Isabelle Adjahi, vice president of IR and sustainable development at Lion Electric, the electric vehicle (EV) manufacturer, is no stranger to IR awards, having won multiple times with IR Magazine, including the prize for best IR officer at a small or mid-cap in 2022.
Adjahi added to her collection at this year’s CIRI annual conference in Toronto, receiving the CIRI Award for Excellence in Investor Relations, which is handed to individuals who have made an ‘outstanding contribution’ to the IR profession.
The award recognizes Adjahi’s 25-year IR career, spanning senior roles at Lion, WSP Global, Genviar and Axcan Pharma, during which time she has been consistently cited as a model of best practice.
‘I have grown up’
At the CIRI conference, Adjahi told IR Magazine she was ‘pleasantly surprised’ to receive the award for IR excellence. ‘I remember when I started in IR, 25 years ago, attending the conference, and some people were getting this award,’ she said. ‘And they looked so good to me and so out of reach. I feel I have grown up and now I’m one of them.’
Asked what she values most about the CIRI conference, Adjahi said it’s the connections you build with fellow IROs. ‘When you start in IR, you must attend the conference because that’s where you get all the information, all the new trends. It’s where you get to understand a lot of things,’ she said.
‘So it’s really about learning. Then, as you grow into the role, it’s about sharing, mentoring, being a speaker. But the best [thing is], it’s a network. You make friends. You connect with people, people you don’t know – you have an opportunity to connect with them and reach out to them.’
Copy your peers
New IROs should not be afraid to ‘copy’ their peers, added Adjahi. ‘I remember when I was working for my previous company, one of my CIRI counterparts was working for, supposedly, the competition,’ she said. ‘But we were connecting all the time and sharing. I don’t think any of us can succeed by being in our corners doing our own stuff. The network is huge in our profession.’
She also paid tribute to Yvette Lokker, CEO and president of CIRI, who is standing down after 10 years running the association. ‘Yvette is part of who we are, and she’s done a lot,’ Adjahi said. ‘So I’m sad to see her go [but] I’m really happy because that’s the best decision for her… I remember [IROs] were just people reading press releases when I started. And now we have a strategic role, and that’s thanks to organizations like CIRI.’
At this year’s CIRI conference, hot topics of discussion included ESG reporting, retail investors, avoiding burnout and artificial intelligence (AI). Adjahi described AI as ‘the buzzword this year’ and an area she is keen to learn more about.
Working with AI
‘How is it going to benefit us? Or should we be afraid of it?’ she asked. ‘I don’t think we should, actually. I think that, especially when you have a very small team, which I do now – there’s just two of us – it’s an addition to the team. I spend so much time doing the first draft, or trying to figure something out. But you can just ask the machine, and then put your strategic touch to it. So I don’t think we should [feel] threatened. And there is one thing the machine cannot replace: the relations part of investor relations.’
While AI holds great promise for IR, Adjahi’s more immediate concern is staying close to investors and analysts amid a tough period for EV companies, with the sector experiencing a major sell-off over the last two years. It’s at times like this, she said, that good IR really shows its worth.
‘I remember the very first [IR award] I got was when I was at a company called Axcan Pharma, and everything had gone bad: the numbers, the CEO retired, we missed a clinical study,’ she said. ‘But that’s the year I got the award. And for me, that’s exactly what investor relations should be. If it’s not going well, that’s when you need to be out there. That’s when you go to the Street to explain your plan of how you’re going to mitigate what’s happening.’