Where to go after head of IR – A conversation with Mark Begor
This article was produced by ELITE Connect and originally published on the ELITE Connect platform
Mark Begor is managing director and operating partner at Warburg Pincus, a $40 bn growth-focused private equity firm with over 120 portfolio companies. Before his role at Warburg, Mark enjoyed a 35-year career at General Electric (GE) where he held several leadership roles, progressing from the head of IR role to various CFO and CEO positions. Here, Mark shares his views and expertise on how top IROs can progress further after they reach the top of their profession.
Elite Connect: In your experience, what are the next logical career steps for a head of IR once they have made it to the top of the IR ladder?
Mark Begor: Typically, it is a senior finance role including a divisional CFO role. The IR function is the ideal preparation for a significant CFO or CEO position. The ability to understand strategy, operations and financials, coupled with finely tuned communications skills from a stint in IR, positions you well for senior leadership roles. In my opinion, there is not a better role than IR to prepare you for a senior leadership position.
EC: What advice would you share with IROs who have reached the top IR slot and are wondering where to go next?
MB: First, nail your IR assignment. Become a real partner to the CEO, CFO and senior leadership team. A good IR leader should be bringing investors perspectives into the CEO and leadership teams. Jack Welch (former chairman at GE) gave me great advice on the role: ‘There is no one buying GE stock at HQ’. His message was to get out with investors to tell the GE story. If you do a great job in IR, your next role will take care of itself. Make sure people know what you want to do. If you do a great job and tell people what you want to do next, you will land the role you are after.
EC: Do you feel that a solid IR background is a good grounding for other challenges within a company/other companies?
MB: Absolutely! The knowledge you gain about every element of a company as IR leader is not available in any other role. An IR leader needs to stand in front of investors and be ready to answer every question they have and must also deeply understand the financials and balance sheet of the company. The combination of financial, strategic, analytical, relationship and communications skills is a unique mix of learnings and responsibility that only an IR role can deliver.
EC: How can top IROs effectively plan for their next career move?
MB: Do well in IR and be innovative about everything you do. Be the face of your company with investors and the face of investors inside your company. If you are in an IR role, take advantage of every minute. Become the ‘drum beat’ for your company with investors. If you are not meeting or talking to investors, someone else will be! If you are not in IR, find a way to get there. There is nothing like IR as a building block for a big career. I look back on my time in IR as the most important step in my GE career that led to a series of increasingly larger CFO and CEO roles.