Awards and crisis as CIRI convenes in Whistler

Jun 03, 2013
<p>Annual conference draws Canada&rsquo;s IR community to the mountains</p>

The world knows Whistler, British Columbia as the host city for the 2010 Winter Olympics. The IR world knows it for the 26th annual CIRI conference, taking place here today and tomorrow.

More than 23 exhibitors and 223 participants had arrived in the mountains by the end of the weekend, many coming early to take advantage of the stunning location.

That’s fewer than last year’s 265 attendees in Montreal, and perhaps fewer than CIRI hoped for considering Whistler’s proximity to Vancouver and that city’s legions of junior mining companies. But it’s not surprising given a hectic market for those same companies, with the S&P/TSX Venture Composite Index down more than 20 percent year to date and barely off its April low. 

Whistler, BC
View from your correspondent's room. Tough job. 

Yvette Lokker, at her first CIRI conference as CEO, and looking like she’s enjoying herself even more than when she organized these events as head of professional development, revealed next year’s conference’s place and date: Ottawa, June 15-17, 2014.

Lokker also announced this year’s award winners: Melanie McCreath, director of compliance and communications for Search Minerals, a Vancouver micro-cap, was presented with the Belle Mulligan scholarship for the CIRI/Ivey investor relations certification program; Richard Downey, VP of investor and corporate relations at Agrium, received the Belle Mulligan award for leadership in IR after prevailing against Jana Partners in a protracted and nasty proxy battle; and Colleen Vancha, a staunch CIRI volunteer who finished up as head of IR and corporate affairs at Saskatchewan’s Viterra in 2011 and now runs Creative Advantage Consulting, got CIRI’s award for excellence in IR.

Highs & lows

The conference kicked off with a keynote speech by Ellis Jacob, CEO of Cineplex Entertainment, who, when asked the reason for Cineplex’s numerous awards for IR, answered simply, ‘Pat,’ referring to his VP of communications and IR, Pat Marshall. Marshall got her own round of applause when it was revealed she had earlier won CIRI Ontario’s award for IR professional of the year.

Pat Marshall and Ellis Jacob, Cineplex Entertainment
Pat Marshall and Ellis Jacob from Cineplex Entertainment

In the morning’s other general session, Jeff Ansell, a former reporter and now a consultant specializing in crisis communications, kept his audience riveted with videoed examples of companies stumbling, ranging from Target’s political contribution upset to RBC responding to branch closings. ‘Too many companies, too many people, become media roadkill every day,’ Ansell warned. 

The serious part of today’s program was capped by a ‘conversation with the Street’, moderated by Corbin Perception Group’s Rebecca Corbin.

‘IROs tell us the sell side is dead or dying. But our research shows it is still a vital cog in the investment machinery,’ led off Corbin.

Andrew Sweeney, VP at Phillips Hager & North Investment Management, confirmed that thesis, saying, ‘Every year I hear the buy side is doing all its own internal research. But every year we send millions and millions of dollars to the sell side in commissions… It’s one of the biggest sources of information on companies.’

Though bolstered by that buy-side show of support, Paul Quinn, paper and forest products analyst with RBC Capital Markets, took aim at the investment community, which, he said, ‘is moving toward a shorter time frame on the investment side, and a younger less experienced crowd.’

AJ Grewal, a senior analyst at the British Columbia Investment Management Corporation (bcIMC), one of Canada’s biggest institutional investors, left the crowd with a simple credo: ‘Be up front. Don’t leave it to our own imagination.’

With that encouragement, the audience of IROs went to get ready for their next challenge: this evening’s superhero party. Here in BC’s Coast Mountain Range, it’s up, up and away. 

Jeff Ansell
Jeff Ansell: too much roadkill

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