to do the same.

IR Magazine gathered thought leadership from IROs, the SEC, NIRI, buy-side and sell-side analysts and innovators (like, ahem, Business Wire) to provide context to change.

Back in 1988, the mechanics of IR were time-consuming: those faxed-in earnings tables were often blurry, so comparing tables over the phone with clients was commonplace.

In response, we built secure digital interfaces to end the need to rekey data and free up IRO time to focus on what happens after disclosure.

IR Magazine gathered together thought leaders to share their collective knowledge. Articles on new tools and tactics, annual reports, analyst meetings, proxy voting, disclosure and corporate governance helped inform the profession and keep us abreast of the opportunities and risks we all faced.

With the SEC’s adoption of Reg FD in August 2000, IROs became familiar with the term ‘full and fair disclosure’. I was by then a vice president at Business Wire, and we took the lead in providing a level playing field for all market participants by ending the then industry-standard 15-minute lead news organizations had on receiving press releases.

Now websites and financial databases would have equal access to material news, and IROs could speak to all audiences at the same time – yet again, a brave new world that called for the expertise and analysis IR Magazine would gather.

Tom Becktold is senior vice president of marketing at Business Wire.

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