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Dec 02, 2021

IR careers: The rise of interim investor relations

A number of agencies and recruitment companies are offering interim IR services, in some cases formalizing arrangements that have been offered informally for years. We look at how interim IR differs from traditional in-house and agency IR

Working practices are rapidly shifting around the world. Offices are empty, homes are workplaces and many of us are reconsidering our role in working life. It is perhaps unsurprising that, both in the US and further afield, labor markets are undergoing a Great Resignation event.

Department of Labor figures show a record 4.3 mn Americans quit their jobs in August. Whether a sign of worker power in a job market plagued by shortages or a rebalancing of the economy due to the Covid-19 pandemic, there is a marked shift.

IR teams will find themselves no less affected by this shift, whether directly or indirectly. For Matt Chesler, partner at consulting firm FNK IR, it is one of the reasons why his company has built out its interim IR offering.

In between the worlds of full-time, in-house IR professionals and short-term, agency-led roles, interim IR is a blend of the two that offers candidates and companies a flexible, shorter-contract approach to managing capital markets communications.

It owes much to the familiar interim chief executive or CFO positions that organizations seek out to bridge gaps between permanent appointments or to oversee particular capital markets moves. It is designed to be a three to six-month engagement but can last as long as 18 months or as briefly as a single month, depending on its use.

Chesler explains that one of these uses comes at times when a company finds itself without an IRO due to ‘natural attrition’ or at a time of high job mobility, much as we are experiencing today.

With a two-week notice period the standard in the US, and parental leave becoming more generous and more commonplace, he says FNK’s interim IR practice can help smooth any transitions while maintaining regular contact with the market.

‘There may be other capable people within the organization, but it’s distracting for them to command the shop,’ he adds. Of course, with nobody steering the IR effort permanently, there is a need for ‘someone to come in, pick up the baton on an interim basis and then be a part of the process of locating the right long-term solution.’

Bridging the gap

This is how Clara Melia, founder of UK IR consultancy Equitory, sees it employed most often. Her firm places a team of three – a director, a manager and an associate – each with their own expertise to cover the role fully.

One recent example, she says, was a FTSE 250 company that ‘wanted to take its time to find a replacement’ for an outgoing head of IR. Another saw her team take over for a firm undergoing a management change while juggling an activist on the share register.

Interim IR is a relatively recent addition to FNK’s offering, inspired in part by Chesler’s work at professional services firm PwC in what he calls ‘workouts and turnarounds’, where partners and other service providers would be brought in to help companies through complicated transactions or difficult times before ‘turning the reins over to ongoing management’.

This is an extract of an article that was published in the Winter 2021 issue of IR Magazine. Click here to read the full article.

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