Going all in on IR
Greg Secord, vice president of investor relations at Open Text Corporation, won the lifetime achievement award at this year's IR Magazine Awards - Canada. Here, he reflects on his career so far.
How has the role of IR evolved during your career?
When I first started in this profession there was somewhat of a debate about whether this was a stepping stone. As IR became a more strategic role we have seen those that came into the profession carving out 20-year careers in IR. Now when people start out in IR, they quite decisively see it as a career path.
You have spent the vast majority of your career at Open Text. What has kept you there?
Early on in my career I had this observation that IR people should align their market views with the company they’re working for. I am more of a value investor than a momentum investor, for example. I have ended up staying with Open Text Corporation for the best part of 20 years because I felt very aligned. I realized that there was a philosophy to how Open Text was run and that aligned with my philosophy. That was when I really became all in.
Another part of that was realizing that you can have change within your company and experience that without jumping from one company to another. I’m on my fourth CFO and third CEO, so I have really been at three or four different companies during my time with OpenText. When I became all in, I changed my thinking and my sense of timelines and initiatives.
What role have mentors played in your career?
It was my first CEO, Tom Jenkins, who took me aside and told me to run the department as if I was an entrepreneur. He was really an early mentor who taught me how to step out of my comfort zone. In the second week on the job he unexpectedly made me go in solo and run my own investor meeting. He did it on purpose to teach me that when you put yourself out of your element, you learn more about yourself as a professional.
And our current CEO, Mark Barrenechea, has taught me about the power of leadership and well thought out decision-making that takes all opinions into account. And on a personal level, I worked under Mark while he fought and overcame leukemia. I’ve watched the power of positivity and seen the strength of this in his leadership.
You have played a big role in NIRI and CIRI, having served on the national boards of both organizations. What have you learned from those experiences?
Open Text Corporation is listed on Nasdaq, but is headquartered in Canada, so I wanted to start building relationships with individuals who have faced the same challenges. Getting involved with NIRI and CIRI has given me that. What I love about IR is that you don’t get people holding onto their successes and not sharing. There’s no border or industry that limits our ability to work together to create a best practices framework.
What CIRI did was help further the importance of IR to the Toronto Stock Exchange. I was involved with those initiatives early on, creating a PowerPoint for the TSX so that newly-listed companies could learn about the importance of IR. My years of involvement with NIRI refined that into looking at IR in a global context. NIRI, the San Francisco and Silicon Valley chapters became a rallying point for me. Most of the companies there are global and I do believe that we’ll see an even more global view of IR.
I also owe a lot to IR Magazine. The think tanks in Palo Alto meant that I could build contacts in California and really played a big role in steering where the profession is going. I also received some IR Magazine awards early on in my career, right around the all-in moment. That gave me affirmation that I was doing something right and it gave me a springboard for my career.
This article originally appeared in the Summer 2018 issue of IR Magazine.