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Mar 19, 2024

Going back to his roots: Sri Maddipati talks IR as he leaves finance for engineering

Award-winning former IR professional on variety in IR, a math inclination and flexing different business muscles

Sri Maddipati, vice president of electric supply at CMS Energy, has spent two decades in finance. Now, he’s switched to an engineering role at the company where he’s spent the last 10 years and where he and his senior management took home multiple IR Magazine Awards – including a rising star trophy for Maddipati in 2019.

Sri Maddipati (center) shared the rising star award with Maggie O’Donnell at in 2019
Sri Maddipati (center) shared the rising star award with Maggie O’Donnell at in 2019. Presented by former NIRI CEO Gary LaBranche

‘I started as an engineer, got my undergraduate degree in computer engineering and my graduate degree in electrical engineering,’ he explains, talking about how he moved into finance – and IR – in the first place. ‘I had a plan to get a PhD but decided I didn’t want to do research. So I went into industry and then to business school. Finance and accounting have a natural gravitation for somebody with a math inclination.’

Broaden the skillset

From a job at Goldman Sachs, ‘a friend of a friend’ put him in touch with Michigan-headquartered CMS Energy, which was ‘closer to home’ and offered the opportunity to deepen his experience and, as he puts it, ‘to broaden my skillset and leadership opportunities’. That was in 2014 and he’s been at the firm ever since, moving from his original assistant treasurer role to, most recently, treasurer and vice president of finance and investor relations – and now into an engineering position.

Given this background, which skills does Maddipati feel he leaned on most during his time in IR? For him, it’s ‘the financial acumen to understand what drives value’, which makes IR about so much more than marketing.

‘IR is a lot about storytelling – that is an important skill to have,’ he says. ‘But it’s only part of it. Understanding what the risk and return parameters are that I’m operating in and where this actually adds value for investors and other stakeholders is interesting.’

Financial muscle

Taking over responsibility for electric supply operations, electric generation engineering and electric supply strategy, Maddipati describes his new challenge as ‘a different leadership muscle’ from the ones he flexed in finance.

‘From a challenge perspective, you learn that the numbers in the spreadsheets are great, but somebody has to execute [on those numbers],’ he explains. ‘During my time at the company, going from being an adviser to being internal, and then from a financial person to a business leader, you learn to translate those messages. What can be done on a spreadsheet in 30 seconds may take months or years for somebody to actually effectuate.’

Relationships drive credibility

So what will he miss as he moves out of finance? The relationships, answers Maddipati without hesitation. ‘I’ve developed a very strong relationship with our investors, and I’ll definitely miss that,’ he says. ‘I’ll also miss the variety: finance gets to see the whole business.’ His new position, he adds, requires more ‘depth and specialization’.

That focus on relationships is also at the center of the advice Maddipati offers to those coming to IR today. ‘At the end of the day, despite all the technological advances we’ve seen in markets and investing, relationships matter,’ he says. ‘Build those relationships, both internally and externally, because your credibility is what makes your voice mean something. And that credibility comes from those relationships.’

Jason Shore has replaced Maddipati as treasurer and vice president of investor relations.

Garnet Roach

An award-winning journalist, Garnet Roach joined IR Magazine in October 2012, working on both the editorial and research sides of the publication. Prior to entering the world of investor relations, her freelance career covered a broad range of...