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May 28, 2012

Timesaver’s guide to NIRI

What not to miss at this year's NIRI conference

The conference title may be ‘Great expectations’ but co-chair Felise Glantz Kissell, vice president of IR at HSN, promises no Dickensian overtones.

‘IR has so many constituents to serve – our management team, our board of directors, the Wall Street community – and each of them has different expectations,’ she explains.

NIRI banner

Local talent
This is the first time the NIRI conference has been held in Seattle so it’s fitting that it begins with a panel of CFOs from Microsoft, Starbucks and Costco. ‘They may be local to Seattle but they’re names we all know and love. There should be good dialogue,’ says NIRI CEO Jeff Morgan. Attendance is on track to hit last year’s level of 1,300-1,400.  

Game on
Microsoft’s Dennie Kimbrough is one of two local IROs on the conference committee (the other is JoAnn DeGrande from Starbucks), and the software giant is being a terrific host, scattering Xbox 360 game consoles with Kinect motion sensors around the convention center. Tennis, golf, bowling: get ready for some competition.  

The conference will feature two Japanese portfolio managers kicking off a US tour with Citi’s straight-talking chief US equity strategist, Tobias Levkovich, moderating their session. But here’s the kicker: NIRI is working on setting up meetings between the investors and some attendees. ‘It’s our own corporate access program,’ Morgan says. ‘Who knows what it might lead to? It could be a whole new reason for coming to the conference.’

With sell-side partners, Kissell hopes NIRI can help line up one-on-ones with institutions in Seattle and elsewhere on the West Coast. ‘Then the conference becomes more than just learning about best practices. Investor meetings are another way to rationalize the trip,’ she says.

Global exposure
Morgan sees the conference as the global event for IR. The last two years a Sunday afternoon reception and panel discussion for non-US IROs attracted an overflow crowd including US IROs keen on overseas outreach. This year, the newly titled ‘global IR summit’ will have a reception plus two sessions, including a spotlight on Asia-Pacific issuers in honor of Seattle’s Pacific Rim location. In 2011 non-US attendees made up 15 percent of attendees, up from 12 percent the year before, with Brazilians the biggest foreign delegation after Canadians. Morgan hopes numbers will keep growing.

Jam out
This will be the third year NIRI members are invited to jam with the professional band during the Monday evening reception. The NIRI Band will again include former NIRI chairman Doug Wilburne on trumpet, and Kraig Conrad, NIRI’s vice president of professional development, promises a fun new band arrangement.

Ending off with a look ahead
Last year a body language expert sent everyone home self-conscious about how they shook hands or pulled up their socks. This year a ‘futurist’ will close the conference. ‘If you listen carefully, you can learn what the future is telling you,’ Glen Hiemstra writes on his website.