IR Magazine Awards: celebrating history and looking forward
For the 20th year, New York hosted the best and brightest in investor relations at an evening dusted with showbiz glamour. Not only was there a red carpet for nominees and winners to be interviewed on – and videos will shortly appear (watch this space) – and a tight jazz band on stage, but the superstars and emerging talents in investor relations were also out in full force.
David Brancaccio, host and senior editor of American Public Media’s Marketplace Morning Report, guided us through the evening, while black tie and ball gown-clad attendees shared selfies and tweeted throughout, marking the perfect climax in the event’s 20-year history.
When it came to the awards themselves, familiar faces were duly recognized: Cole Lannum, head of IR at Covidien, picked up his fifth consecutive gong for best IRO at a large-cap company before he departs to work at fellow med tech outfit Mallinckrodt. JoAnna Morris, IR director at GE for 24 years, was also given a lifetime achievement award, and GE was named the best-performing company for IR over the 20-year lifetime of the US Awards.
There was also opportunity for relatively new faces to make an impact this year. Ryder System and its head of IR Bob Brunn picked up two trophies on the evening – the grand prix for best overall IR and best IRO at a mid-cap company – despite the company’s IR still being managed by a team of just two people.
The IROs at LinkedIn – or ‘investor education officers’, as they’re known at the social media outfit – were recognized with the award for most progress in IR and the trophy for best IR in the communications sector. Since winning the IR Magazine Award for best IPO in 2013, the firm’s team has doubled in sized and made huge strides and interesting innovations.
Elsewhere, materials firm Sherwin-Williams was named best in the materials sector, a serious feat when considering the company ranked joint 127th overall in 2014, and this year rose to joint 15th spot in the US Top 100 rankings. A similarly meteoric rise was seen at ConocoPhillips (from joint 139th to third), which won best IR in the energy sector, and Enterprise Products Partners (from 21st to fourth), which won best IR by a CEO for Michael Creel.
Winners, nominees and guests alike were then invited to enjoy drinks, meet their peers, make full use of a photo booth and tear up the dance floor, in whatever order they might choose. The IR Magazine team, it has to be said, was center stage for the latter.
Earlier in the day and before the partying began, IROs congregated at Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s One Bryant Park headquarters for the Investor Relations Insight Conference. A range of speakers – including buy-side and sell-side analysts, service providers and hedge fund managers, as well as IROs – discussed a huge range of hot topics and pressing issues in the profession today.
Economic experts provided an overview of the larger themes that would ‘change how the world works’ in the near future, among them the threat of cyber-terrorism and a changeable global economic outlook. This was followed by a hedge fund manager revealing the current best practices for the IROs he dealt with, including the need for a direct relationship between hedge fund analysts and IR, and a request for integrated meetings with long-only and long/short funds.
A panel of IROs then shared tips for best practice and asked questions of how they each performed the role, covering among other topics social media, internal relationships and the need for travel. One of the best pointers was the need for a sense of humor in the job. ‘You’ve got to like people and social engagement and be the kind of person who can strike up a conversation with strangers,’ said one panelist. ‘You need the attitude that you can always learn from someone else.’
There followed a quick breakout session for two networking opportunities: first, a speed dating-style meeting with a rotating table of attendees, with prearranged topics to discuss, before IROs grouped by sector for a more free-form discussion. More panels in the afternoon tackled the buy-side perspective, understanding sovereign wealth funds and CSR.