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Jun 27, 2012

President in waiting: CIRI’s Yvette Lokker

Catching up with the Canadian IR community’s CEO-elect

Her first love was chemistry. But the passion soon faded when Yvette Lokker, who will take the reins as president and CEO of CIRI in January 2013, realized she’d be cooped up in a lab all day.

‘At some point when I was doing my chemistry degree, I realized that while I liked the science of it, I enjoyed interacting with people more,’ says Lokker. ‘It’s harder to do that in a laboratory environment.’
LokkerSo she set out to earn a business diploma as well and set her sights on a business role within a science company. A nine-year stint at life sciences firm MDS followed.

Then, while on maternity leave with her second child, Sharon Mathers, Lokker’s former boss at MDS, asked if she’d be interested in lending her talents to CIRI (among other things, Lokker had been organizing CIRI Ontario chapter professional workshops). She’d do it to help CIRI out, Lokker told Mathers, but she was really looking for an IR role.
‘When I got to CIRI and [retiring president] Tom Enright came on board, however, I really thought I could make a difference,’ says Lokker. ‘I was enjoying what I was doing so I stayed.’
As director of communications and professional development, Lokker spearheaded the first IR certification program in North America. The first cohort of Certified Professionals in Investor Relations (CPIR) graduates this fall from the Richard Ivey School of Business.
‘I’m proud of the Ivey process,’ admits Lokker, who spoke with IR magazine just before flying to Calgary to proctor an exam. ‘CIRI had been talking certification long before I got there.’ She’s just as proud of the students who she says have endured a challenging and rigorous 10-month program, noting it includes 40 percent finance content.
‘IROs are expected to have a solid understanding of the financials and there has been a shift toward more finance people coming into the role,’ says Lokker. ‘[A finance background] is hugely beneficial in gaining credibility with the Street.’
Even so, she adds, IR is becoming more multi-disciplinary, strategic and prominent than ever before. ‘IROs have a tough job because they have to be good at so many different things,’ comments Lokker. ‘Some are definitely viewed as strategic because they can bring all those different facets to the role while providing insight and counsel to management and the board.’
For her part, Lokker will present her new strategic vision to CIRI’s own board this fall. While keeping silent on details, she promises ‘to continue along our path with enhancements along the way.’
In recent years that path has increasingly turned toward advocacy work, and Lokker says CIRI will keep up the pressure. Issues now on her desk include lowering Canada’s threshold for disclosing share ownership and leveling the playing field for access to information filed on SEDAR. Lokker says many rounds of discussions with the Ontario Securities Commission may produce answers later this year. ‘They may not adopt all our proposals but there are some changes coming,’ predicts Lokker.
For now she will work with Enright to transition to her new job. Pre-Enright, CIRI had weathered position vacancies while three other presidents came and went in four years. Lokker feels that with the new succession plan, members can be assured of consistency in CIRI management. And with a strong role rebuilding the organization, she looks forward to the challenge ahead. ‘This was a natural progression for me,’ she says. ‘Besides, I need to do something different from time to time.’
Along with Lokker’s appointment, announced at CIRI’s annual conference in Montreal, the association elected three new directors: Chaya Cooperberg, vice president of IR and corporate communications at Progressive Waste Solutions (‘Understands CIRI, good ideas’); Dmitry Kushnir, corporate director of IR at Agnico-Eagle Mines (‘Mining sector experience, a big part of Canada’s issuer community’); and Elisa Schupp, vice president of national sales at CNW Group (‘marketing’, CIRI’s first vendor board member).

‘Each brings unique expertise,’ comments Lokker. ‘The role of IR is quickly evolving and CIRI is evolving with it. It’s an exciting time for IROs and CIRI, and I’m excited about the future.’
Fast facts
‒ Birthplace: South Africa
‒ Not-so-secret wish: An extra team member. ‘I have many ideas about what we should be doing but we have to prioritize and maybe put some things off, given resources’
‒ Anchor to real world: Family. ‘Sunday is family day. We’ll do something away from the house [geocaching, hiking, the beach] so we don’t feel we have to go and do work’
‒ Secret passion: Scrapbooking
Lokker’s issues
‒ With a reporting threshold of 10 percent ownership, Canada finds itself in the company of smaller markets such as Latvia, Pakistan and Chile. The US, France, Germany, India, Japan and Australia each have a 5 percent disclosure threshold, while the UK is at 3 percent.
‒ SEDAR currently provides two-tiered access to reporting issuer filings. You can pay for near real-time information or get it free the next day. CIRI views that as inconsistent with a fair market.