With today’s IR workload often including corporate access, sustainability and more – all while team sizes largely remain unchanged – ‘AI [artificial intelligence] can be a real accelerator for resource-constrained teams that want to be best in class,’ according to James Tickner, global head of product for IR Intelligence at Nasdaq.
These tools ‘can potentially scale what a single person or small team of IR professionals can achieve,’ he explains, ‘whether that is tracking events for a wider peer set or creating more personalized investor marketing.’
Tickner says IR professionals should view such tools along the lines of a digital ‘co-pilot.’ While clearly beneficial, they still require human oversight. He has also heard people in the industry describe generative AI as similar to having an intern to complete certain tasks. ‘The requirement for oversight and input from human experts is still there, but it significantly cuts down the time needed to complete those tasks.’
While the IR profession has perhaps been a hesitant adopter of tech in the past – either because of regulatory concerns or the tools available still require too much of that human input – Tickner says the IR community appears ‘cautiously optimistic’ about the opportunities offered by AI.
A global spotlight on AI
Looking at the themes from the profession’s big conferences, it’s clear that AI is under the IR spotlight.
Panelists from NIRI to DIRK conferences discussed the way IR professionals can use the technology today and how it might evolve in the near-term. In addition, panelists spoke to the challenges companies are grappling with when it comes to AI and the regulation IROs should keep in mind.
On the one hand, companies need to keep abreast of regulation. The EU is already paving the way, having set its own AI Intelligence Act regulation in motion. Tickner notes the US has published non-binding practical guidelines on implementing AI for businesses through both the AI Risk Management Framework and the Blueprint for an AI bill of rights. Elsewhere in the world, regulation continues to evolve with some countries considering adapting the EU draft proposals.
For now, at least, the onus is very much on companies to make sure that they use these tools responsibly – and have checks in place around the data that goes into AI systems as well as what’s shared as a result.
Having talked about AI in a popular presentation at NIRI 2023 in Chicago, Ticker says the general feeling is that the toolset for professional domains such as IR needs to evolve further. Still, he says ‘IROs see a big opportunity here. And some risks too.’
Outside of regulation, challenges around the use of AI in IR today largely fall into two buckets, he continues. One contains the idea of trust. ‘This is about the accuracy of information,’ Tickner says. ‘People hear a lot about these models ‘hallucinating’ or inventing facts. That is, of course, very risky and potentially damaging.’
Then there are IP considerations and data privacy. You have to ask: ‘what are you exposing by entering prompts into one of these tools? Who owns the content that is then produced?’ he notes.
These are the challenges that companies and IR teams will have to grapple with if these tools are to move forward and be promoted from co-pilot status.
A more intelligent intelligence
While today’s offerings might be likened to a co-pilot and produce a draft or summary that, Tickner says, could bring you 60 percent to 70 percent of the way to a finished product, overcoming the challenges around data privacy and ownership will allow the toolset of the future to deliver something that goes much deeper – and has the potential to become an IR essential.
‘Once you reach the point of having access to private data and subject matter expertise, you have a much more powerful proposition for your community,’ Tickner says.
These tools of the future will have been fine-tuned and trained by expert teams – with the right controls in place around data privacy – and ‘wrapped in a user experience that fits very much with the IR profession,’ he adds.
A low-risk taste of AI
Coming back to the tools of today, Tickner says IROs thinking of dipping their toes into AI should try something that feels comfortable, manageable and easy to control, stressing the fact that if you’re not happy with the results, there’s no need to put it out there.
‘The advice I'd give today would be to further your understanding of both the opportunities and the risks by using AI in some fairly low-risk situations,’ he says, ‘whether that's a first draft, a meeting follow-up, summarizing some publicly available content or producing an AI-generated language or images to help tell your story.’
So far in 2023, AI is among three primary drivers of change. Nasdaq IR Intelligence dives deeper into the other two drivers, dynamic markets and ESG disclosure here.
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