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Sep 29, 2022

Desperately seeking IROs: Inside today’s investor relations job market

A tight job market driven by emboldened candidates is a post-pandemic reality for many professions – and IR is no exception. IR Magazine discovers how companies are attracting and retaining IROs

Changing market conditions and the fluctuating fortunes of companies across the globe post-pandemic are enough to put most industries in a spin when it comes to careers, but what are the observations and experiences of those within IR when it comes to the current job climate?

Johanna Kent is vice president of people and culture at Virgin Orbit, which recently recruited Stephen Zhang to the role of vice president of IR. Kent remarks that, as with other sectors, demand for IR talent is outstripping supply.

Johanna Kent, Virgin Orbit
Johanna Kent, Virgin Orbit

‘Across all functions and industries right now, it’s a job seekers’ market – this is not unique to the IR space,’ she notes. ‘There are a lot of jobs but candidates are in the driver’s seat in many cases, so companies are getting creative when looking at non-traditional backgrounds, and in how they formulate offers. Different companies in different stages of growth will be able to pull on different levers – such as cash vs equity vs benefits, for example. Given the recent increase in special purpose acquisition company activity, the demand continues to grow for IR professionals, whereas the supply hasn’t necessarily grown at the same speed. As always, that creates increased competition.’

Jeffrey Goldberger, a principal at communications consultancy KCSA, agrees that it’s IROs who have the upper hand. ‘Is it a tough job market?’ he asks. ‘That all depends on which side of the equation you sit on. For employers, it has never been more difficult to hire new – and retain existing – IR professionals.

‘Conversely, IR pros are sitting pretty, commanding unheard-of salaries across all skill levels. KCSA has worked exceedingly hard to address these challenges. For the first time in its 50-plus year history, we hired an internal recruiter to drive our hiring efforts.’

Jeffrey Goldberger, KCSA
Jeffrey Goldberger, KCSA

Tom Ryan, CEO at communications and advisory consultancy ICR, says: ‘In my 20-plus years in the IR world, I have never seen IR elevated to such a highly strategic function internally. Small mistakes can have adverse consequences for CEOs and CFOs, so IROs and IR consultants better know how to navigate thorny issues. Former Wall Street analysts have pursued the field in increasing numbers – which was unheard of 20 years ago.’

In a crowded career space, however, Richard Davies, managing director of global investor relations consultancy RD:IR, advises caution against cutting corners or neglecting the IR function altogether. ‘My experience tells me the market is now more split than ever between companies that take IR seriously and recruit accordingly, and those that do not, relying on a chain of internal appointments to cover the role or having no dedicated IR resource whatsoever,’ he says.

‘My experience also tells me that companies that do not take IR seriously have a shorter shelf-life and a lower eventual sell price than those that do. Not taking care of shareholders is never a good strategy!’

This article originally appeared in the Fall 2022 issue of IR Magazine.